Predicting Potential Placebo Effect in Drug Treated Subjects

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Non-specific responses to treatment (commonly known as placebo response) are pervasive when treating mental illness. Subjects treated with an active drug may respond in part due to non-specific aspects of the treatment, i.e, those not related to the chemical effect of the drug. To determine the extent a subject responds due to the chemical effect of a drug, one must disentangle the specific drug effect from the non-specific placebo effect. This paper presents a unique statistical model that allows for the separate prediction of a specific effect and non-specific effects in drug treated subjects. Data from a clinical trial comparing fluoxetine to a placebo for treating depression is used to illustrate this methodology.