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As commenter "alkali" appropriately recognizes (see http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/04/antidepressants.html#comments), the results of the meta-analysis may still be brought into doubt by the scientific community. I have made minor modifications to the first paragraph to better emphasize that my discussion is meant to be contingent on the validity of this research. Specifically, I added "If true" to the second sentence and changed "are little better than placebos" to "may be little better than placebos."

In the Chicago study you mentioned in most cases placebos consisted of using an "active placebo", i.e., an antibiotic, sedative, or other drug that the doctor knew would have no biological effect on the patient's illness, but if the patient believed it would help it might nonetheless make him feel better. A British study recently reported similar findings.

I think both that type of placebo use and the "sugar pill" variety constitute deception and should be legally actionable. I want to know what I'm being prescribed, and I routinely read both the manufacturers' data sheets and the results of published peer-reviewed research before taking a drug.

"Active placebos" have side effects and risks that the patient has a right to be informed about. I think the only ethically-legitimate use of placebos in routine clinical practice would be if the patient had signed prior consent agreeing to be lied-to in the course of his treatment.

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