Placebos, Part 1 Alison Richards begins a two-part series on placebos. Often considered fake treatments, placebos are mainly used to test whether a new medicine works. In clinical trials, an actual medicine is compared with a control group which receives a seemingly identical pill that is only made up of sugar. But frequently the control group often does as well as those who received the new drug. In this first report, a look at how doctors are studying the placebo effect.