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May 1974

The Efficacy of Antidepressant Drugs: A Review of Research (1958 to 1972)

Author Affiliations

From the Philadelphia General Hospital and Hahnemann Medical College, Philadelphia (J.B. Morris) and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Dr. Beck).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1974;30(5):667-674. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1974.01760110083010

An extensive review of published research on the efficacy of antidepressant medications is presented. To overcome the inconsistencies of previous reviews, we include 146 double-blind studies on medications actively promoted in the United States as antidepressants during 1972. In addition, we included double-blind studies of lithium carbonate, as well as five other drugs not actively promoted as antidepressants in the United States at that time.

Results showed tricyclic antidepressants to be significantly more effective than a placebo in 61 of 93 group comparisons. No study reported a placebo as more effective than a tricyclic. The two monamine oxidase inhibitors that were actively marketed as antidepressants in the United States were significantly more effective than a placebo in 8 of 13 comparisons. Lithium carbonate was not conclusively shown to be an effective antidepressant on the basis of eight double-blind reports.

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