Placebo Effect on the Rise

placebo effect on the rise

“Last November, a new type of gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, championed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, was abruptly withdrawn from Phase II trials after unexpectedly tanking against placebo. A stem-cell startup called Osiris Therapeutics got a drubbing on Wall Street in March, when it suspended trials of its pill for Crohn’s disease, an intestinal ailment, citing an “unusually high” response to placebo. Two days later, Eli Lilly broke off testing of a much-touted new drug for schizophrenia when volunteers showed double the expected level of placebo response.

It’s not only trials of new drugs that are crossing the futility boundary. Some products that have been on the market for decades, like Prozac, are faltering in more recent follow-up tests. In many cases, these are the compounds that, in the late ’90s, made Big Pharma more profitable than Big Oil. But if these same drugs were vetted now, the FDA might not approve some of them. 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. It’s not that the old meds are getting weaker, drug developers say. It’s as if the placebo effect is somehow getting stronger.”

Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why. – Wired

~ by theobservereffect on September 8, 2009.

3 Responses to “Placebo Effect on the Rise”

  1. I agree. That was an eye-opening article in Wired. Interesting that culture and geography also affect the outcomes of medical tests. A big point was that many new trials are failing because they’ve targeted vague semi-syndromes that can barely be detected above the noise of modern living to begin with. And some of the wellness scales are faulty. But the Parkinson’s trial was a serious blow.

    How odd that it’s the 21st century and we can’t even come up with a valid way of measuring pain or curing headaches.

    (In a sort of weird quantum effect, I only subscribed to Wired because I had a lot of Coke Reward Points to burn, but was pleasantly surprised at the quality of their articles. I think of it as the Marketing Tunneling Effect. Buy dumb things, and end up learning anyway.)

    BTW: I’m grooving to “Everything Stops Here” at the moment. Great band you had there. Music and hobbies and pets are also healing tools.

    Nice to see you online, and doing so many things! 😉

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Scott… You have quite an online presence yourself! 🙂

    NG is still at play, btw… woodshedding once a week. 😉

    This is the era of the “semi-syndrome”! Well stated.

  3. Interesting article. I find the placebo effect fascinating as I spend a lot of time reading and writing on the topic of consciousness and, specifically, the ability of thoughts to influence phenomena through constructive and destructive interference of possibility-waves.

    My theory on the increase in the placebo effect is that people are growing more and more comfortable with and confident in drugs, and this confidence is generating the subconscious expectation that the drug will have an effect on a given condition. Expectation is the subconscious mechanism by which our Mind influences possibility-waves of phenomena, which certainly applies to our Mind’s relationship to the body.

    It is curious to see that some of the drugs struggling most with competition from the placebo effect are those that seemed most promising and received the most hype, as well as drugs with long-established track records of “success” that are now being re-evaluated.

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