Meds and placebos both fight pain better when patients anticipate getting active drug
Adapted from S. Kam-Hansen et al/Science Translational Medicine 2014
When it comes to pain, what migraine-headache sufferers think about their pills’ identities matters nearly as much as whether or not those pills contain active medication, a new study suggests.
Migraine meds labeled as placebos dull headache pain less effectively than the same pills identified either as the real deal or as possibly a genuine drug, say neuroscientist Rami Burstein of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues. Placebo pills given to migraine patients worked the same way, easing headache pain better when labeled as definitely or possibly containing active medication, the researchers report in the Jan. 8 Science Translational Medicine.
Placebo pills mislabeled as the migraine drug Maxalt provided close to as much pain relief as Maxalt mislabeled as a placebo. Overall, though, Maxalt eased migraine pain better than placebos did.