December 23, 2010

Patients Knowingly Take Fake Pills, Feel Better

Martin Enserink, Science Now


Confronted with a patient suffering from pain or a chronic disease for which no drugs are effective, doctors sometimes prescribe a sugar pill or vitamin. Although these "medications" have no active ingredients, patients often feel better. It's called the "placebo effect," and most scientists would say that it works only if the patient doesn't know the pill is fake. But a new clinical trial shows that patients can get better on a placebo even if they know the truth.

"It's a fascinating, innovative, and important study," says Klaus Linde, who studies complementary and alternative medicine at the Technical University in Munich, Germany.

Lead author Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School in Boston says he set up the trial in part because doctors seem to be struggling...

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TAGGED: Experimental Drug, Medical Experiments, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Medical Treatment, Placebo Effect