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Drug Companies Want to Cheat on Studies

Many antidepressant trials fail because the placebo effect can be so powerful and highly variable. Many studies have proven that antidpressants work now better than placebo. Somewhere between 30 percent and 50 percent of patients in depression trials get better when given fake placebo pills. That number has increased and become more volatile over time, making it more difficult to prove that a drug works. In comparison, only about half of patients taking antidepressants find their symptoms relieved by 50 percent or better. To get permission from the Food and Drug Administration to market a new drug, its maker must show that it works better than a placebo in at least two large, controlled studies.

Now drug companies are looking for ways to identify patients who respond strongly to placebos, who could then be excluded from clinical studies of new antidepressants. Pfizer has found that people who respond to placebos have different DNA in key areas of the human gene that are linked to depression. So Pfizer is exploring whether genomics could also one day be used to pick out placebo responders.

Why would they do this? Of course it it the money. Psychiatric medicines are huge sellers. Antidepressants racked up more than $17 billion in world-wide sales in 2003 and were the third-largest class of drugs by sales. Sure makes sense to try simple measures like a good eating plan. Lately I have also been seeing many people have tremendous results with brainwave entrainment technology. I now use the Insight CDs because they work so well and are so inexpensive.

Wall Street Journal June 18, 2004 p B1 Paid subscribers only

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