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Placebos in research

Placebos are often used in clinical drug trials to determine how well a potential medicine will work.

  • There are two different groups of subjects in a placebo-controlled trial - one receives the experimental drug and the other the placebo. Neither researchers nor subjects know which group is receiving the real drug or the placebo.
  • Some researchers are questioning the placebo-controlled trial. Not everyone thinks a drug is ineffective if the placebo performs better.
  • Other critics of the placebo-controlled trial state it's wrong to attribute all positive outcomes to the placebo because many illnesses can resolve without any treatment.
  • When a patient takes a placebo and experiences adverse side effects, it's called a nocebo effect. Patients taking active drugs have also been known to have side effects that can't be directly attributed to the drug.

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The subject-expectancy effect

When people know what the result of taking a pill is supposed to be, they might unconsciously change their reaction to cause that result or report that result has taken place even if it hasn't.

However, studies show that a placebo doesn't trick the brain - the brain reacts differently to ...

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Prescribing placebos

A 2007 study revealed that 45 percent of doctors had prescribed a placebo at some point. Doctors believed that placebos had a therapeutic effect.

The most commonly prescribed placebos are aspirin, vitamins, and antibiotics. Doctors prescribe placebos because they have no other for...

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The placebo prescribing controversy

The American Medical Association created a policy concerning placebos that states that "physicians may use placebos for diagnosis or treatment only if the patient is informed of and agrees to its use."

  • Generally, doctors who prescribe placebos say that they have something th...

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The placebo effect

The placebo effect

The placebo effect happens when a person takes medication that he thinks will help, but the medication has not been proven to be effective for the specific condition.

Placebos work in about 30 percent of patients. Some placebos contain no active ingredien...

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The gold standard: double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized tests

If you are looking at a clinical trial, a psychology study, or an animal study, it must be a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study.

  • Randomized: The participants in the study are randomly placed into the experimental group and the compari...

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