Should I just take the sugar pills now?
Posted by c. wagner on November 4, 2009
This is just plain weird to me. The placebo response is getting stronger. It’s harder for new medicines in the United States to outperform sugar pills.
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.
Maybe the homeopaths and their sugar pills really are on the cutting edge. Maybe I should stop making fun of them….
Nah. That can’t be it.
A few studies exploring why this seems to be happening have been published.
These new findings tell us that the body’s response to certain types of medication is in constant flux, affected by expectations of treatment, conditioning, beliefs, and social cues.
In other words (and in part), as we’ve gotten used to pills curing what ails us, our response to any old pill has become more powerful.
And, in attempting to figure out why, researchers have learned a lot more about how the nervous system works. Pretty cool.