June 11, 2008

I have no idea how to even begin researching these questions, so I’m just throwing them out there.

  • You hear about plenty of clinical trials where Drug X is shown to be no better than a placebo in treating Condition Y: patients are told they’ll get medicine, but they’re randomly assigned to get either medicine or sugar pills. How about a trial to see whether Drug X is any worse than a placebo? Run the test like normal—but then run it a second time, telling all the participants that they’re getting a placebo, even though half of them are getting Drug X.
  • If the placebo effect depends on the recipients beliefs about the treatment, does the type of belief and the type of treatment affect it? Do Southern Baptists respond better to placebos that have been blessed by an ordained minister?

1 Comment

  • Meghan says:

    I couldn’t find anything that answered those questions specifically, but you might enjoy reading about “nocebos.”

    If the placebo effect exists at all (and there’s research suggesting that it doesn’t, which is touched on in the article above), I would imagine that the answer to your second question would be a yes.

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