Extending Ted Kapschuk’s research on placebos

Ted Kapschuk’s research showed that patients given placebos reported feeling better even though they knew they were being given placebos but had been told that placebos often have healing effects.  This result suggests a further trial to address the issue of patients not taking the drugs prescribed to them:

The doctors tell patients that 1) drug X might make them feel better, 2) but they know that some patients will lapse (because of lack of money, insurance, or remembering), and 3) perhaps not taking the drug could have a healing effect given that patients given placebos reported feeling better even though they knew they were being given placebos but had been told that placebos often have healing effects.

Actually, some patients would be told 1, some 1+2, and some 1+2+3.  Moreover, some would be given drug X and some a placebo so there would be 5 treatments: took drug X, took placebo, lapsed after being told 1, lapsed after being told 1+2, lapsed after being told 1+2+3.

This trial would not be ethical if drug X’s effects were well established, so use this only in a trail testing the effectiveness of drug X.

A bigger issue, which affects the original research as well as this suggested extension, to establish whether or not the patient had been healed even when they report feeling better.  Kapschuk appreciates this issue.  See Feinberg’s magazine article about his research.

 

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