Edward Shorter, in his book, Before Prozac, rues the fact that there has been no progress in the pharmacological treatment of mood disorders, since imipramine was introduced in the 1950s. He quotes from Ronald Kuhn, who discovered imipramine, and who "never used 'controlled double-blind studies' with 'placebo', 'standardised rating scales' or the statistical treatment of large numbers of patients". Instead, what Kuhn noticed was an "obvious effect" in improving vital depression in psychiatric patients that he tried it on. To use a quote, again from Kuhn in Shorter (2009), "The patients become generally livelier, their depressive whisper voices become louder, the patients appear more social, the yammering and crying come to an end."
As I pointed out in a previous post, how do we know that antidepressants aren't just placebos with side effects? What Kuhn may have "discovered" was merely the placebo effect.
Shorter thinks we may have "lost something" because today "Kuhn would be kicked out of the door at the FDA", by which he means imipramine would never have come onto the market without controlled trials to support it. As he says, what we've got at the moment is a "mesh of patent-protected remedies". I agree this isn't progress, but Kuhn may have merely sent us down the route of the wish-fullfilling phantasy of the chemical cure of depression.