Placebo response in pharmacological trials in patients with functional dyspepsia-A systematic review and meta-analysis

M. Bosman*, F. Smeets, S. Elsenbruch, J. Tack, M. Simren, N. Talley, B. Winkens, A. Masclee, D. Keszthelyi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Background Pharmacological trials in functional dyspepsia (FD) are associated with high placebo response rates. We aimed to identify the magnitude and contributing factors to the placebo response. Methods We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis including randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with a dichotomous outcome in adult patients with FD that compared an active pharmacotherapeutic treatment with placebo. Our main outcome was identification of the magnitude of the pooled placebo response rate for the following endpoints: symptom responder, symptom-free responder, adequate relief responder, and combined endpoint responder (i.e., the primary endpoint of each specific trial regarding treatment response). Several putative moderators (i.e., patient, disease, and trial characteristics) were examined. Key Results We included 26 RCTs in our analysis. The pooled placebo response rate was 39.6% (95% CI 30.1-50.0) using the symptom responder definition, 20.5% (12.8-31.0) using the symptom-free responder definition, 38.5% (33.8-43.6) using the adequate relief responder definition, and 35.5% (31.6-39.7) using the combined endpoint responder definition. A lower overall baseline symptom score was significantly associated with a higher placebo response rate. No other moderators were found to significantly impact the placebo response rate. Due to the lack of data, no analyses could be performed according to individual FD subtypes or symptoms. Conclusions and Inferences The pooled placebo response rate in pharmacological trials in FD is about 39%, depending on which responder definitions is used. Future trials should consider applying an entry criterion based on minimal level of symptom severity to decrease the placebo response. We also suggest separate reporting of core FD symptoms pending more concrete harmonization efforts in FD trials.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14474
Number of pages13
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • FD
  • functional dyspepsia
  • meta-analysis
  • placebo
  • placebo response


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