…There is no denying the drumbeat of studies on the therapeutic power of placebos. Over the years they have been shown to relieve asthma, lower blood pressure, reduce angina and stop gastric reflux. An inert solution injected into the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease reduced muscle rigidity about as well as standard drugs. In a bizarre finding, sham surgery of the knee, in which patients got sedation and an incision but no actual procedure, relieved the pain of osteoarthritis better than actual arthroscopy—and produced an equal improvement in joint function, scientists reported in 2002. And last month an analysis of clinical trials of a range of antidepressants found that, except in the most severe cases, placebos lifted the black cloud as well as meds did.
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