Friday, November 26, 2021

Power of the placebo antidepressant pill

Sarah Vine describes her history of being prescribed antidepressants and then having withdrawal problems (see Daily Mail article). She explains that antidepressants, in her view, stop the “metaphorical house falling down while you get the metaphorical builders in”. 

Not sure whether the pandemic has really increased antidepressant prescribing (see Lancet Psychiatry letter). The issue about efficacy of antidepressants has not really progressed since NICE produced its first depression guideline (see eletter: What does it mean to say that antidepressants have helped millions of people round the world?). The Critical Psychiatry Network (of which I’m a founding member) had a debate about this issue in 2003 (see another eletter). There is a genuine issue about bias in clinical trials of antidepressants (see yet another eletter). 

All this was looked at in a BMJ editorial in 2004 (see another eletter). The central issue is whether antidepressant trials hide amplified placebo effects and more recent research has not really taken this issue forward (see previous post). Antidepressants may not work any better than placebo. If this is true (which I think it may well be), it would have extraordinary implications for clinical practice. So-called antidepressant efficacy may merely be due to the placebo effect (see eg. my article).

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