About 20 years ago, fresh out of high school, I was at a late night jazz concert with a friend who had just begun to study medicine. I started talking about one of my favorite topics: The placebo effect. Why is it that even though we know, scientifically, that the placebo effect is real, we don't study scientifically how to apply it? If we could heal patients with placebo alone, then that would be a lot cheaper and simpler and safer.

Obviously it would also be less profitable for doctors and pharmaceutical companies, which is a pretty good reason why it's not being studied. But if that's the primary reason, then that alone speaks volumes about the level of corruption and the complete lack of integrity in an entire profession, which should have them all fired overnight.

It's just one of those things that are hidden in plain sight for anyone with two brain cells left for independent thought, and yet we're blindly following the established doctrine. Insanity!

Pharmacy closed

A couple years ago there was a an article in Wired about how some drug companies had actually started some serious studies into the placebo effect - not out of their concern for the well being of the general public, of course, but because some of their brand names like Prozac were now so well established and trusted that the real product could no longer reliably beat the placebo effect! So if they wanted to have their drugs pass the tests, they'd have to understand the placebo effect - I guess so they could better prevent it from kicking in!

Having been interested in this topic and dumbfounded by why no-one is working seriously on this, I was very happy to see that there is indeed a researcher, Ted Kaptchuk, working on the subject:

The study’s results shocked the investigators themselves: even patients who knew they were taking placebos described real improvement, reporting twice as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group. That’s a difference so significant, says Kaptchuk, it’s comparable to the improvement seen in trials for the best real IBS drugs.

Of course, the pharmaceutical companies are unchanged:

 “If we can identify people who have a low predisposition for placebo response, drug companies can preselect for them,” says Winkler. “This could seriously reduce the size, cost, and duration of clinical trials…bringing cheaper drugs to the market years earlier than before.”

Imagine what it would be like if a pharmaceutical company were in the business of healing patients, rather than merely profiting from producing and marketing drugs. Then they might be very interested in the placebo effect's very real ability to heal, rather than just wanting to learn how to avoid it messing with their otherwise orderly clinical trials. But no, it doesn't seem like that's what's happening.



Jonas Bruun Nielsen

Interesting thoughts, Calvin. What would it take to commercialize the placebo effect? To me, this sounds like a disruptive opportunity.
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How about running a hospital or doctor's office where people actually get better? To me, it's very much about doing the right thing, and trusting that there will be ways to profit from it.
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