Placebo Effect in Canine Epilepsy Trials

Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, 4700 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27606, USA.
Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Impact Factor: 1.88). 11/2009; 24(1):166-70. DOI: 10.1111/j.1939-1676.2009.0407.x
Source: PubMed


The placebo effect is a well-recognized phenomenon in human medicine; in contrast, little information exists on the effect of placebo administration in veterinary patients.
Nonpharmacologic therapeutic effects play a role in response rates identified in canine epilepsy trials.
Thirty-four dogs with epilepsy.
Meta-analysis of the 3 known prospective, placebo-controlled canine epilepsy trials. The number of seizures per week was compiled for each dog throughout their participation in the trial. Log-linear models were developed to evaluate seizure frequency during treatment and placebo relative to baseline.
Twenty-two of 28 (79%) dogs in the study that received placebo demonstrated a decrease in seizure frequency compared with baseline, and 8 (29%) could be considered responders, with a 50% or greater reduction in seizures. For the 3 trials evaluated, the average reduction in seizures during placebo administration relative to baseline was 26% (P = .0018), 29% (P = .17), and 46% (P = .01).
A positive response to placebo administration, manifesting as a decrease in seizure frequency, can be observed in epileptic dogs. This is of importance when evaluating open label studies in dogs that aim to assess efficacy of antiepileptic drugs, as the reported results might be overstated. Findings from this study highlight the need for more placebo-controlled trials in veterinary medicine.

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    • "In addition, it has been identified that waxing and waning disorders are particularly vulnerable to a placebo effect (Roberts et al. 1993). Therefore any apparent response in terms of a reduction in frequency of episodes following treatment or changes in management (such as dietary manipulation) must be interpreted with caution as it may purely reflect the natural course of the disease, or a placebo effect due to the numerous postulated mechanisms as previously discussed in the case of canine epilepsy (Munana et al. 2010). There are several limitations of this study. "
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