Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Placebos are getting more effective

From Wired:
Two comprehensive analyses of antidepressant trials have uncovered a dramatic increase in placebo response since the 1980s. One estimated that the so-called effect size (a measure of statistical significance) in placebo groups had nearly doubled over that time.

It's not that the old meds are getting weaker, drug developers say. It's as if the placebo effect is somehow getting stronger.

My pet theories as to why this is happening: Drug companies have spent so much money on advertising, telling us that drugs are capable of making us happy and healthy, that our expectations for them are much higher. This might generate a larger placebo effect. The Wired article mentions this possibility. The other possibility is that we are experiencing more psychological discomfort of the kind amenable to placebo treatment now than were were in the past. Thus, placebo treatments are more effective now than, say, 20 years ago.

(HT: Mad Latinist via Facebook)


Anonymous bill in minneapolis said...

Actually, I do not believe in the "placebo effect.' Drug trials should have 3 groups - those that get the real pill, those that get the placebo, and those that just get atalk with a doctor.

I expect that the latter group will do as well as the placebo group because the body has an amazing power to heal itself. This could be the same as the so called 'placebo effect.' Most people spontaneously just get better.

The reason for this increase in the placebo effect could be that more people and just spontaneously getting better because they are just in better health generally.

Add this to the fact that newer pills are treating more minor conditions, you come up with the conclusion that many people just get better from their health problem without any treatment.

The data does not surprise me.

6:18 PM, January 09, 2010  

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