A recent article in Wired Magazine documents what Big Pharma already knows: one of the most powerful pills on the market is the placebo, and it’s getting more effective every day.
From 2001 to 2006, the percentage of new products cut from development after Phase II clinical trials, when drugs are first tested against a placebo, rose by 20 percent. Half of all drugs that fail in late-stage trials drop out of the pipeline due to their inability to beat sugar pills.
Now, after over a decade of experimentation, researchers are beginning to map many of the biochemical reactions responsible for the placebo effect, uncovering a broad repertoire of self-healing responses. “Placebo-activated opioids, for example, not only relieve pain; they also modulate heart rate and respiration. The neurotransmitter dopamine, when released by placebo treatment, helps improve motor function in Parkinson’s patients. Mechanisms like these can elevate mood, sharpen cognitive ability, alleviate digestive disorders, relieve insomnia, and limit the secretion of stress-related hormones like insulin and cortisol.”
The placebo illustrates how powerful the brain really is. “All it requires is a reasonable expectation of getting better. That’s potent medicine.”