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Changing response rates in clinical trials of depression: how did the introduction of DSM-III and DSM-III-R influence the outcome?
  1. Konstantinos N Fountoulakis
  1. 3rd Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece
  1. Correspondence to Professor Konstantinos N Fountoulakis, 3rd Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 6, Odysseos street (1st Parodos, Ampelonon str.) 55536 Pournari Pylaia, Thessaloniki, Greece; kfount{at}

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It has been argued recently that the drug-placebo difference is diminishing in clinical trials of depression. Recently a paper suggested that the placebo response in trials of antidepressant agents increased abruptly after 1991 and remained stable afterwards at the level of 35–40%.1 A possible explanation for this change could be the introduction of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Third Edition (DSM)-III and DSM-III-Revised (R) and the change in paradigm concerning depression, which came with them since the early 1980s.2 ,3 With the introduction of operationalised diagnostic criteria, the concept of depression both changed and broadened. Neither the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) nor the Montgomry-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) correspond to this new concept since they were both developed or last updated before 1980 and overall the properties of these scales are problematic.4

We used the …

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  • Competing interests KNF has received grants and served as consultant, advisor or CME speaker for the following entities: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Ferrer, Gedeon Richter, Janssen, Lundbeck, Otsuka, Pfizer, the Pfizer Foundation, Sanofi-Aventis, Servier, Shire and others.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.