Tag: placebo effect

An Industry of Worthless Acupuncture Studies

Even more interesting to me than the question of whether or not acupuncture is effective for any particular symptom is the meta-question of how acupuncture proponents have managed to promote a treatment with systematically terrible scientific data. A new study provides a fresh example of this, which I will discuss below. I think the behavior of acupuncturists reflects the fact that there...

/ August 26, 2015

Placebo by Conditioning

Truly understanding placebo effects (note the plural) is critical to science-based medicine. Misconceptions about placebo effects are perhaps the common problem I encounter among otherwise-scientific professionals and science communicators. The persistence of these misconceptions is due partly to the fact that false beliefs about placebos, namely that “the” placebo effect is mainly an expectation mind-over-matter effect, is deeply embedded in the culture....

/ July 29, 2015
Yes, it's true that placebos are just as powerful as homeopathy. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean what believers in integrative medicine think it does.

Placebo, Are You There?

By Jean Brissonnet, translation by Harriet Hall Note: This was originally published as “Placebo, es-tu là?” in Science et pseudo-sciences 294, p. 38-48. January 2011. It came to my attention in the course of an e-mail correspondence with the editors of that magazine, where one of my own articles was published in French translation in January 2015. I thought this was the...

/ February 24, 2015
The aptly-named "Not Appearing In This Post" turtle of South America.

Acupuncture Odds and Ends

I’m cheating. No, I’m recycling. ‘Tis the season to have to no time to get anything done. Since I know none of you pay attention to the blog of at the Society for Science-Based Medicine and I have no time with work and the holidays to come up with new material, I am going to collect and expand on the entries on...

/ December 26, 2014

Michael Specter on the Placebo Effect

Michael Specter is a good science journalist. I particularly enjoyed his book, Denialism. In a recent New Yorker article he tackles the difficult question of the placebo effect in modern medicine. While he does a fair job of hitting upon the key points of this question, I think he missed some important aspects of this question and allowed the views of Ted...

/ December 7, 2011

Placebos as Medicine: The Ethics of Homeopathy

Is it ever ethical to provide a placebo treatment? What about when that placebo is homeopathy? Last month I blogged about the frequency of placebo prescribing by physicians.  I admitted my personal discomfort, stating I’d refuse to dispense any prescription that would require me to deceive the patient. The discussion continued in the comments, where opinions seemed to range from (I’m paraphrasing) ...

/ June 9, 2011

Pragmatic Studies and Cinderella Medicine

Explanatory studies are done under controlled conditions to determine whether a treatment has any efficacy compared to a placebo. Pragmatic studies are designed to assess how the intervention performs in everyday real world practice. Pragmatic studies measure practical success but don’t determine actual efficacy: that requires a proper randomized controlled trial (RCT) with an appropriate control. Pragmatic studies have their place, but...

/ May 17, 2011

Placebo Prescriptions

Whether it’s acupuncture, homeopathy or the latest supplement, placebo effects can be difficult to distinguish from real effects. Today’s post sets aside the challenge of identifying placebo effects and look at how placebos are used in routine medical practice.  I’ve been a pharmacist for almost 20 years, and have never seen a placebo in practice, where the patient was actively deceived by...

/ May 12, 2011
Yes, it's true that placebos are just as powerful as homeopathy. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean what believers in integrative medicine think it does.

Placebo Effects Revisited

In the Wall Street Journal last week was a particularly bad article by Melinda Beck about acupuncture. While there was token skepticism (by Edzard Ernst, of course, who is the media’s go-to expert for CAM), the article credulously reported the marketing hype of acupuncture proponents. Toward the end of the article Beck admits that “some critics” claim that acupuncture provides nothing more...

/ March 24, 2010

The Rise of Placebo Medicine

It is my contention that terms such as “complementary and alternative medicine” and “integrative medicine” exist for two primary purposes. The first is marketing – they are an attempt at rebranding methods that do not meet the usual standards of unqualified “medicine”. The second is a very deliberate and often calculating attempt at creating a double standard. We already have a standard...

/ August 12, 2009