Pierre Bauman and Francois Ferrero

An oficial inquiry of the clinical research activities (1946-1980) of Roland Kuhn (1912-2005)


Leonardo Tondo’s comment


        I agree with most of my colleagues about the unfairness of applying today’s standard of research to past periods. However, those periods are not that distant and Dr. Kuhn probably had knowledge of the standard methods for experimental research in psychopharmacology.

        In my interview of Roland Kuhn in Scherzingen (Switzerland) on April 4, 1990 he gave me the impression that the discovery of imipramine was a well-organized research project in collaboration with Ciba-Geigy. It is very likely that the company knew how to carry on an adequate project but preferred to obtain results in an easy and inexpensive manner so it chose a rural, albeit large, hospital. In the section of my interview devoted to the controversies associated with that discovery, some other considerations emerged. Despite what Kuhn claimed, it is possible that people from Geigy insisted on the research project on the compound G-22355 and that Dr. Kuhn was initially reluctant but finally convinced of its effect after the first results. Other controversial issues concern the publication of the first reports under his name only although the study was clearly carried out with the collaboration of other colleagues. 

        All this said, regardless of the extent to which Kuhn’s observations were aided and supported by observations of other colleagues, whether he may have exaggerated his own part in the imipramine story, or how to understand his efforts to limit the efficacy of imipramine to patients with vital depression, his contributions to the advancement of modern clinical psychopharmacology and psychiatry were of enormous importance and it is difficult to understand the impact of the tricyclic antidepressants on psychiatric theory and practice without taking note of his seminal contributions.     


February 4, 2021