Posts Tagged placebo

Drug Research Needs The Placebo — that’s science

placebo_pillNew drugs need to be compared to something.  And, at a very minimum that something is the placebo, a sugar pill.  When you see an advertisement claiming some product is 80% better, a reasonable person would ask, “better than what?”

A comparison group is hugely important in all of science.  One of the biggest flaws in all research is not picking an appropriate control or comparison which makes the research worthless.

Erik Vance of the Washington Post reported on 12/2/16: “People susceptible to the placebo effect may be keeping us from getting new drugs.”  The idea is many drugs can’t be proven to be better than a placebo.  The FDA prevents those poor drug companies from marketing those drugs and making tons of money.

So here is the anti-scientific conclusion Mr. Vance reported: only use people that are unaffected by placebos in the control group.  Sadly, that would exclude most conscious human beings.  The control group would be strange people that could feel the tiny effects of the drug and ignore any psychological impact of taking a pill.  And, voilà drug approved.  A drug that most people would find no better than eating a sugar cube could be marketed at $800 per pill.  And, advertisements could fool most practicing physicians into prescribing it.

This idea is totally nuts.  The FDA would be within its authority to only allow the drug to be prescribed to that small group of strange people, not the whole world.  Assuming the FDA was reasonably competent the idea and the huge profits should go down the drain.

Do you want to take a medicine that fails to work as well as a sugar pill?  Probably not.  Expect good science. Demand honest comparison with placebos.


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Drug Side Effects — placebo and nocebo

goodpillbadpillWhen you question  people given a placebo (containing no medication) 25% will feel better (placebo effect) and 45% will think they have a side-effect (nocebo effect).  The remaining 30% notice nothing.  What a delema for doctors!  Some people feel better without  medication, some feel worse with medication and some don’t think the medication is working either way!

The answer is not to over-think the problem.  Patient’s should become informed about the medications they take — know the top 3 side effects.  And, if something definitely unusual (and bothersome) happens shortly after taking a new medication run down the side-effect list and check with your health care provider.  If a side effect you have is really on the list a response from the health care provider:  “I’ve never seen that” is just not helpful.

Many medications have side effects that people just must live with.  Like strong blood pressure medications that cause a slight dizziness on standing.  Or an anti-allergy medication that causes a dry mouth.  Some people expect to feel better with blood pressure medication — not so — a lower blood pressure is the desired effect, not any “feeling”.

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