A surprising reason! – Most of us realize that a high-priced item creates the impression that it’s better than the same thing bought at a lower price, despite the fact that advertising tries to create the opposite impression. It turns out placebos work the same way.

Researchers have discovered that the same placebo, when priced at $2.50 a pill, works better than when it’s priced at 10 cents a pill?despite the fact that the two pills are identical. In the March 5th edition of the New York Times, Benedict Carey writes that “previous studies have shown that pill size and color also affect people?s perceptions of effectiveness. In one, people rated black and red capsules as ‘strongest’ and white ones as ‘weakest.’ Other information like the country where the drugs were manufactured can also affect perceptions.”

Carey quotes researcher Dan Ariely as saying, “It’s all about expectations. When you’re expecting pain relief, you’re secreting your own opioids. And when you get it on discount, you doubt it, and your body doesn?t react as well.”

Following the recent study showing that new generation antidepressants aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, researchers are asking, “Do we really know the truth about antidepressants? Or statins? Or any other drug on the market?”

Journalists Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee report that lack of access to data is an ongoing problem in the United States, because not all drug trials have to be registered and access to full data is also constrained by trade secrecy laws. Trade secrecy laws, for example, permit companies to withhold all information about drugs that do not win approval for a new indication, even when the drug is already on the market for other indications. They say that such data are protected as trade secrets so that drug companies aren’t put at a “competitive disadvantage” when other companies, learning of the initial studies, aren?t forced to expend the same “wasted efforts.” But it is precisely these failed trials that should be made public because trial participants, as well as patients who take drugs and doctors who prescribe them, deserve nothing less than the assurance that all the news?not just the good news?has been carefully assessed.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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