Placebo Without the Bluff

A fake pill can make patients feel better, even when they know it's nothing but inert ingredients, according to a new study where patients knew they were receiving a sugar pill.

It has been known for decades that patients taking a dummy pill or receiving a fake treatment they believe is real can still show improvement of their symptoms. This placebo effect is strong enough that more than half of doctors admit to prescribing drugs strictly to capitalize on the patients' placebo reaction to taking a pill. But this practice raises ethical questions, nor can doctors prescribe fake pills while telling a patient they are taking a real drug. A new study shows that there may not be need for deception. In certain situations, doctors may be able to invoke the same benefits of placebos even if the patients know they are taking a pill with no active ingredients.

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