Article | August 21, 2017

Why Depression Studies So Often Fail: Don't Blame Placebo Response

Source: Rho

By Jack G. Modell, M.D., Vice President & Senior Medical Officer, Rho, Inc.

Rho

Prior to joining the pharmaceutical and contract research organization industries, I was in clinical practice for twenty years as a psychiatrist and medical researcher. And something I noticed very early on among my patients with major mental illnesses, particularly those with severe depression and psychotic disorders, was that they did not generally get better – at least not for more than a day or two – by my simply being nice to them, treating them with ineffective medications (e.g., vitamins when no vitamin deficiency existed), seeing them weekly for office visits, or by providing other so-called supportive interventions that did not directly address the underlying illness. To be clear, this is not to say that kindness and supportive therapy are not critical to the patient-physician relationship (“The secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient” [Frances Weld Peabody, 1927]), but rather that kindness and support alone rarely make a biologically based illness substantially improve or disappear.