Placebo response in trichotillomania

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Abstract

Trichotillomania is a functionally impairing, often overlooked disorder with no Food and Drug Administration-approved medications indicated for its treatment. The ability of clinical trials to detect the beneficial effects of pharmacologic treatment in trichotillomania has been hampered by the high placebo response rate. Very little is known about baseline demographic and clinical characteristics that may be predictive of placebo response in such patients. Overall, 104 participants assigned to placebo were pooled from five double-blind trials conducted at three sites in the USA and Canada. Participants were classified as placebo responders or nonresponders on the basis of a cutoff of a 35% reduction in symptom severity on the Massachusetts General Hospital Hair Pulling Scale. Baseline group differences were characterized using t-tests and equivalent nonparametric tests as appropriate. Thirty-one percent of individuals assigned to placebo treatment showed a significant clinical response to placebo. Placebo responders (n=32) and nonresponders (n=72) did not differ significantly on any demographic or clinical variable. Predictors of placebo response for trichotillomania remain elusive and do not appear to be similar to those reported for other mental health disorders.

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