Moving on ...
In psychiatry, RDPCs imitate science rather than embody science, and therefore need to be regarded with a very high degree of skepticism. Two principles are in play:
- We know next to nothing about the phenomenon we are investigating.
- RDPCs are conducted for reasons of marketing.
What is depression? Feeling sad? Loss of pleasure? Unmotivated? Psychic numbness? Reaction to stress? Loss of energy? Over-ruminating? Under-thinking? On and on, it goes.
In all likelihood, we are talking many - possibly hundreds - of illnesses involving by far the most complex organ in the body and all its related systems, with myriad possible causes and effects (including genetic vulnerability to environmental stressors) recruiting a host of different pathways. RDPCs do not recognize this. Rather they test “antidepressants” on a “depressed” population.
The equivalent would be to treat all infectious diseases as the same, call every such outbreak “runny nose disease,” and run a clinical trial of the same test med on everyone with a runny nose or high fever. Any reasonable bystander would rightly regard this as insane. Why, then, would anyone apply this approach to testing psychiatric meds? Read on ...
Only pharmaceutical companies can afford the $40 million or so (my best guess) it takes to conduct the two clinical trials required for an FDA indication to treat an illness, but the pay-off is huge. For a common chronic illness, such as “depression,” an FDA indication amounts to a license to print money.
The drug companies are abetted by the FDA, which sets a very low success threshold for a clinical trial. In the case of antidepressants, assuming safety and tolerability standards are met, a mere 50 percent of those in the drug group need to get merely 50 percent better. (For antipsychotics to test schizophrenia, the standard is even lower.) You can achieve nearly as good a result with a placebo - literally. But why would a drug company care about that? Once they have succeeded in putting a tiny bit of daylight between their drug and the placebo in two trials, they now have their license to print money.
What RDPCs Do Tell Us
Of all things, despite the best efforts by drug companies to produce results favorable to their test med, the one thing clinical trials involving antidepressants do show us is their spectacular lack of effect on wide populations classified as “depressed.” Commentators such as Robert Whitaker have had a field day with this. Likewise Whitaker et al can point to the indisputable fact that these meds have failed to make a dent in the worldwide “depression” epidemic.
There is no way to “refute” or “repudiate” this evidence, except with equally weighty evidence, which does not exist. We can make a case that antidepressants are likely to work extremely well on a certain small subpopulation of patients, but to prove that we would first need to identify this population and then test them in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Ironic, isn’t it?