Most Patients Okay With Using Placebo to Treat Depression

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According to a study reported at the EPA 2011: 19th European Congress of Psychiatry, nearly three-quarters of healthy individuals report that they would consent to being prescribed a placebo medication if they experienced depression. The study analyzed questionnaires completed by 344 healthy students 18 years of age or older. Participants were provided with a detailed written explanation about the placebo effect and its efficacy and limitations in the treatment of depression. The investigators also confirmed that patients understood the ethical complexity associated with placebo use, including informed consent issues. Overall, 243 survey participants (70%) said they would agree to the use of a placebo as a first-line treatment if they developed depression. Also, 248 (73%) said they would consent to receive placebo treatment for other medical conditions. Also, 275 (88%) said that they did not consider a physician who administered a placebo deceitful, and 256 (75%) did not feel that taking a placebo medication would negatively affect their sense of autonomy or the patient-physician relationship. The lifetime prevalence of the disorder is reportedly as high as 20% and antidepressants are among the most widely prescribed medications. However, placebo pills in depressed patients have produced response rates of 30% to 50% with sustained efficacy, minimal side effects, and nominal cost. (EPA 2011: 19th European Congress of Psychiatry: Abstracts P02-160 and FC31-02. Presented March 14 and 15, 2011.).

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