placebo (pləsē´bō), inert substance given instead of a potent drug. Placebo medications are sometimes prescribed when a drug is not really needed or when one would not be appropriate because they make patients feel well taken care of. Placebos are also used as controls in scientific studies on the effectiveness of drugs. So-called double blind experiments, where neither the doctor nor the patient knows whether the given medication is the experimental drug or the placebo, are often done to assure unbiased, statistically reliable results. A traditional placebo's lack of side effects, however, often identifies it, so an older drug is sometimes used in drug tests instead of or in addition to a placebo.
The "placebo effect" is an apparent improvement in health due not to any treatment but only to the patient's belief that he or she will improve (as by taking a dummy pill that is thought to be a cure). A report released in 2001, however, reviewed 114 studies where use of a placebo was compared to both treatment and no treatment and found no placebo effect with respect to measurable medical conditions, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. An opposite, or "negative placebo effect," has been observed when patients believe their health will get worse.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: placebo. Encyclopedia title: The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. © 2012 The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia © 2012, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. Used with the permission of Columbia University Press. All Rights Reserved. Publisher: The Columbia University Press. Place of publication: Not available. Publication year: 2013.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.