The Visual Illusion of Efficacy in Psychiatric Drug Trials

This article by Robert Whitaker has been published by Mad in America. It begins:

“Published reports of clinical trials of psychiatric drugs typically include a graphic showing the efficacy of the study drug in reducing symptoms of the disorder compared with placebo. These graphics are visually compelling. They almost always show a notable separation between the study drug and placebo in the reduction of symptoms over time, and thus the reader can see what the authors of the study conclude: The study drug, at one dose or another, is an effective treatment for the disorder.

These graphics, however, are presenting an illusion of efficacy. It’s done very simply: The graphics are set up with a vertical axis that, in essence, acts as a magnifying glass.

In a recent MIA Report titled Anatomy of an Industry: Commerce, Payments to Psychiatrists, and Betrayal of the Public Good, Mad in America looked at the financial influences present as seven new psychotropics were brought to market from 2013 through 2017: four antipsychotics, one antidepressant, and two drugs for tardive dyskinesia. The published reports of the pivotal trials of these drugs regularly featured a graphical illusion of this sort, an illusion that can be revealed by re-graphing the efficacy data with a proper vertical axis.

Here are the graphics that tell of this illusion of efficacy for each of the seven drugs, along with similar graphics for a fifth antipsychotic that was approved in 2020 (lumateperone) …”

You can read more from here.

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