This 'Placebo' Could Be The Drug For You

We present a faux commercial for "Placebo" — a drug that does nothing and makes no claims at all. This is in reaction to a story that placebos can be effective in medical treatments — even if the patients taking them know that they're not actual medications. The news comes from researchers at Harvard Medical School's Osher Research Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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AUDIE CORNISH, host:

You can fool all of the people some of the time, and maybe some of the people all of the time, or you can just be honest. Just ask researchers from Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. They conducted a study among people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. It showed that placebos, essentially sugar pills with no active ingredients, fooled plenty.

Here's the catch - the researchers actually told patients they were taking placebos. Despite that, according to the study, they showed symptom relief, quote, "to a degree roughly equivalent to the effects of the most powerful IBS medications." Scientists aren't sure what to make of the findings, but suspect that the ritual of getting a pill, even a useless one, sometimes does the trick, which could mean a return to the marketplace for a product we first advertised satirically on this program eight years ago.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: Do you suffer from erectile dysfunction or high blood pressure or poison ivy, rickets, itchy scalp, attention deficit disorder? Get the one drug that doctors recommend most for everything - placebo. It's painless, delicious and inert. Ask your doctor if placebo is right for you. If he says no, find another doctor.

Unidentified Man #2: Placebo may result in the absence of side effects. Preexisting conditions may result from underuse. Pregnant women may have babies. Persons over 105, consider yourselves lucky. Placebo - for everything.

CORNISH: That medical satire brought to you by the staff of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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