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

Aug 29 - The Decline of Tube Feeding for Dementia Patients
Aug 28 - New test may help detect Parkinson's disease in early stages of illness
Aug 22 - Parkinson's Disease Could Be Diagnosed Through Eye Check, Mice Help Researchers In Further Study
Aug 22 - Machine learning to unlock Parkinson's disease mystery
Aug 22 - Manufacturing Dopamine in the Brain with Gene Therapy
Aug 21 - Cognitive control plays major role in Parkinson’s Gait
Aug 15 - 'I've Never Felt Constrained': After Parkinson's Diagnosis, Chestnut Hill Man Turns To Drumming
Aug 11 - Virtual reality and treadmill training could help prevent falls in older adults
Aug 9 - New laboratory model replicates early phase of Parkinson's before onset of motor symptoms
Aug 8 - Marshall University Scientists Develop A New Approach For Parkinson’s Disease Therapy
Aug 5 - Cambuslang woman diagnosed with Parkinson's at 42 is set to trek through Alps
Aug 4 - Active Music Therapy May Be Beneficial in Parkinson's
Aug 1 - Mini-Brains? Scientists Grow Rice Grain-Sized Brains to Aid Parkinson’s Research
Jul 30 - Lab method sheds light on how genetic mutations cause inherited Parkinson's disease
Jul 27 - Indicators of Parkinson's disease risk found in unexpected places
Jul 24 - Parkinson's: Mutant gene interaction may pave the way for new treatments
Jul 22 - Boxing training used to fight against Parkinson's disease
Jul 17 - Stem cell treatment breakthrough could cure Parkinson’s patients
Jul 14 - Cancer drug shows early promise for Parkinson's disease
Jul 13 - Opinion: Dividing the Caregiving Responsibilities Between Siblings