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Prominent Psychiatrist Challenges Placebo Response in Depression

Offers a New Perspective for Clinical Practice

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 2, 2008--In an article published in Psychopharmacology Bulletin this week, Arif Kahn, MD, challenges the “deliberate movement among certain individuals, including some non-psychiatric professionals, to label psychiatric treatments—especially medications—as less than desirable.” Kahn is the medical director of the Northwest Clinical Research Center and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.

The article, titled Placebo Response in Depression: A Perspective for Clinical Practice, will be published and submitted to the National Library of Medicine for indexing on Friday, September 5.

According to Kahn, “New avenues taken recently consist of conducting obtuse statistical analysis of complicated clinical trials and report the results in a biased manner. Interestingly, if such a thing happened in other fields of medicine such as cancer research or cardiology research—which are plagued by similar incremental changes—there would be a major outcry from physicians, physician organizations and patients.” The researcher contends that “much of this prejudice is not based on actual treatment of patients, rather innate beliefs.”

“This article lends an important perspective to the ongoing debate in psychiatry and psychopharmacology,” said Michael E. Thase, MD, the editor-in-chief of Bulletin and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “"Entire new classes of antidepressants may be assumed to be not worth the effort to develop, which may stunt the field for a decade or more,” Thase said.

Kahn believes that, “Unfortunately psychiatrists and their patients seem to ignore such false charges and go into denial. The net result has been and continues to be neglect of the care of psychiatric patients, a major public health disaster. Our interest is to avoid such a thing from happening in a major way and to point out lack of scientific merit of such unwarranted criticisms.” Kahn’s article can be viewed at and will be available at on Friday, September 5, 2008. (Psychopharmacology Bulletin. 2008;41(3):91-98.)


Posted: September 2008