The study, which appears in the February British Journal of Psychiatry, refutes a 2008 study that appeared in the Journal of the Public Library of Science (PloS), which purported to show that antidepressants demonstrated superiority to placebo only in cases of severe depression. The PloS study had garnered much publicity, including coverage on "60 Minutes."
In the new study, researchers looked at meta-analyses of 48 drugs in 20 medical diseases, and 16 drugs in 8 psychiatric disorders to compare efficaciousness. They found that there were some general medical drugs with clearly higher effect sizes than the psychotropic agents, but the psychiatric drugs were not generally less efficacious than other drugs.
The British Journal of Psychiatry report joins a study that appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry that also refutes the earlier PLoS report by using patient-level data to track response and remission rates over time. That report showed that fluoxetine and venlafaxine are efficacious for major depressive disorder in all age groups, and that baseline severity was not significantly related to degree of treatment advantage over placebo.
For coverage of both studies, look for upcoming editions of Psychiatric News. And for more coverage about comparisons of antidepressants and placebo, see Psychiatric News here.