Tag Archives: Placebo Effect

Britain’s NHS should subsidise placebos?

Here’s an article from a blog called PRACTICAL ETHICS (Ethics in the News) at the University of Oxford. It’s pretty unfriendly to homeopathy, which we think isn’t quite as cut and dried a domain of practice as the author, Bennett Foddy, assumes. Brian, one of our founders, is happy to advise on both homeopathic and placebo regimes. That’s one point where we differ substantially with Foddy, and at least some of the literature does as well. Buying placebos from Boots, government subsidised or not, makes at least the ‘pleasing the practitioner’ script impossible. ("Pleasing the practitioner" is the idea that a patient’s trust in the authority of an expert induces the placebo effect.)

What would convince you to use a placebo?

Like most of us at some time or another, you may have had a healthy scepticism  about the use of placebos.

Here is an approach you may like to consider, to help you benefit from the mysterious healing powers of the placebo, even when you know it is a placebo you are taking; an approach that has been useful for a growing number of people in recent times, recommended by a homeopath of some 30 years experience.

Consider this . . .  undoubtedly, there is a greater chance of success if the placebo taker believes it can work, and even more if the placebo taker trusts and has faith in the prescriber (which paradoxically can be themselves).

The simple mathematics around the mysterious healing powers of the placebo reveals an improvement in at least 30% (and up to 70%) of cases. You can be one of the 30-70%.

Our aim at universal Placebos is to help you shift from curiosity to action –  to dare to try something new.

What would convince you to use a placebo? If you are curious you could try this simple procedure to evoke the positive qualities of Acceptance, Gratitude, Faith, Trust and Action.

Twice a day, say morning and night, take 3 placebo pilules.

With the first pilule focus on acceptance of who you are and where you are, all your advantages and disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses. Accept your true situation, so you are free to respond, and not just react. 

As you take the second pilule focus on gratitude. Be thankful for all the positives you have in your life . . . “it could always be worse.” Be mindful of where you want to be. Have faith you will find inner guidance. . . just trust it, that these inner revelations are right and correct.

As you take the third pilule, just say YES . . . it feels better. Smile and go . . .take action with the first step, whatever that is . . . and believe it is possible.

Or, why not create your own ritual? Here are some tips:

(a) Apply KISS tactics (keep it simple sweetheart)
(b) Choose easy times to take placebos, like when you have a cuppa
(c) Take it at least twice a day, morning and night
(d) Be mindful and present in the moment
(e) Keep it short and easy to complete

The ultimate truth is that the successful outcome of any healing situation is determined by the actions and choices and healing system of the individual, regardless of the healing modality. Nobody can make anyone else better, but everyone needs some help sometime.

The truth is that the successful outcome of any healing situation is determined by the actions and choices and healing system of the individual, regardless of the healing modality. Nobody can make anyone else better, but everyone needs some help sometimes.

The Placebo Effect on Fox: When You KNOW You’re Taking Placebo

You know you’ve made it when they run a story on Fox News. Forget Harvard (where the groundbreaking placebo study took place that allowed patients to KNOW they were trialling placebos). The Harvard study told participants the ‘medication’ they were taking was inert, however it ‘would engage the mind-body and self healing thing’.

Marc Siegel, from something called the ‘Fox News Medical A-Team’, comments on video here.

In other news, the more mainstream Wall Street Journal comments on the research here and here.

No fooling: ‘Placebo effect’ real


A simple sugar pill may help treat a disease — even if patients know they’re getting fake medicine.

The finding, reported online Wednesday in the journal PloS One, may point the way to wider — and more ethical — applications of the well-known “placebo effect.”

“The conventional wisdom is you need to make a patient think they’re taking a drug, you have to use deception and lies,” said lead author Ted Kaptchuk, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. And, Kaptchuk added, it seems many doctors do this: In one report, as many as half of rheumatologists and internists surveyed said they had intentionally given patients ineffective medication in the hopes it would have a positive result.

Kaptchuk, however, wondered whether the deception was needed. When he first tried to persuade fellow researchers to explore a sort of “honest” placebo, “they said it was nuts,” he said. After all, didn’t the whole effect hinge on people believing they were getting real treatment?

Patients were easier to enlist. “People said, ‘Wow, that’s weird’ and we said, ‘Yeah, we think it might work.'”

The researchers enrolled 80 people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, explaining the experiment while framing it positively — they called it a novel “mind-body” therapy.

Half the patients were given a bottle with the word “placebo” printed on it. The pills it held, they were told, were like sugar pills. The patients were told they didn’t even need to believe in the placebo effect, but had to take the pills twice daily.

The other half were given no treatment at all.

At the end of the three-week trial, 59 percent of the patients taking the placebo said their symptoms had been adequately relieved, far outstripping the 35 percent in the non-treatment group.

“We were all taken aback,” Kaptchuk said. “We triple-checked the data before we decided it was real.”

Read the research paper at Plos One: Placebos without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

“Placebo: Cracking the Code”

Featuring members of the the Harvard Placebo Study Group, “Placebo: Cracking the Code” examines the power of belief in alleviating pain, curing disease, and the healing of injuries. This is the first of several videos which can be accessed through Youtube – the first is below.

The placebo effect is a pervasive, albeit misunderstood, phenomenon in medicine. In the UK, over 60% of doctors surveyed said they had prescribed placebos in regular clinical practice. In a recent Times Magazine article, 96% of US physicians surveyed stated that they believe that placebo treatments have real therapeutic effects.

Work on the placebo effect received an intellectual boost when the Harvard Placebo Study Group was founded at the beginning of 2001. This group is part of the Mind-Brain-Behavior Initiative at Harvard University, and its main characteristic is the interdisciplinary approach to the placebo phenomenon. The group is made up of 8 members: Anne Harrington (Historian of Science at Harvard), Howard Fields (Neuroscientist at Univ. of California in San Francisco), Dan Moerman (Anthropologist at Univ. of Michigan), Nick Humphrey (Evolutionary Psychologist at London School of Economics), Dan Wegner (Psychologist at Harvard), Jamie Pennebaker (Psychologist at Univ. of Texas in Austin), Ginger Hoffman (Behavioral Geneticist at Harvard) and Fabrizio Benedetti (Neuroscientist at Univ. of Turin). The main objective of the group is two-fold: to devise new experiments that may shed light on the placebo phenomenon and to write papers in which the placebo effect is approached from different perspectives.

Cutting Edge Research on the Placebo Effect

We were fascinated to see a story on Australia’s ABC News about recent research into the placebo effect. Pain researcher Damien Finniss, from Sydney’s Royal North Shore Pain Management and Research Institute, has published a paper in The Lancet on the phenomenon of the placebo effect. The ABC story makes two points which in our view have not received sufficient attention, namely:

* that the placebo effect is engaged even when a patient is aware s/he is receiving placebo (the ‘no-blind test’); and
* that responsible practitioners consider the agency of placebo in the course of treatment.

Consistent with other researchers we’ve read, Finniss and his colleagues are concerned with ethical issues in practitioner-client relationships in consideration of conscious engagement with the placebo effect. This is what we’d expect from responsible researchers and health professional. At the same time, we’re aware of anecdotal evidence and some research (contained elsewhere in this blog) that in any case there is widespread ‘de facto’ use of placebos in general practice and elsewhere, as for example in the presciption of an antiobiotic in the treatment of a viral condition.

Placebo Discussions on Metafilter

It seems that the placebo effect has been the source of ongoing discussion and sometimes controversy at the huge web discussion community Metafilter. A friend pointed out this post, and the discussion it provoked, and we consequently discovered Metafilter discussions here, here, here, here, here and here! Popular topic! Scrolling through the discussions, we were happy to find that most of the points raised have been addressed, in one way or another, on these pages. Check out our search function!

Placebos are getting under the skin of the drug pushers

It sounds counter-intuitive, but it seems that placebos are geting ‘stronger’ … or more to the point, the placebo effect is increasingly recognised as touching the heart of the overall process of healing and the nature of wellness. A fascinating article on this dynamic phenomenon in Wired magazine – looks like the debate is going mainstream!

And lest we forget … there’s money at stake. Big money.