There have been a number of recent major studies done to measure if prayer has an effect on patients in hospitals. The most famous study, called the "Harvard Study", Can be read about at this link:


Basically, the study "proved" that prayer DOES NOT WORK!

Despite this, I think that all this information is DEAD WRONG! Why?

1.Testing prayer in this way makes prayer akin to magic. Prayer is NOT like magic. It cannot be "tested". If prayer actually worked like this, then what need have we for God? Are we not actually trying to bypass God? "Thus, while our Lord's model prayer teaches us to acknowledge our dependence on God for our basic necessities ("our daily bread"), it does not view God as a celestial vending machine whose levers we pull with our prayers. Indeed, would the all-wise, all-knowing, all-loving God of the Bible be uninformed or uncaring apart from our prayers? Does not the presumption that we creatures can pull God's strings violate biblical admonitions to recognize humbly our place as finite creatures of the infinite God? No wonder we are counseled to offer prayers of adoration, praise, confession, and thanksgiving, as well as to ask for what shall (spiritually, if not materially) be given." (

2.God will NOT be mocked. ""God is not mocked": As Christians recalled during the great British prayer test controversy, Jesus declared in response to one of his temptations, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test." Reflecting on a proposal to test prayers for randomly selected preterm babies, Keith Stewart Thomson questions "whether all such experiments come close to blasphemy. If the health outcomes of the prayed-for subjects turn out to be significantly better than for the others, the experimenter will have set up a situation in which God has, as it were, been made to show his (or her) hand. As C. S. Lewis said of any effort to prove prayer, the "impossibility of empirical proof is a spiritual necessity" lest a person begin to "feel like a magician." Indeed, if this experiment were to show that numbers of intercessors matter—that distant strangers' prayers boost recovery chances—might rich people not want, in hopes of gaining God's attention, to pay others to pray for them? " (Ibid).

So, where do you stand on this? What do you believe? Are the scientists right, or wrong?

Blessings, and many prayers! ;o) Jaianniah

asked 16 Oct '11, 22:55

Jaianniah's gravatar image


Good question Jai.

(17 Oct '11, 07:24) Paulina 1

I read the linked article and am wondering who was doing the praying? I think that matters too. I read of a study where the people who were prayed for did better than those who didn't regardless of who prayed for them, but the people who prayed were spiritual people, and believed in their prayers.

(17 Oct '11, 15:43) Fairy Princess

One thing I was just thinking of... If these people that were sick and "not" being prayed for had anyone on the outside of the experiment that knew they were sick and prayed for them. It throws this whole experiment off-kilter as you pointed out with the quantum physics example.

(17 Oct '11, 16:00) Wade Casaldi

You are so right! The study did NOT mention family and friends who would naturally want the best for their family members, and would naturally pray- this does indeed throw the whole experiment out of whack. I just thought of why the Harvard Experiment showed that the people who Knew that they were being prayed for, and knew it, probably said something to their families...then the families and friends would have thought that their prayers were unnecessary or redundant, and thus, DID NOT PRAY AS MUCH AS THEY COULD HAVE!!! Great point, Wade.

(17 Oct '11, 16:05) Jaianniah
showing 0 of 4 show 4 more comments

Hello Jai, this reminds me of a well known phenomenon that often takes place when practicing all kinds of subtle energies ceremonies ... in a group where all the practitioners are believers, all goes perfectly well but as soon as a non believer is introduced to the group the energy flow is disturbed and the results are less efficient ... image the effects of a whole team of prestigious "scientific" critical observers on the prayers of a group of believers.


answered 17 Oct '11, 06:23

blubird%20two's gravatar image

blubird two

Well said Bluebird.

(17 Oct '11, 07:18) Paulina 1

I just heard a Sermon about this...Our Pastor said when we pray for someone, to be sure that EVERYONE present is a believer! So this backs up what you said...The subtle energy of the non-believer(s) disrupts the whole prayer...just like when, in Quantum Physics, the observation of electrons disturbs their patterns as waves...Cool, eh? Great Answer!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

(17 Oct '11, 12:33) Jaianniah

That's exactly why this is such a hard thing to prove or dis-prove; there are too many variables and possibilites that might effect the outcome without anyone even knowing why.

(17 Oct '11, 19:49) LeeAnn 1
showing 2 of 3 show 1 more comments

Hi Jai, I believe prayer does work so who cares what those doctors/scientists believe. They didnt believe it to start with and their arrogance and unbelief is the reason the tests had a negatiove outcome. Many of us have had experiances where we witnesed or were told of the miracles that prayer caused. We all know that for some it works beautifuly and for some it doesnt work at all. Thats up to God. We shouldnt worry about these tests for I'm sure there will be others with different outcomes.


answered 17 Oct '11, 07:16

Paulina%201's gravatar image

Paulina 1

Great answer, Paulina, as usual!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

(17 Oct '11, 12:34) Jaianniah

Very true, Paulina...

(17 Oct '11, 19:49) LeeAnn 1

yes Paulina it is up to the father.

(18 Oct '11, 01:21) white tiger
showing 2 of 3 show 1 more comments

It is in prayer that a simple formula will not do. There are factors that must be brought into consideration.

1. We must have full faith in God; we need to know that the God that created everything has the same power to set everything right.

2. The prayer must be in a form of present acknowledgement of accomplishment that God has heard it and it is being done now.

3. This must be backed by full faith in God that this is now being done.

4. This prayer must be in a positive form and be bold and authoritative, never pleading. You must come from a position of authority, power, control, and command-even as some would observe arrogance to know as Isaiah said, "My prayer shall not return void!"

5. You must thank God for having heard your prayer and having done this healing. Thank God as you give your thanks- for example, after healing someone (say their name), thank God as if this person is already healed. Give thanks for whatever it is you were praying about; affirm the healing and improved health.

6. You must know it has been done and not utter a negative word or thought about it since; this means NO WORRY. We must know that this is in God's hands now and everything is being handled right now. We step out of the picture at this point and get out of God's way! The only thoughts or words spoken after your prayer are how great God is, and that God is healing this person. You must have faith enough to know everything is going to work out well.

7.This is important: How great is your faith? How do you live? Are you in line with God and the Bible? Have you been reading God's word for strength and fortifying your faith?

8. Sometimes, as Jesus pointed out, we need to fast to strengthen our prayer. Some need to fast as well as pray.

9. If we are praying for someone who does not believe in God or healing, we are working against the current, and may overpower it-but it will return to the unbeliever even if healed.

10. The person getting healed must turn from his grudges and any ways that has brought him to his state of being when he has been healed or he will eventually revert back to his (or her) old ways.

The people that prayed wanted to prove prayer works. This is the wrong motivation for prayer; their motivation should have been for the poor suffering people. These people are our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. We need to see that the people we pray for, even strangers, are as our own. This prayer is from deep love, compassion and consideration.

If I need to prove I have faith, then how much faith do I really have?

Jesus be with you.


answered 17 Oct '11, 15:29

Wade%20Casaldi's gravatar image

Wade Casaldi

edited 17 Oct '11, 15:55

i agree with you wade. when i ask something of the father it is because it is needed. i tell him i am who i am i am that i am the one that as been with you. i know that you will never let me down i am in you you are in me i know that it will be done a perfeft reward that is needed. for this person with those reason and let it be thank you god my lord. my faith is knowing because i am in you you are in me.

(18 Oct '11, 01:11) white tiger

Yes this is the sincerity and compassion I spoke of. :-)

(18 Oct '11, 13:56) Wade Casaldi

well prayer like anny thing not made from the hearth with faith is useless and becomes just spoken words. also you might pray as you want but did you do good deeds to deserve a reward from the lord?

Do not put the Lord your God to the test. or you will be the fool.

also they know about the placebo effect for awhile now and how being positive and having faith affect the who ever did that research was missing lots of info.

A placebo ( /pləˈsiboʊ/; Latin: I shall please[2]) is a sham or simulated medical intervention. Sometimes patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect.

In medical research, placebos are given as control treatments and depend on the use of measured deception. Common placebos are inert tablets, sham surgery,[3] and other procedures based on false information.[1] However, placebos can also have a surprisingly positive effect on a patient who knows that the given treatment is without any active drug, as compared with a control group who knowingly did not get a placebo.[4]

In one common placebo procedure, however, a patient is given an inert pill, told that it may improve his/her condition, but not told that it is in fact inert. Such an intervention may cause the patient to believe the treatment will change his/her condition; and this belief may produce a subjective perception of a therapeutic effect, causing the patient to feel their condition has improved — or an actual improvement in their condition. This phenomenon is known as the placebo effect.

Placebos are widely used in medical research and medicine,[5] and the placebo effect is a pervasive phenomenon;[5] in fact, it is part of the response to any active medical intervention.[6] The placebo effect points to the importance of perception and the brain's role in physical health. However, when used as treatment in clinical medicine (as opposed to laboratory research), the deception involved in the use of placebos creates tension between the Hippocratic Oath and the honesty of the doctor-patient relationship.[7] The United Kingdom Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology has stated that: "...prescribing placebos... usually relies on some degree of patient deception" and "prescribing pure placebos is bad medicine. Their effect is unreliable and unpredictable and cannot form the sole basis of any treatment on the NHS."[3]

Since the publication of Henry K. Beecher's The Powerful Placebo in 1955, the phenomenon has been considered to have clinically important effects.[8] This view was notably challenged when, in 2001, a systematic review of clinical trials concluded that there was no evidence of clinically important effects, except perhaps in the treatment of pain and continuous subjective outcomes.[8] The article received a flurry of criticism,[9] but the authors later published a Cochrane review with similar conclusions (updated as of 2010[update]).[10] Most studies have attributed the difference from baseline till the end of the trial to a placebo effect, but the reviewers examined studies which had both placebo and untreated groups in order to distinguish the placebo effect from the natural progression of the disease.[8] However these conclusions have been criticized because of the great variety of diseases - more than 40 - in this metastudy. The effect of placebo is very different in different diseases. By pooling quite different diseases the results can be levelled out.

Contents 1 Definitions, effects, and ethics 2 History 3 Mechanism of the effect 3.1 Expectancy and conditioning 3.2 Placebo effect and the brain 3.3 Brain and body 3.4 Evolved health regulation 4 Clinical utility 4.1 Duration 4.2 Clinical significance 4.3 Negative effects 4.4 Doctor-patient relationship 5 The individual 5.1 Who is affected 5.2 Individual differences 5.3 Genes 6 Symptoms and conditions 6.1 Pain 6.2 Depression 6.3 Gastric and duodenal ulcers 6.4 Chronic fatigue syndrome 6.5 List of medical conditions 7 Effects on research 7.1 Placebo-controlled studies 7.2 Nocebo 7.3 Placebo ingredients 8 References 9 External links

[edit] Definitions, effects, and ethicsSee also: Medical ethics A placebo has been defined as "a substance or procedure… that is objectively without specific activity for the condition being treated".[9] Under this definition, a wide variety of things can be placebos and exhibit a placebo effect. Pharmacological substances administered through any means can act as placebos, including pills, creams, inhalants, and injections. Medical devices such as ultrasound can act as placebos.[11][12] Sham surgery,[13][14][15] sham electrodes implanted in the brain,[1] and sham acupuncture, either with sham needles or on fake acupuncture points, have all exhibited placebo effects.[16] Bedding not treated to reduce allergies has been used as a placebo to control for treated bedding.[17] The physician has even been called a placebo;[18]33–34 a study found that patient recovery can be increased by words that suggest the patient “would be better in a few days”, and if the patient is given treatment, that “the treatment would certainly make him better” rather than negative words such as “I am not sure that the treatment I am going to give you will have an effect”.[19] The placebo effect may be a component of pharmacological therapies: Pain killing and anxiety reducing drugs that are infused secretly without an individual’s knowledge are less effective than when a patient knows they are receiving them. Likewise, the effects of stimulation from implanted electrodes in the brains of those with advanced Parkinson's disease are greater when they are aware they are receiving this stimulation.[20] Sometimes administering or prescribing a placebo merges into fake medicine.

The placebo effect has sometimes been defined as a physiological effect caused by the placebo, but Moerman and Jonas have pointed out that this seems illogical, as a placebo is an inert substance that does not directly cause anything. Instead they introduced the word "meaning response" for the meaning that the brain associates with the placebo, which causes a physiological placebo effect. They propose that the placebo, which may be unethical, could be avoided entirely if doctors comfort and encourage their patients' health.[9] Ernst and Resch also attempted to distinguish between the "true" and "perceived" placebo effect, as they argued that some of the effects attributed to the placebo effect could be due to other factors.[21]

The placebo effect has been controversial throughout history. Notable medical organizations have endorsed it,[22] but in 1903 Richard Cabot concluded that it should be avoided because it is deceptive. Newman[23] points out the "placebo paradox", – it may be unethical to use a placebo, but also unethical "not to use something that heals". He suggests to solve this dilemma by appropriating the meaning response in medicine, that is make use of the placebo effect, as long as the "one administering… is honest, open, and believes in its potential healing power".[7] Another possible resolution of the ethical dilemma might come from the "honest placebo" effect found in a 2010 study[4] carried out by researchers in the Program in Placebo Studies at the Harvard Medical School, where patients with irritable bowel syndrome experienced a significant beneficial effect even though they were told the pills they were taking were placebos, as compared to a control group who received no pills.

[edit] HistoryMain article: Placebo in history The word 'placebo', Latin for "I will please", dates back to a Latin translation of the Bible by Jerome.[24] It was first used in a medicinal context in the 18th century. In 1785 it was defined as a "commonplace method or medicine" and in 1811 it was defined as "any medicine adapted more to please than to benefit the patient", sometimes with a derogatory implication[25] but not with the implication of no effect.[26] Placebos were widespread in medicine until the 20th century, and they were sometimes endorsed as necessary deceptions.[22] In 1903 Richard Cabot said that he was brought up to use placebos,[22] but he ultimately concluded by saying that "I have not yet found any case in which a lie does not do more harm than good".[7] In 1961 Henry K. Beecher found[27] that surgeons he categorized as enthusiasts relieved their patients' chest pain and heart problems more than skeptic surgeons.[7] In 1961 Walter Kennedy introduced the word nocebo.[22] Beginning in the 1960s, the placebo effect became widely recognized and placebo controlled trials became the norm in the approval of new medications.[28] Later, researchers became interested in understanding the placebo effect, rather than just controlling for its effects, and in 2011, a Program in Placebo Studies was established at the Harvard Medical School.

[edit] Mechanism of the effectThe phenomenon of an inert substance's resulting in a patient's medical improvement is called the placebo effect. The phenomenon is related to the perception and expectation that the patient has; if the substance is viewed as helpful, it can heal, but, if it is viewed as harmful, it can cause negative effects, which is known as the nocebo effect. The basic mechanisms of placebo effects have been investigated since 1978, when it was found that the opioid antagonist naloxone could block placebo painkillers, suggesting that endogenous opioids are involved.[29]

[edit] Expectancy and conditioningIn 1985, Irving Kirsch hypothesized that placebo effects are produced by the self-fulfilling effects of response expectancies, in which the belief that one will feel different leads a person to actually feel different.[30] According to this theory, the belief that one has received an active treatment can produce the subjective changes thought to be produced by the real treatment. Placebos can act similarly through classical conditioning, wherein a placebo and an actual stimulus are used simultaneously until the placebo is associated with the effect from the actual stimulus.[31] Both conditioning and expectations play a role in placebo effect,[32] and make different kinds of contribution. Conditioning has a longer-lasting effect,[33] and can affect earlier stages of information processing.[34] The expectancy effect can be enhanced through factors such as the enthusiasm of the doctor, differences in size and color of placebo pills, or the use of other interventions such as injections. In one study, the response to a placebo increased from 44% to 62% when the doctor treated them with "warmth, attention, and confidence".[35] Expectancy effects have been found to occur with a range of substances. Those that think that a treatment will work display a stronger placebo effect than those that do not, as evidenced by a study of acupuncture.[36][37]

Because the placebo effect is based upon expectations and conditioning, the effect disappears if the patient is told that their expectations are unrealistic, or that the placebo intervention is ineffective. A conditioned pain reduction can be totally removed when its existence is explained.[38] It has also been reported of subjects given placebos in a trial of anti-depressants, that "Once the trial was over and the patients who had been given placebos were told as much, they quickly deteriorated."[39]

A placebo described as a muscle relaxant will cause muscle relaxation and, if described as the opposite, muscle tension.[40] A placebo presented as a stimulant will have this effect on heart rhythm, and blood pressure, but, when administered as a depressant, the opposite effect.[41] The perceived consumption of caffeine has been reported to cause similar effects even when decaffeinated coffee is consumed,[42] [43] although a 2003 study found only limited support for this.[44] Alcohol placebos can cause intoxication[45] and sensorimotor impairment.[46] Perceived ergogenic aids can increase endurance,[47] speed[48] and weight-lifting ability,[49] leading to the question of whether placebos should be allowed in sport competition.[50] Placebos can help smokers quit.[51] Perceived allergens that are not truly allergenic can cause allergies.[52] Interventions such as psychotherapy can have placebo effects.[53]pp 164–173 The effect has been observed in the transplantation of human embryonic neurons into the brains of those with advanced Parkinson's disease.[54]

Because placebos are dependent upon perception and expectation, various factors that change the perception can increase the magnitude of the placebo response. For example, studies have found that the color and size of the placebo pill makes a difference, with "hot-colored" pills working better as stimulants while "cool-colored" pills work better as depressants. Capsules rather than tablets seem to be more effective, and size can make a difference.[55] One researcher has found that big pills increase the effect[56] while another has argued that the effect is dependent upon cultural background.[57] More pills,[58] branding,[59] past experience,[60] and high price[61] increase the effect of placebo pills. Injection[62] and acupuncture[16] have larger effect than pills. Proper adherence to placebos is associated with decreased mortality.[63]

Motivation may contribute to the placebo effect. The active goals of an individual changes his/her somatic experience by altering the detection and interpretation of expectation-congruent symptoms, and by changing the behavioral strategies a person pursues.[64][65] Motivation may link to the meaning through which people experience illness and treatment. Such meaning is derived from the culture in which they live and which informs them about the nature of illness and how it responds to treatment. Research upon the placebo treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers shows that this varies widely with society: those in Germany having a high-rate placebo effect while those in Brazil a low one.[9] Placebo effects in treating gastric ulcers is low in Brazil, higher in northern Europe (Denmark, Netherlands), and extremely high in Germany. But the placebo effect for hypertension is lower in Germany than elsewhere[66] Social observation can induce a placebo effect such when a person sees another having reduced pain following what they believe is a pain reducing procedure.[67]

The placebo effect can work selectively. If an analgesic placebo cream is applied on one hand, it will reduce pain only in that hand and not elsewhere on the body[68] If a person is given a placebo under one name, and they respond, they will respond in the same way on a later occasion to that placebo under that name but not if under another.[69]

[edit] Placebo effect and the brainFunctional imaging upon placebo analgesia shows that it links to the activation, and increased functional correlation between this activation, in the anterior cingulate, prefrontal, orbitofrontal and insular cortices, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, the brainstem periaqueductal gray matter,[70][71][72] and the spinal cord.[73][74][75][76]

These changes can act upon the brain’s early stages of information processing: Research using evoked brain potentials upon painful laser pulses, for example, finds placebo effects upon the N2–P2, a biphasic negative–positive complex response, the N2 peak of which is at about 230 ms, and the P2 one at about 380 ms.[34] They occur not only during placebo analgesia but after receiving the analgesic placebo (the areas are different here, and involve the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior parietal cortex and inferior parietal lobule).[77]

Different areas in the higher brain have different functions. The prefrontal involvement could be related to recalling the placebo and maintaining its cognitive presence in a "self-reinforcing feedback loop" (during pain an individual recalls having taken the placebo and reduced pain reinforces its status as an analgesic).[78] The rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) and its subcortical connectivity could be related to the expectation of potential pain stimuli[79][80]

The higher brain works by regulating subcortical processes. High placebo responses link with enhanced dopamine and mu-opioid activity in the circuitry for reward responses and motivated behavior of the nucleus accumbens, and, on the converse, anti-analgesic nocebos responses were associated with deactivation in this part of the brain of dopamine and opioid release.[71] (It has been known that placebo analgesia depends upon the release in the brain of endogenous opioids since 1978.[81]) Such analgesic placebos activation changes processing lower down in the brain by enhancing the descending inhibition through the periaqueductal gray[71] on spinal nociceptive reflexes, while the expectations of anti-analgesic nocebos acts in the opposite way to block this.[73]

The brain is also involved in less-studied ways upon nonanalgesic placebo effects:

Parkinson's disease: Placebo relief is associated with the release of dopamine in the brain.[82] Depression: Placebos reducing depression affect many of the same areas that are activated by antidepressants with the addition of the prefrontal cortex[83][84] Caffeine: Placebo-caffeinated coffee causes an increase in bilateral dopamine release in the thalamus.[85] Glucose: The expectation of an intravenous injection of glucose increases the release of dopamine in the basal ganglia of men (but not women).[86] Methylphenidate: The expectation of intravenous injection of this drug in inexperienced drug users increased the release of dopamine in the ventral cingulate gyrus and nucleus accumbens, with this effect being largest in those with no prior experience of the drug.[87] Present functional imaging upon placebo analgesia has been summarized as showing that the placebo response is "mediated by "top-down" processes dependent on frontal cortical areas that generate and maintain cognitive expectancies. Dopaminergic reward pathways may underlie these expectancies".[88] "Diseases lacking major 'top-down' or cortically based regulation may be less prone to placebo-related improvement".[89]

[edit] Brain and bodyFor more details on this topic, see neural top down control of physiology. The brain has control over the body processes affected by placebos. Pain, motor fatigue, and fever are directly organized by the brain. Other processes usually regulated by the body such as the immune system are also controlled indirectly through the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

Research upon conditioning in animals shows the brain can learn control over them. In conditioning, a neutral stimulus saccharin is paired in a drink with an agent that produces an unconditioned response. For example, that agent might be cyclophosphamide that causes immunosuppression. After learning this pairing, the taste of saccharin by itself through neural top-down control created immunosuppression, as a new conditioned response.[90] Such conditioning has been found to affect a diverse variety of not just basic physiological processes in the immune system but ones such as serum iron levels, oxidative DNA damage levels, and insulin secretion. This work was originally done on rats, however the same conditioning of basic physiological processes can also occur in humans. Recent reviews have argued the placebo effect is due to top-down control by the brain for immunity[91] and pain.[92] Pacheco-López and colleagues have raised the possibility of "neocortical-sympathetic-immune axis providing neuroanatomical substrates that might explain the link between placebo/conditioned and placebo/expectation responses."[91]pp 441

A recent fMRI study has shown that a placebo can reduce pain-related neural activity in the spinal cord, indicating that placebo effects can extend beyond the brain.[93]

[edit] Evolved health regulationEvolutionary medicine identifies many symptoms such as fever, pain, and sickness behavior as evolved responses to protect or enhance the recovery from infection and injury. Fever, for example, is an evolved self-treatment that removes bacteria or viruses through raised body temperature. These evolved responses, however, also have a cost that depending upon circumstances can outweigh their benefit (due to this, for example, there is a reduction in fever during malnutrition or late pregnancy). According to the health management system theory proposed by Nicholas Humphrey, the brain has been selected to ensure that evolved responses are deployed only when the cost benefit is biologically advantageous. To do this, the brain factors in a variety of information sources, including the likelihood derived from beliefs that the body will get well without deploying its costly evolved responses. One such source of information is the knowledge the body is receiving care and treatment. The placebo effect in this perspective arises when false information about medications misleads the health management system about the likelihood of getting well so that it selects not to deploy an evolved self-treatment.[94]

[edit] Clinical utility[edit] DurationPlacebo effects can last for a long time: over 8 weeks for panic disorder,[95] 6 months for angina pectoris,[96] and two and half years for rheumatoid arthritis.[97] Placebo effects after verbal suggestion for mild pain can be robust and still exist after being repeated ten times even if they have no actual pharmacological pain killing action.[38]

[edit] Clinical significanceHróbjartsson and Peter Gøtzsche published a study in 2001[8] and a follow-up study in 2004[98] questioning the nature of the placebo effect. The studies were performed as two meta-analyses. They found that in studies with a binary outcome, meaning patients were classified as improved or not improved, the placebo group had no statistically significant improvement over the no-treatment group. Likewise, there was no significant placebo effect in studies in which objective outcomes (such as blood pressure) were measured by an independent observer. The placebo effect could be documented only in studies in which the outcomes (improvement or failure to improve) were reported by the subjects themselves. The authors concluded that the placebo effect does not have "powerful clinical effects," (objective effects) and that patient-reported improvements (subjective effects) in pain were small and could not be clearly distinguished from reporting bias. Other researchers (Wampold et al.) re-analysed the same data from the 2001 meta-analysis and concluded that the placebo effects for objective symptom measures are comparable to placebo effects for subjective ones and that the placebo effect can exceed the effect of the active treatment by 20% for disorders amenable to the placebo effect,[99][100] a conclusion which Hróbjartsson & Gøtzsche described as "powerful spin".[101] Another group of researchers noted the dramatically different conclusions between these two sets of authors despite nearly identical meta-analytic results, and suggested that placebo effects are indeed significant but small in magnitude.[102]

Hróbjartsson and Gøtzsche's conclusion has been criticised on several grounds. Their meta-analysis covered studies into a highly mixed group of conditions: The placebo effect does occur with peripheral disease processes (such as hypertension, asthma, prostatic hyperplasia, anal fissure, bronchitis), though not for processes reflecting physical disease (such as venous leg ulcers, Crohn’s disease, urinary tract infection, and chronic heart failure).[103] Placebos also do not work as strongly in clinical trials because the subjects do not know whether they might be getting a real treatment or a sham one. Where studies are made of placebos in which people think they are receiving actual treatment (rather than merely its possibility) the placebo effect has been observed.[104] Other writers have argued that the placebo effect can be reliably demonstrated under appropriate conditions.[105]

In another update by Hróbjartsson & Gøtzsche, published as a 2010 Cochrane systematic review which confirms and modifies their previous work, over 200 trials investigating 60 clinical conditions were included. Placebo interventions were again not found to have important clinical effects in general but may influence patient-reported outcomes in some situations, especially pain and nausea, although it was "difficult to distinguish patient-reported effects of placebo from response bias". The pooled relative risk they calculated for placebo was 0.93 (effect of only 7%) but significant. Effects were also found for phobia and asthma but were uncertain due to high risk of bias. In other conditions involving three or more trials, there was no statistically significant effect for smoking, dementia, depression, obesity, hypertension, insomnia and anxiety, although confidence intervals were wide. Several clinical (physical placebos, patient-involved outcomes, falsely informing patients there was no placebo) and methodological (small sample size, explicit aim of studying the placebo effect) factors were associated with higher effects of placebo. Despite low effects in general and the risk of bias, the authors acknowledged that large effects of placebo interventions may occur in certain situations.[106]

[edit] Negative effectsSimilar to the placebo effect, inert substances have the potential to cause negative effects via the "nocebo effect" (Latin nocebo = "I will harm"). In this effect, giving an inert substance has negative consequences.[107]

Another negative consequence is that placebos can cause side-effects associated with real treatment.[108] One example of this is with those that have already taken an opiate, can then show respiratory depression when given it again in the form of a placebo.[109]

Withdrawal symptoms can also occur after placebo treatment. This was found, for example, after the discontinuation of the Women's Health Initiative study of hormone replacement therapy for menopause. Women had been on placebo for an average of 5.7 years. Moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms were reported by 40.5% of those on placebo compared to 63.3% of those on hormone replacement.[110]

[edit] Doctor-patient relationshipA study of Danish general practitioners found that 48% had prescribed a placebo at least 10 times in the past year.[5] The most frequently prescribed placebos were antibiotics for viral infections, and vitamins for fatigue. Specialists and hospital-based physicians reported much lower rates of placebo use. A 2004 study in the British Medical Journal of physicians in Israel found that 60% used placebos in their medical practice, most commonly to "fend off" requests for unjustified medications or to calm a patient.[111] The accompanying editorial concluded, "We cannot afford to dispense with any treatment that works, even if we are not certain how it does."[112] Other researches have argued that open provision of placebos for treating ADHD in children can be effective in maintaining ADHD children on lower stimulant doses in the short term.[113]

Critics of the practice responded that it is unethical to prescribe treatments that do not work, and that telling a patient (as opposed to a research test subject) that a placebo is a real medication is deceptive and harms the doctor-patient relationship in the long run. Critics also argued that using placebos can delay the proper diagnosis and treatment of serious medical conditions.

The following impracticalities exist with placebos: (See the BMJ posted responses to Spiegel's editorial rapid response online section.[112])

Roughly only 30% of the population seems susceptible to placebo effects, and it is not possible to determine ahead of time whether a placebo will work or not. (However the placebo effect is zero in studies of blood poisoning and up to 80% in studies of wound on the duodenum). Patients rightfully want immediate relief or improvement from their illness or symptoms. A non-placebo can often provide that, while a placebo might not. Legitimate doctors and pharmacists could open themselves up to charges of fraud since sugar pills would cost pennies or cents for a bottle, but the price for a "real" medication would have to be charged to avoid making the patient suspicious. About 25% of physicians in both the Danish and Israeli studies used placebos as a diagnostic tool to determine if a patient's symptoms were real, or if the patient was malingering. Both the critics and defenders of the medical use of placebos agreed that this was unethical. The British Medical Journal editorial said, "That a patient gets pain relief from a placebo does not imply that the pain is not real or organic in origin...the use of the placebo for 'diagnosis' of whether or not pain is real is misguided."

The placebo administration may prove to be a useful treatment in some specific cases where recommended drugs cannot be used. For example, burn patients who are experiencing respiratory problems cannot often be prescribed opioid (morphine) or opioid derivatives (pethidine), as these can cause further respiratory depression. In such cases placebo injections (normal saline, etc.) are of use in providing real pain relief to burn patients if those not in delirium are told they are being given a powerful dose of painkiller.

Referring specifically to homeopathy, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Science and Technology Committee has stated:

In the Committee’s view, homeopathy is a placebo treatment and the Government should have a policy on prescribing placebos. The Government is reluctant to address the appropriateness and ethics of prescribing placebos to patients, which usually re


answered 17 Oct '11, 00:33

white%20tiger's gravatar image

white tiger

edited 17 Oct '11, 00:40

Are you saying that Prayer is a placebo? Also, I think you need to shorten your answer...>>>>>>>>>>>>>Jaianniah

(17 Oct '11, 05:02) Jaianniah

jai did you read what i have put in? did you not read about motivation being positive and having faith. doctor making study have discover that a long time ago. that is why i said that the doctor making research about prayer effect on healing is missing info.

(17 Oct '11, 06:00) white tiger

am i hard to fathom jai?

(17 Oct '11, 06:03) white tiger

how can a doctor arrive to the conclusion that there is no effect from prayers? when as doctor he should know about the placebo effect and that motivation being positive and having faith are the main study reason in the placebo effect that heal the you get my point jai or am i to hard to fathom?

(17 Oct '11, 06:11) white tiger

the thing about the placebo effect is that it should not heal the patient and it does because the patient has faith that it will.but you jai see it only for the mesured deception part. and need to ask Are you saying that Prayer is a placebo?

(17 Oct '11, 06:23) white tiger

well jai i did not say that it was or was not. only you see it that way and get mad about it. that is why i said am i hard to fathom. and you know what it means.

(17 Oct '11, 06:36) white tiger

and yes jai it is a long answer i have included the placebo effect so that you could read about it. it might be to long for you to handle with out getting negative. i am trully sorry that i did not know that you could not handle it with out makin a judgement call on my answer.

(17 Oct '11, 07:03) white tiger

You are right about the placebo aeffect White Tiger.

(17 Oct '11, 07:22) Paulina 1

Sorry, White Tiger...I did not mean to your answer, and you are right!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Jai

(17 Oct '11, 12:30) Jaianniah

i know that i am. but thank you jai.I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--

(18 Oct '11, 01:17) white tiger

i know that i am. but thank you paulina.

(19 Oct '11, 01:39) white tiger
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