We appreciate the commentary by Dr Miller regarding the use of deception in placebo research. The recent study by Scott and collaborators1 was designed to avoid deceptive statements while still obtaining clinically relevant data on the neurobiology of placebo effects. The design used was developed after extensive consultation and input from the investigational review board at our institution and the ethics specialists at the board. It consisted of the use of both active and inactive drug administrations in a parallel design (subjects could receive one or the other, but not both). The informed consent specifically described that the subjects could receive either an inactive or active drug. Furthermore, the adverse effects described in the consent form were those corresponding to the active drug. Perhaps the point of confusion resides on the phrasing used in page 222 of the article, in the “Experimental Design” subsection of the “Methods” section, “Actual pharmacological agents were not administered in these studies,” when it should have read “Actual pharmacological agents were not administered to these subjects” instead. The data contained in this article only describe the responses to the placebo intervention and not those to the active drug.
Zubieta J. Deceptive Research—Reply. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(10):1226. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.65.10.1226