IN THE NEWS Placebos, Nocebos and a Possible Solution

The nocebo effect causes a dilemma: ethically sharing possible side effects of drugs with patients may cause patients to experience them.

Here, below, are excerpts with links to some interesting articles in the news this month about placebos and nocebos – the last one offering an interesting solution to the nocebo effect.

I’ve read that larger placebos have been found to be more effective than smaller ones, taking two placebos is more effective than one and placebos are more effective when given to a patient by a doctor than when self-administered. Placebos even have an effect when patients are told that they are being given a placebo.

Placebos and nocebos highlight the impact that thought has on health. Spirituality, through its connection with the divine, offers thought – and health – means for improvement.


1. The healing power of simply seeing a stethoscope
by Emma Wynne, ABC Perth, August 14, 2012
“A study by Curtin University’s Health Innovation Research Institute has found that to increase patients’ trust, doctors should wear a stethoscope and surround themselves with medical instruments.”

2. Can Digital Medicine Exert a Placebo Effect?
by Dike Drummond, M.D., HuffPost Healthy Living, August 20, 2012
“The bigger question for me is this: Can the computer scientists write a program that exerts a placebo effect?
“My hope and belief is that the answer is ‘no’.”


3. Warning patients of drug side effects may trigger symptoms
by Deborah Kotz, The Boston Globe, August 1, 2012
“Recent research has demonstrated that when doctors and nurses inform patients about a laundry list of symptoms that a drug can cause — such as headaches, anxiety, dizziness, and nausea — they may unintentionally trigger these symptoms via the power of suggestion, according to a review paper published in the July issue of the journal of the German Medical Association.”

4. Beware the Nocebo Effect
by Paul Enck and Winfried Hauser, The New York Times, August 10, 2012
“But if merely telling patients about side effects increases their likelihood, what is to be done?”

5. How do negative suggestions influence health?
by Keith Wommack, (The Houston Chronicle), August 27, 2012
“Yet, an early researcher into the question of the influence of suggestion on behavior and health believed she found a possible answer to this very dilemma.”

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