Underreported: The Placebo Effect

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"The placebo effect" has been known to scientists for a very long time. But for some reason, the placebo effect is getting stronger and researchers don’t know why. In fact, an increasing number of medications are unable to beat sugar pills in clinical trials. Steve Silberman, is a senior writer for Wired magazine and wrote about this subject in the August issue.

You can read his article here.


Steve Silberman

Comments [9]

Dominique Jeannot

Never underestimate the power of the human mind.

Oct. 02 2009 02:20 PM
Linda Gnat-Mullin from Brooklyn

Actually, Larry Dossey, M.D. reports a placebo greatly affecting tumors in a case history in his book, The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things:

The drug Krebiozen was offered to a cancer patient as a "miracle" cancer treatment. He took it, and Dossey reports that his tumors "melted like snowballs on a hot stove, and in only these few days, they were half their
original size!" The patient then discovered that Krebiozen had been discredited, and tumors reappeared. Says Dossey, "At this point his doctor, acting on a hunch, administered a placebo intravenously. The man was told that plain water was a ‘new, improved’ form of Krebiozen. Again, his cancer shrank away dramatically." Then the patient found out that the ‘new improved’ Krebiozen was a hoax, and "he was dead within days."

Oct. 01 2009 06:16 PM
Steve Silberman from San Francisco

PL Hayes, you make worthy points, and if you read the article, you'll see that I address some of those complexities there.

Oct. 01 2009 02:22 PM
Mary Sunshine from NY

If the anticipation of good effect gives the placebo its power, isn't it reasonable to speculate that medication taken with reluctance and apprehension can have a deleterious effect.

Oct. 01 2009 02:19 PM
Mark from Princeton from Princeton NJ

Sounds like the wrong questions to me...

1) Why are patients being misdiagnosed such that they are allowed to enter into trials for conditions they don't really have.

2) That said, maybe some people are "faking it" in order to get paid for doing a trial

3)What does it say about the world we live in when perfectly healthy people have to "defend themselves" by becoming the victim of some illness?

4) Since health care is such a current issue, how much does faux illness cost us yearly?

IMHO, the irony here is that the placebo effect is a symptom.

Oct. 01 2009 02:02 PM
gibbs a williams Ph.D from nyc

Placebo heightens postive expectations changing brain chemistry inducing hope. The key to effective coping with anxiety, frustration, and stress is changing attitudes by learning to tolerate them.

Oct. 01 2009 02:01 PM

Re shrinking tumors: But through hypnosis you can experience blistering burns from touching a cold radiator. Etc. So isn't it at least POSSIBLE that placebos might affect physical problems?

Oct. 01 2009 01:54 PM
Lillian Fimbres from New York

The so named placebo is nothing more then the mind and the body becoming congruent. The body always wants to heal, it's the mind that triggers illness, disease or wellness and health.
the placebo is just allowing the body to heal naturally with the mind as the gateway.

Oct. 01 2009 01:49 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

“But for some reason, the placebo effect is getting stronger”

Possibly, but that is - obviously - not the only possible explanation even for e.g. the doubled effect size in placebo groups in later trials cited in the article, let alone the lesser efficacy of newer drugs. Effect size is not a “measure of statistical significance”, by the way.

Oct. 01 2009 01:46 PM

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