Randomised controlled trial: placebo effect
Kirsten Patrick explains a study that tries to pick apart the placebo effect in patients with irritable bowel syndrome
There has been much written and much debate about the placebo effect, but we still don't understand fully how a placebo can lead to improvement of symptoms. The placebo response may be a result of one or more of many factors—for example, the patient's belief that a treatment will work—or factors inherent in the therapeutic relationship between doctor and patient. The authors of this paper sought to establish the relative magnitudes of the effects of three different factors that may contribute to the placebo effect.
The online dictionary Wordnet defines placebo as “an innocuous or inert medication; given as a pacifier or to the control group in experiments on the efficacy of a drug,” but this trial depends on a much wider understanding of placebo that accepts that the clinical interaction between therapist, or doctor, and patient is part of the “innocuous” aspect of care that may contribute to a