All posts by placebo-admin

Antibiotics Are Still Overprescribed

We’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site that conventional doctors are quite aware that they’re often prescribing ‘placebos’ – that is, antibiotics for conditions which they know will not respond to antibiotics. Why? It seems, that’s what patients expect, and doctors, under the pressure of pushing as many through the doors per hour as they can, just don’t have the time to explain that medication is just not necessary for something like a viral infection. At least, we hope that this is the explanation. We’d hate to think that the medical professiona was at all involved in helping bolster drug sales …

Here’s an NPR news article about the over-prescription phenomenon. Problem is, the practice is not only unnecessary and expensive, it can be dangerous. 

11 Surprising Facts About Placebos

According to Livescience, because placebos relate to the power of suggestion, there has been a great deal of interest in finding whether certain groups of people are more susceptible to the placebo effect.

But while researchers have looked at age, gender and religiosity, among other factors, findings have been inconsistent.

"No one has been successful in identifying a profile of a placebo responder," said one researcher.

If such a group were found, she added, "drug companies would be excluding those people [from clinical trials], so they’d be able to test their drugs more correctly."

‘In future they could *be* the treatment …’

We’ve found a new website, Placeboeffect, which holds itself up as ‘The Official Placebo Effect Resource’ (whatever ‘official’ means in the world of placebos!) Here you can access classes, essays, an ebook and other resources on the phenomenon, though not placebos themselves. We think the ‘101’ guides are particularly interesting.

Also interesting is the proposition of a ‘placebo method’ which the site suggests can be more effective than simply taking a sugar pill. We agree with the general tenet of this proposition, and took quite a bit of care to suggest a protocol for taking a course of placebos, contained in a small booklet that accompanies our product. We call this ‘Creating the Conditions to Get the Most From Your Placebo"

Use placebos when you need help, or when all else fails.

Placebos stimulate your healing system to maintain wellbeing, sometimes bringing forth what seem like miraculous results. Faith, hope, trust and love optimize the conditions for the placebo effect to work. You can create such conditions by recalling the memory of a positive experience, or by simply acknowledging, in your inner being, the many reasons to be grateful for the precious gift of life, and also your capacity to ease your own physical, mental or emotional suffering. You may choose to create your own ritual, meditating on visualisations or affirmations of your intention to become well. You may choose to look to writings, art, conversations or the web for inspiration.

Be playful and light, allow room for laughter. You have nothing to lose but fear and anxiety.

Harvard says placebos are going mainstream

A fascinating article from Harvard Magazine on the work of Ted Kaptchuk, head of the Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter, a multidisciplinary institute dedicated solely to placebo study.

‘It’s a nod to changing attitudes in Western medicine, and a direct result of the small but growing group of researchers like Kaptchuk who study not if, but how, placebo effects work. Explanations for the phenomenon come from fields across the scientific map—clinical science, psychology, anthropology, biology, social economics, neuroscience. Disregarding the knowledge that placebo treatments can affect certain ailments, Kaptchuk says, “is like ignoring a huge chunk of healthcare.” As caregivers, “we should be using every tool in the box.”’

Kaptchuk is getting some extraordinary results. One landmark study involved patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS), and consistent with some other studies cited in our blog, it seems that the placebo effect is still engaged even when patients know they’re being offered placebos.

‘One group received no treatment. The other patients were told they’d be taking fake, inert drugs (delivered in bottles labeled “placebo pills”) and told also that placebos often have healing effects.The study’s results shocked the investigators themselves: even patients who knew they were taking placebos described real improvement, reporting twice as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group. That’s a difference so significant, says Kaptchuk, it’s comparable to the improvement seen in trials for the best real IBS drugs.’

So Harvard and a nest of affiliated research hospitals are getting into placebo research. Check out the website of the Program in Placebo Studies for more.

‘For many years, the placebo effect was considered to be no more than a nuisance variable that needed to be controlled in clinical trials. Only recently have researchers redefined it as the key to understanding the healing that arises from medical ritual, the context of treatment, the patient-provider relationship and the power of imagination, trust and hope.


Although our biomedical health care system often considers these humanistic dimensions of care as secondary to the administration of pharmaceuticals and procedures, the emerging field of placebo studies is producing scientific evidence that these more intangible elements of medicine may fundamentally contribute to the improvement of patient outcomes.’