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June 17, 1961

The Placebo Effect in Psychiatric Drug Research

Author Affiliations

White Plains, N. Y.

From the New York Hospital, Westchester Division.

JAMA. 1961;176(11):920-925. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040240026010
Abstract

A drug investigation involving 120 hospitalized psychiatric patients was simulated. It appeared to participating patients, psychiatrists, and nurses, that a new tranquilizer and a new energizer were to be evaluated, but both "drugs" were actually placebos. According to uncontrolled and subjective methods of evaluation, 53% to 80% of the patients benefited from the new "drugs." When matched control groups and objective rating scales were used in the evaluation, a temporary improvement was caused by the tranquilizer but not by the energizer. The tendency to attribute improvement to what were thought to be active drugs, and the discrepancy in one experiment between controlled and uncontrolled methods of evaluation, dramatically illustrates the dubious value of studies which do not employ double-blind and other controlled procedures.

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