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Drug or No Drug: Placebos may be more than appeasing

Antidepressant drugs such as Prozac generally fall short of providing significantly more relief to depressed patients than placebo pills do, according to a new analysis of multiple clinical trials obtained from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Antidepressants substantially outperform placebos only among extremely depressed individuals, says a team led by psychologist Irving Kirsch of the University of Hull, England. In these cases, relatively weak placebo responses, rather than any heightened reactions to antidepressants, explain the medications' superiority, the researchers hold.

"There is little evidence to support the prescription of antidepressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients, unless alternative treatments with fewer side effects have failed to provide benefit," Kirsch says.

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