Move over, aspirin--there's a new wonder drug in town, and this one's the real deal.
Well, it's as real as a fake drug can be anyway.
You've heard of the placebo effect--but now, a new study finds that even patients who know they're taking one of these phony meds can get some very real results.
Researchers divided 80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome into two groups. One group got nothing, while the other was given a placebo and told to take it twice a day.
The researchers told the patients that the placebo was "like a sugar pill," made from an inert substance and contained no active ingredient. And just in case that didn't make it clear enough, the word "PLACEBO" was printed right on the bottle.
The patients were even told they didn't have to believe in the placebo effect--just take the pills twice a day and see what happens.
And what happened was this: Significant improvement on par with the most powerful IBS drugs.
Overall, 59 percent of patients on this new "wonder drug" reported adequate symptom relief, versus just 35 percent in the control group. The placebo patients also enjoyed double the rate of improvement in other measures.
"I didn't think it would work," senior author Anthony Lembo, an IBS expert, confessed in a news release from Harvard Medical School. "I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them."
Maybe he shouldn't feel so awkward anymore.
Truth is, docs have known for years about the incredible healing powers of the placebo effect--they just haven't understood it very well. Most researchers have chalked it up to the power of "positive thinking."
People believe they've been given a treatment that will help them, so the body responds by helping itself.
But the new study shows the body may respond even without positive thinking--all you need is to take something, anything, to kick-start the healing process.
Even something as simple as a sugar pill.
Let's see Big Pharma try to patent that!
It's coming at the right time, as more docs than ever before seem willing to try a placebo. One recent survey found that 56 percent have used one, usually to appease a patient who's demanding a drug he doesn't need.
What's more, 85 percent of doctors believe placebos have "psychological and physical benefits."
That's the good news.
The bad news is that the placebo of choice isn't exactly an inert substance--40 percent of doctors use antibiotics, which come with real side effects... not to mention a risk of creating drug-resistant bacteria.
So if you're ready to ask your doc if "PLACEBO" is right for you, be sure you get a real placebo--and not an antibiotic.