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Therapeutic effect of follow-up assessments on antidepressant and placebo response rates in antidepressant efficacy trials: Meta-analysis

  • Michael A. Posternak (a1) and Mark Zimmerman (a1)
Abstract
Background

It remains unclear how much various factors contribute to the placebo response.

Aims

To estimate the therapeutic impact of follow-up assessments on placebo response in antidepressant trials.

Method

Double-blind, placebo-controlled antidepressant trials that reported weekly changes in Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) scores over 6 weeks were selected. Included studies (n=41) were divided into those that conducted four, five or six follow-up assessments. Reductions in HRSD scores as a function of the different follow-up schedules were compared.

Results

An extra follow-up visit at week 3 was associated with a 0.86 further reduction in HRSD score; an extra visit at week 5 was associated with a 0.67 further reduction. These effects represented approximately 34–44% of the placebo response that occurred over these time frames. Two additional visits were associated with twice the reduction in HRSD score than one, suggesting that the therapeutic impact of assessment visits is cumulative and proportional. A comparable therapeutic effect was also found in participants receiving active medication.

Conclusions

Follow-up assessments in antidepressant treatment trials incur a significant therapeutic effect for participants on placebo, and this represents about 40% of the placebo response.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr Michael A. Posternak, Depression Clinical and Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, 50 Staniford Street, Suite 401, Boston, MA 02114, USA. Email: mposternak@partners.org
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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Therapeutic effect of follow-up assessments on antidepressant and placebo response rates in antidepressant efficacy trials: Meta-analysis

  • Michael A. Posternak (a1) and Mark Zimmerman (a1)
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