U.K. researchers find, in a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of medical (not only psychiatric) treatments that when bias is ruled out and effects are considered on a continuous rather than binary basis, the effect of placebos can be superior to that of active treatments. Results appeared online in PLoS on May 15, 2013.
Rising prescriptions for psychiatric medications are partly a result of longer-term treatment and increasing population, according to an article by Joanna Moncrieff and Stephen Ilyas in the May, 2012 issue of British Journal of Psychiatry. Psych meds were an increasing proportion of all prescriptions in England between 1998 and 2010. Antipsychotics in particular, both costly and prescribed for uses beyond severe mental illness, are making an increasing contribution to total drug costs.
The Sunday New York Times Magazine traces the history and controversy around serotonin, “imbalance theory,” deep-brain stimulation and more; including references to Irving Kirsch and placebos, and David Healy.
An article by written by faculty of the Harvard History of Science Department and the Program in Placebo Studies explores how “drug marketing portrays idealized scientific relationships between psychopharmaceuticals and depression … and how the placebo effect has become a critical issue in these debates, including the possible role of drug advertising to influence the placebo effect directly.” The article appears in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
A study that will appear in European Neuropsychopharmacology found that “the brain’s response to the placebo pill seems to depend … on whether or not the brain has ever ‘seen’ antidepressant medication before.” Similarly, an article in Medical Hypotheses proposes an approach that capitalizes on a “personal (as opposed to superficial or impersonal) encounter between helper and helpee” to potentiate the placebo response. A study in Schizophrenia Research investigates whether interventions can adequately identify and prevent relapse in placebo arms of trials and finds that, though relapse cannot be adequately identified or prevented, this fact is equally true for both placebo and continuous-treatment arms of trials and the longer-term recovery outcomes following relapse in both treatment and placebo conditions justify continued placebo trials. Discuss →