Clinical studies, generally, address safety and effectiveness of a therapy like drugs. In case of clinical trials for drugs, most of the time comparison is made against a placebo (sugar pill) to evaluate the effectiveness of drug as suppose to the psychological factors. Clinical studies are single or double blind; in single blind patients do not know, whether they are receiving drug or placebo and in double blind, both physician and patient are unaware of the nature of pill. A new study was published in medical journal PLoS One, which involved a small study on patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The surprising outcome of the study was that the patients were told that they were given placebo and still they reported some relief from bowel syndrome.
What did the study involve?
The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Harvard. The study consisted of:
- 80 patients with irritable bowel syndrome
- 40 were given placebo and informed about it
- Second group was not given anything
What were patients told about the placebo drug?
Harvard Medical School associate professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk told that:
- Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had ‘placebo’ printed on the bottle.
- We told the patients that they didn’t have to even believe in the placebo effect. Just take the pills.
- Group taking placebo reported adequate symptom relief from bowel syndrome at double the rate of the group told to do nothing (59% vs. 35%).
- The results were noted to be as good as the leading irritable bowel syndrome drugs on the market.
Senior author and Harvard Medical School associate professor of medicine at Anthony Lembo did not believe that this would work and said that “I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them.”
- The study was small.
- It’s not clear what it would mean for other conditions and more research is needed.
The jury is still out there on whether the placebos will be effective in treatment of bowel syndrome or other diseases. None-the-less, if it proves out that placebo is indeed effective; it would be a cheep option for treating diseases with no side effects. Wouldn’t that be great?
Source: LA Times