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Psychosom Med. 2011 Sep;73(7):598-603. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182294a50. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

The nocebo effect and its relevance for clinical practice.

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Department of Bioethics, Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bldg 10, Room 1C118, Bethesda, MD 20892-1156, USA.


Negative expectations deriving from the clinical encounter can produce negative outcomes, known as nocebo effects. Specifically, research on the nocebo effect indicates that information disclosure about potential side effects can itself contribute to producing adverse effects. Neurobiological processes play a role in the nocebo effect, and this article provides a selective review of mechanistic research on the nocebo effect. Comparatively little attention has been directed to clinical studies and their implications for daily clinical practice. The nocebo response is influenced by the content and the way information is presented to patients in clinical trials in both the placebo and active treatment conditions. Nocebo effects adversely influence quality of life and therapy adherence, emphasizing the need for minimizing these responses to the extent possible. Evidence further indicates that the informed consent process in clinical trials may induce nocebo effects. This article concludes with ethical directions for future patient-oriented research and routine practice.

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