Growing placebo response rate: The problem in recent therapeutic trials?

E. H. Uhlenhuth, William Matuzas, Teddy D. Warner, Peter M. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Recently the development of several promising new compounds for anxiety and depression was discontinued because of difficulty demonstrating therapeutic effects. This article explores alternatives to 'Increasing placebo response rats' as explanations. We reanalyzed a study of 81 panic patients treated with placebo, alprazolam 2 mg or 6 mg, or imipramine 225 mg daily to investigate the effect of baseline pathology and selective effects of treatment on biological and cognitive components of panic disorder. The regression of endpoint on baseline number of spontaneous panic attacks differed among treatment groups, with lower slopes for the more active compounds. Only patients with many panic attacks at baseline benefited from the active compounds. Also, treatment effects declined progressively on the more cognitive aspects of the disorder (situational panic attacks and phobia ratings) for alprazolam and were entirely absent for imipramine. Implications for the etiology of panic disorder, its treatment, and therapeutic research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-39
Number of pages9
JournalPsychopharmacology bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 12 1997


  • baseline pathology
  • clinical trials
  • panic disorder
  • placebo response
  • regression analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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