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About The Placebo Effect

Placebos helped ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) even when patients knew that was what they were taking, a new study reports.

Researchers randomly assigned 80 patients with IBS to receive placebo pills (openly labeled as such) or no treatment over a three-week period. Patients taking placebos had significantly higher mean scores on the IBS Global Improvement Scale at 11 and 21 days, and also reported significant improvements in symptom severity and relief. The results of the study, which was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, were published online Dec. 22 by PLoS ONE.

Anthony Lembo, M.D., a study coauthor, said in a press release that he didn’t expect the placebo to work. “I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them,” he said.

Ted Kaptchuk, O.M.D., the study’s lead author, told the LA Times that a larger study needs to be done to confirm the findings, and said that he didn’t believe such effects would be possible “without a positive doctor-patient relationship.”

ACP Internist looked at placebos’ place in clinical practice in a 2009 article. (PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, LA Times, ACP Internist)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*


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3 Responses to “About The Placebo Effect”

  1. 1blog says:

    Placebo is supposed to work. Curing illness with placebo pills may work and may not.

  2. Huh, I was hoping for a lot more discussion “about the placebo effect” – so much has been written about this PLoS article without discussing the effect, and most of what’s written has generalized from this one study (about one condition) to say placebos *in general* work.

    I only have a layman’s knowledge about the placebo effect, so I’m not startled to hear it *can* work in some situations. If nothing else, there’s the Hawthorne Effect, which I strongly suspect is not limited to behavior change. But by definition placebo involves a mind-body connection, and I’d be surprised if it’s comparably effective in all conditions.

    But, what do I know…

  3. Another placebo effect: A study published in JAMA reported that commonly used SSRI antidepressants are no better than placebo for most cases of depression. The authors reviewed 30 years of data and concluded that “the benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo may be minimal or nonexistent in patients with mild or moderate symptoms”. ref JAMA 2010;303(1):47-53)

    For more:

    http://jeffreydach.com/2010/01/21/jama-says-ssri-antidepressants-are-placebos-by-jeffrey-dach-md.aspx

    jeffrey dach md

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