Medicinal Mimicry

Medicinal Mimicry

Sometimes, placebos work—but how?

By Damaris Christensen, 15:47 PM April 15, 2008

Simply participating in a medical-research trial sometimes improves a person's health. That's why investigators use placebos—inert pills or other dummy treatments—and make both study participants and staff unaware of whether a person is receiving an active treatment or not. Anywhere from 10 to 100 percent of the people taking placebos in trials see their symptoms wane. In such a test, a drug is considered to be beneficial only if it can beat the placebo.

Many studies suggest that problems lik...

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