Fifty outpatients with mild, chronic, mood-reactive depression whose
mood improved markedly after a 10-day single-blind placebo trial were
randomly assigned in a double-blind design either to have their placebo
medication discontinued or to have it maintained for an additional 6 weeks.
Half of the patients in each condition relapsed within 6 weeks, indicating
that pill-taking itself does not influence maintenance of placebo response.
Placebo response was more likely to be maintained in patients who were
currently married. At the end of 3 months, the overall relapse rate was
58%. The authors raise questions about the utility of the initial 10-day
placebo washout in antidepressant clinical trials, and they discuss limits
on the generalizability of their findings.