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September 11, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles Times
To most people, the story of the placebo effect is simple: Because we believe that medicine makes us healthier, a pill - even if it is just sugar - causes us to feel better when we take it. As a result, the placebo effect has generally been considered a conscious process, the result of seeing the pill and the doctor in the white coat who gives it to us. But a new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests...
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SCIENCE
April 23, 2014 | By Mary MacVean
Two drugs given to people who suffer migraines reduced the frequency of their headaches in early trials, scientists said. The test results “may potentially represent a new era in preventive therapy for migraine,” Dr. Peter Goadsby, an author on studies of both drugs, said in a statement. One of the researchers called migraine headaches the third most common medical disorder in the world. Both drugs must undergo larger trials to confirm the results. Both drugs are intended to prevent rather than treat migraine headaches, and the studies of them are the first to test monoclonal antibodies for migraine prevention, the scientists said.
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NEWS
September 16, 2010
Women with low sexual arousal who took a placebo drug showed an improvement in symtpoms, a new study finds. The 12-week double-blind study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine , followed 50 women who were diagnosed with female sexual arousal disorder and randomly given a placebo as part of a pharmaceutical trial sponsored by Eli Lilly/ICOS (the company agreed to release the results of those who took the placebo). The women in the study reported 1,292 sexual events during the 12-week trial.
SCIENCE
April 26, 2013 | Melissa Healy
In another major setback for efforts to develop an HIV vaccine, federal researchers have shut down a key clinical trial after an independent panel of safety experts determined that volunteers who got an experimental vaccine appeared to be slightly more likely to contract the human immunodeficiency virus than those who got a placebo. Investigators involved in recruiting volunteers and running the trial at 21 sites across the country were ordered Tuesday morning to stop immunizing volunteers with the genetically engineered HVTN 505 vaccine and to inform the nearly 2,500 people who participated in the study whether they got the vaccine or the placebo.
HEALTH
December 12, 2005 | By Claire Panosian Dunavan, Special to The Times
Every day on the front lines of medicine, doctors quietly weigh treatments. They consider which ones might help patients and which ones might harm them. And sometimes, rightly or wrongly, which ones might simply please or appease them. I'm a pleaser at heart. My family and friends know it, and so do most of my patients. However, when I think about doctors dispensing prescriptions merely to please, I feel my gut wrench. I first witnessed placebo medicine in the 1970s. Back then, a few doctors at my university hospital treated patients with saline injections and little blue sugar pills.
NEWS
July 6, 2010 | By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times
Many people who suffer with lower back pain rely on glucosamine supplements for some relief. But does the stuff really work? A new study shows that glucosamine was no different from a placebo in treating lower back pain. The study, released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., was a large, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial that included 250 adults with chronic lower back pain. It was conducted at the Oslo University Outpatient Clinic in Norway. Chronic lower back pain plagues millions of people in the U.S., and treatments include physical therapy, medication and the use of glucosamine supplements.
SCIENCE
June 5, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
A drug already on the market to treat severely clenched fingers may also be useful in treating the excessively curved penis caused by Peyronie's disease, researchers reported Monday. If the findings are validated in larger trials, the drug, called Xiaflex, could become the first effective medical treatment for the condition, which apart from embarrassment can cause impotence and pain. The company that manufactures the drug, Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc.  of Malvern, Pa., said it hopes to have approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market the drug for this purpose by the end of the year.
SCIENCE
July 20, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
Silymarin, an extract of milk thistle widely used around the world for treating liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, provides no more benefit than a placebo, researchers reported this week. Some estimates are that as many as a third of the estimated 3.2 million Americans with hepatitis C -- as well as many more millions around the world -- are consuming the drug in an effort to alleviate their symptoms. The new research by a team headed by Dr. Michael W. Fried of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine suggests that they are simply wasting their money.
HEALTH
September 13, 2011 | By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
Inhaling a concentrated cloud of insulin through the nose twice a day appears to slow — and in some cases reverse — symptoms of memory loss in people with early signs of Alzheimer's disease, a new pilot study has found. The study involved only 104 people and is considered very preliminary. But it suggests that a safe, simple and cheap measure that boosts flagging metabolism in key areas of the brain could hold off or possibly derail the progression of the devastating neurological disorder in its early stages.
SCIENCE
April 23, 2014 | By Mary MacVean
Two drugs given to people who suffer migraines reduced the frequency of their headaches in early trials, scientists said. The test results “may potentially represent a new era in preventive therapy for migraine,” Dr. Peter Goadsby, an author on studies of both drugs, said in a statement. One of the researchers called migraine headaches the third most common medical disorder in the world. Both drugs must undergo larger trials to confirm the results. Both drugs are intended to prevent rather than treat migraine headaches, and the studies of them are the first to test monoclonal antibodies for migraine prevention, the scientists said.
SCIENCE
March 27, 2013 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
A treatment that removes heavy metals from the body has long been touted as an alternative therapy to combat hardening arteries. Now a 10-year, $31-million clinical trial has found that chelation therapy does help heart attack patients slightly reduce their risk of serious heart problems - but not enough for the researchers to encourage mainstream cardiologists to offer it to their patients. The trial revealed a very modest benefit for patients who took chelation therapy rather than a placebo, according to results published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.
NEWS
November 22, 2012 | By Mary MacVean
This might be tough for parents who want to swoop in and fix their children's every problem, but a study found that half of the teenagers who screened positive for depression got better in six weeks without treatment. Two aspects of the teenagers' conditions seemed to predict whether the depression would ease without treatment: the severity of the symptoms and whether the symptoms persisted for six weeks, the researchers, led by Dr. Laura Richardson of Seattle Children's Research Institute, said in an article published this week in the journal Pediatrics.
NEWS
November 16, 2012 | By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, For the Booster Shots blog
Don't be fooled by some of the jargon of biomedical research: People who respond strongly to placebo medications are not dummies. A new study finds they tend to be people you would describe in much more favorable terms: straightforward, tough in the face of difficulty, and willing to lend others a hand. Maybe the people who don't respond well to placebos are the dummies: Angry, hostile and prone to negativity, these people seem far less capable of harnessing their minds to the task of healing their bodies, says the new research.
NEWS
October 2, 2012 | By Jon Bardin
If you're trying to ward off the sniffles, you can take vitamin D supplements out of your shopping cart: A new study reports that dosing with the vitamin does nothing to prevent colds or other forms of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). The effect of vitamin D on the immune system has been debated for a long time. Controlled laboratory research has shown that vitamin D has several beneficial effects on the immune system, and some studies conducted in the past have suggested that people with low levels of the vitamin are at higher risk for URTIs.
NEWS
September 13, 2012 | By Mary MacVean
Acupuncture eases some kinds of chronic pain - and it's not just a placebo effect at work, researchers who looked at data from nearly 18,000 patients found. An estimated 3 million American adults get acupuncture treatments annually; still, there “remains considerable controversy as to its value,” the researchers wrote in a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. But they found that for back and neck pain, chronic headache, osteoarthritis and shoulder pain, acupuncture works better than no treatment and better than “sham” acupuncture - done, for example, with needles inserted superficially or with needles that retract into the handles instead of going into the skin.
SCIENCE
September 11, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles Times
To most people, the story of the placebo effect is simple: Because we believe that medicine makes us healthier, a pill - even if it is just sugar - causes us to feel better when we take it. As a result, the placebo effect has generally been considered a conscious process, the result of seeing the pill and the doctor in the white coat who gives it to us. But a new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests...
NEWS
January 9, 2012 | By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Older people with mild cognitive impairment may get some help from a nicotine patch, a study suggests. Researchers tested nicotine patches and a placebo on memory and other brain functions in 74 people (average age 76)  in a double-blind study. None of the participants, who had minor memory loss, was a current smoker, although some had smoked previously. The patches were worn for six months and tests on memory and thinking skills were administered at the start of the study, and three and six months later.
NEWS
September 27, 2011 | By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
More than 2 million American men have turned to saw palmetto extract to help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of having an enlarged prostate. It remains a popular herbal remedy despite the fact that a spate of clinical trials in the past 10 years have found its benefits to be limited at best. That may change once men learn about the results of a new trial published in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Assn. First, a primer on enlarged prostates.
SCIENCE
September 6, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II
Studies in macaques have for the first time shown that an intravaginal ring laced with an anti-HIV drug can block transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse. Researchers at the Population Council who demonstrated the product are now refining drug concentrations and contents of the ring and hope to begin human trials within 18 to 24 months. Previous studies with vaginal microbicides to block HIV have produced mixed results, with at least one showing some protection and another showing none.
SCIENCE
July 20, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times
Silymarin, an extract of milk thistle widely used around the world for treating liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, provides no more benefit than a placebo, researchers reported this week. Some estimates are that as many as a third of the estimated 3.2 million Americans with hepatitis C -- as well as many more millions around the world -- are consuming the drug in an effort to alleviate their symptoms. The new research by a team headed by Dr. Michael W. Fried of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine suggests that they are simply wasting their money.
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