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Open Access Commentary

Is the efficacy of psychopharmacological drugs comparable to the efficacy of general medicine medication?

Florian Seemüller*, Hans-Jürgen Möller, Sandra Dittmann and Richard Musil

Author Affiliations

Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Nussbaumstr.7, 80336 Munich, Germany

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BMC Medicine 2012, 10:17  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-17

Published: 15 February 2012


There is an ongoing debate concerning the risk benefit ratio of psychopharmacologic compounds. With respect to the benefit, recent reports and meta-analyses note only small effect sizes with comparably high placebo response rates in the psychiatric field. These reports together with others lead to a wider, general critique on psychotropic drugs in the scientific community and in the lay press. In a recently published article, Leucht and his colleagues compare the efficacy of psychotropic drugs with the efficacy of common general medicine drugs in different indications according to results from reviewed meta-analyses. The authors conclude that, overall, the psychiatric drugs were generally not less effective than most other medical drugs. This article will highlight some of the results of this systematic review and discuss the limitations and the impact of this important approach on the above mentioned debate.

effect size; general medicine; psychiatry; meta-analysis