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Placebo Effect A Major Factor in Antidepressant Response

Placebo: a substance that has no therapeutic effect

Research by University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, headed by Marta Pecina, MD, PhD, found that the placebo response is behind much of a patient’s response to drug treatment when it comes to depressive disorder.

"Placebo response rates in depression are as high as 50%, which is pretty close to the response rates we see with antidepressant therapy, so it's important to understand placebo responses because they account for an important proportion of the actual response to antidepressant treatment," said Dr. Pecina.

Commenting on the study in a statement, senior researcher Jon-Kar Zubieta, MD, PhD, now chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, noted that the placebo effect in this study came from participants not only believing that they were receiving a "real" drug but also from simply being in a treatment environment.

"These results suggest that some people are more responsive to the intention to treat their depression and that they may do better if psychotherapies or cognitive therapies that enhance the clinician-patient relationship are incorporated into their care." he said.

The study was published online September 30 in JAMA Psychiatry.


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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated October 2015.

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