Placebo for treating depression . . . and other stories

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i5778 (Published 04 November 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5778

The drug that works for depression

A systematic review of 252 trials of drugs for depression published between 1978 and 2016 has found one drug that consistently works for 35-40% of participants (Lancet Psychiatry doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(16)30307-8). It is called placebo. Contrary to expectation, the effect size did not vary over more than 25 years. Drugs with a number needed to treat of fewer than three are pretty uncommon, so we should cherish placebo for depression. And all antidepressant drugs should be judged by the number needed to treat beyond placebo, balanced against the number needed to harm.

Travelling β lactamases

For the best part of two billion years bacteria have been producing β lactamase enzymes to fight off other microorganisms. But never have they had it so good. Of 1847 Dutch …

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