“Suggestible You” is the title of a book by Erik Vance. The subtitle is “The Curious Science of Your Brain’s Ability to Deceive, Transform and Heal. This is the eleventh post on this book. This post deals with depression.
Vance describes depression as like being chemically sedated into someone you don’t recognize. He writes that given the choice, he might prefer excruciating chronic pain to depression, then goes on to note many people suffer from both. He notes that about 7% of Americans will experience clinical depression this year, losing the United States more than $200 billion.
It is clear that placebos are effective against depression. Remember that to be declared effective the drug is compared against a placebo. But when antidepressant drug tests are examined about 75% to 80% of their efficacy can be attributed to placebo effects. Moreover, there was no real difference between high and low doses, which is odd. Differences are expected with truly effective drugs.
Moreover, over the past few decals, scientists have noticed a distinct uptick in the power of the placebo effect on pain and depression trials. Some experts even say that if Prozac had to compete against the placebo effect today, it would not have been cleared by the FDA. Once a drug clears the Phase III, placebo-controlled trial, it is certified regardless of how it performs in later experiments.
For drug manufacturers trying to get new drugs approved, this is a problem. But it should not be a problem for depression sufferers. Remember the reason of including placebos in these tests is that placebo effects are real. Placebos are much less expensive than the drugs, and carry no side effects. HM wonders, as long as they are 75% to 80% effective, why take the drug. Physicians should also be asking the same question. Now it is clear why drug companies continue to try to develop new anti-depressants. But after some many decades of research, with all the antidepressants already approved, and with placebos being largely effective without any adverse effect why bother.? At some point the difficulty in exceeding the effect of the placebo might prove so expensive that drug companies might abandon the effort.
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