Placebos can work even when patients are aware of the placebo

New Scientist reports:

According to Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard Medical School and his colleagues at least one condition can be calmed by placebo, even when everyone knows it’s just an inert pill…

In the latest study, Kaptchuk tested the effect of placebo versus no treatment in 80 people with irritable bowel syndrome. Twice a day, 37 people swallowed an inert pill could not be absorbed by the body. The researchers told participants that it could improve symptoms through the placebo effect.

While 35 per cent of the patients who had not received any treatment reported an improvement, 59 per cent of the placebo group felt better. “The placebo was almost twice as effective as the control,” says Kaptchuk.

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