NWPF

News ArchivesRead News

Placebo treatments stronger than doctors thought

Thursday February 25, 2010

MARIA CHENG

The Washington Post - When it comes to the placebo effect, it really may be mind over matter, a new analysis suggests.

In a review of recent research, international experts say there is increasing evidence that fake treatments, or placebos, have an actual biological effect in the body.

The doctor-patient relationship, plus the expectation of recovery, may sometimes be enough to change a patient's brain, body and behavior, experts write. The review of previous research on placebos was published online Friday in Lancet, the British medical journal.

"It's not that placebos or inert substances help," said Linda Blair, a Bath-based psychologist and spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society. Blair was not linked to the research. "It's that people's belief in inert substances help."

While doctors have long recognized that placebos can help patients feel better, they weren't sure if the treatments sparked any physical changes.

In the Lancet review, researchers cite studies where patients with Parkinson's disease were given dummy pills. That led their brains to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical, and also resulted in other changes in brain activity.

"When you think you're going to get a drug that helps, your brain reacts as if it's getting relief," said Walter Brown, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown and Tufts University. "But we don't know how that thought that you're going to get better actually translates into something happening in the brain."

With growing proof that placebos work, some doctors are trying to figure out how to capitalize on their effects, without being unethical.

Blair said that to be completely honest with patients - to tell them they were receiving a fake treatment - would sabotage their belief in the drug, and thus, undermine any potential benefit.

But Brown didn't agree. For certain patients, like those with mild depression or anxiety, he said placebos were likely to work just as well as established therapies.

He said that even if doctors acknowledge they are giving such patients a placebo medication, but say it could be beneficial, "it might just actually work."

Recent News

Jun 13 - Brain Cell Transplants Are Being Tested Once Again For Parkinson's
Jun 12 - Smell Test May Sniff Out Oncoming Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
Jun 8 - Smartphones Track Motor Function in Parkinson's Disease
Jun 8 - GKC Enrolls First Patient in Personal KinetiGraph Trial as Part of NPF’s Parkinson’s Outcomes Project
Jun 8 - Low-fat dairy intake may raise Parkinson's risk
Jun 6 - Patient Voices: Parkinson's Disease
Jun 1 - World-First Trials Have Been Launched to Treat Parkinson's And Blindness With Embryonic Stem Cells
May 24 - Survival Rates Differ Widely in Parkinson's, MSA, Lewy Bodies
May 22 - Discovery may offer hope to Parkinson's disease patients
May 15 - Study offers answers on life expectancy for people with Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia
May 5 - Parkinson's in a dish: Researchers reproduce brain oscillations
May 5 - ‘Hunger Hormone’ Could Help Treat Parkinson’s Disease
May 3 - Antibiotic doxycycline may offer hope for treatment of Parkinson's disease
May 1 - Impulse Control Disorders in Parkinson's Disease: Building Physician, Patient Awareness
Apr 28 - Does Parkinson’s disease begin in the gut?
Apr 28 - New empathy-creating digital device could be revolutionary for caregivers
Apr 24 - Treating Depression With Deep Brain Stimulation Works—Most of the Time
Apr 24 - Parkinson’s disease shows links to depression
Apr 21 - TOLEDO Trial: Apomorphine Infusions Reduce 'Off' Time in Parkinson's Disease
Apr 21 - New drug provides long-awaited breakthrough for Parkinson's psychosis