Study: Parkinson's patients' response doubles with 'expensive' placebo
- In a study of 12 patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), patients told they were receiving a $1500 injection experienced two-fold improvement in motor function, compared with patients who were told they were receiving a $100 injection (all patients were actually just given a saline placebo).
- Many studies have documented the power of the placebo effect in which patients experience benefits, despite the fact that they are receiving sham medication. This is thought to be partially connected to increased dopamine release—an especially important factor for PD patients who suffer from dopamine deficiency.
- All study participants were volunteers, and despite the fact that the bioethics of such a study were in question, the study was allowed to go forward because of the unique nature of the objective of the study.
The impact of price is a new angle in the understanding of the impact of the placebo effect. Placebo responses have been associated with pain relief, cessation of symptoms and even relief of depression.
While the implications are clear, it is important to understand how this study might help clinicians treating patients. Clearly, the messaging around medications and therapies can augment the beneficial effect and must be taken into consideration when communicating with patients.