When testing a new medication, researchers usually pit it head-to-head against placebo to a group of victims, er… volunteers, to see whether the recovery rate is higher or lower than the placebo’s. So it’s medicine against placebo.
What happens though when it’s placebo vs placebo ?
One thing for sure – me having a hard time controlling my laughter in front of the computer.
Ted Kaptchuk used to practice acupuncture, but his colleagues claim that the effect is purely psychological. That got him thinking and interested, and he ended up researching for placebo effects on Harvard Medical School.
On his article titled “Sham device v. inert pill: randomized controlled trial of two placebo treatments” which was published by British Medical Journal (for real), there are actually volunteers who got side effects from this placebo treatment.
Words failed to be heard from my dropped jaw. Moments later, only uncontrolled laughter.
The reported side effects exactly matched those described by the doctors at the beginning of the study.
It’s all in your head.
This research, which was conducted to find out if doctors can manipulate the placebo effect, was sponsored by The National Institutes of Health, which ponied up $1,614,605 for the answer. All in the name of research, of course. So, what do we got to learn from all of it ?
Kaptchuk says that the rituals of medicine explain the difference: Performing acupuncture is more elaborate than prescribing medicine. Other rituals that may make patients feel better include “white coats, and stethoscopes that you don’t necessarily use, pictures on the wall, the way you reassure a patient, and the secretaries that sign you in.”
Careful manipulation of such rituals could make all types of treatment more effective, Kaptchuk suggests.
Well, that DOES explain the effectiveness of various so-called alternative medication here in Indonesia. We must be very grateful that he has went to all this trouble for our benefit.
So what does he has to say about himself ?
Kaptchuk’s title is assistant professor of medicine. “It could have been ‘quackery,’ ” he says, “but they didn’t have a position in that.”
Good, honest man. We need more men like him.
Well done Ted !