PLACEBOS—THE MOST STUDIED DRUGS. The book Rosen reviews is ORDINARILY WELL: THE CASE FOR ANTIDEPRESSANTS by Peter Kramer, who wrote LISTENING TO PROZAC 23 years ago. The review and the book report on the last 23 years of research on antidepressants such as Prozac. I have posted a number of times, including here, about the need for research into the effects of placebos. An enormous amount of information about placebos should have been developed by now because every random controlled test for any new drug is also a test for the other “drug” that patients receive in the controlled experiment (the “sugar pill” or placebo).
Rosen describes the difficulties of deriving information about the effect of placebos from controlled experiments. Controlling for other independent variables is difficult. Rosen says: “It is one thing to be told just how variable placebo effects can be—changing with the weather, the economy, the nature of the ‘minimal supportive psychotherapy’ supplied along with the sugar pill. It is very different to eavesdrop on a community of drug-trial subjects who often help recruit one another—generally from a population very different from the one the drugs are intended for. Some are homeless, others merely unemployed and eager for the social environment of the testing center and the $50 or so they are paid per visit. Many have an incentive to exaggerate the severity of their depression….”