CRF Blog

‘Honest placebos’

by Bill Hayes

In ‘Honest placebos’ for the Los Angeles Times, Ted J. Kaptchuk shows how “medicine can work without any actual medicine.”

Placebo is a label that marks a drug as ineffective and disqualifies research subjects who respond to “bogus” treatments.

But what if patients who take “honest placebos” — meaning they are told explicitly that they are swallowing sugar pills — can still experience relief from discomfort and disability? That’s been the result of a number of studies by my research group at Harvard Medical School and other teams around the world over the last few years. While these trials were relatively small and short in duration, they collectively challenge our greatest assumption about placebos: that they require deception in order to be effective. [more]