Placebos Without Deception

For most of us, the “placebo effect” is synonymous with the power of positive thinking; it works because you believe you’re taking a real drug. But a new study rattles this assumption.

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Osher Institute of Harvard Medical School have found that placebos work even when administered without the seemingly requisite deception.
The study appears in the December 22 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Placebos—or dummy pills—are typically used in clinical trials as controls for potential new medications. Even though they contain no active ingredients, patients often respond to them. In fact, data on placebos is so compelling that many American physicians (one study estimates 50 percent) secretly give placebos to unsuspecting patients.




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