News of the WeekPsychiatry

Are Placebo-Controlled Drug Trials Ethical?

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Science  21 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5465, pp. 416
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5465.416a

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HOUSTON-- Critics have argued that using placebos in clinical trials of psychiatric drugs makes patients suffer unnecessarily and may drive some to suicide, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has insisted that placebo-controlled trials are the only scientifically sound way to test drug efficacy. Now, the FDA has two large meta-analyses showing that being in a placebo group does not increase the risk of suicide. But at a meeting earlier this month where one of the studies was presented, critics lashed out again at placebo-controlled trials, calling them "unethical" and "immoral."