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Placebo Effect

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An interesting article in The New York Times Magazine states, "Enough people reported good results that patients were continually lined up at Mesmer’s door waiting for the next session."  Dr. Mesmer is where the word mesmerize comes from. The article explains how 'double blind' placebo controlled clinical studies originated and why drug companies have to differentiate between a drug's actual pharmaceutical effect and the placebo effect. I particularly like this paragraph in the article: 

"What if, Hall wonders, a treatment fails to work not because the drug and the individual are biochemically incompatible, but rather because in some people the drug interferes with the placebo response, which if properly used might reduce disease? Or conversely, what if the placebo response is, in people with a different variant, working against drug treatments, which would mean that a change in the psychosocial context could make the drug more effective? Everyone may respond to the clinical setting, but there is no reason to think that the response is always positive. According to Hall’s new way of thinking, the placebo effect is not just some constant to be subtracted from the drug effect but an intrinsic part of a complex interaction among genes, drugs and mind. And if she’s right, then one of the cornerstones of modern medicine — the placebo-controlled clinical trial — is deeply flawed."

What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?The New York Times Magazine

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