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Clin Ther. 2017 Mar;39(3):477-486. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2017.01.031. Epub 2017 Feb 23.

The Placebo and Nocebo Phenomena: Their Clinical Management and Impact on Treatment Outcomes.

Author information

1
Institut de Neuropsiquiatria i Adiccions (INAD), Parc de salut Mar (PSM), Barcelona, Spain.
2
Psychiatry and Mental Health Department, Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte, Lisbon, Portugal; Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal.
3
Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal; Departamento de Psiquiatria e Saúde Mental, Hospital Beatriz Ângelo, Lisboa, Portugal.
4
IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, School of Medicine, Deakin University, Geelong, VIC, Australia; Laboratory of Calcium Binding Proteins in the Central Nervous System, Department of Biochemistry, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil.
5
IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, School of Medicine, Deakin University, Geelong, VIC, Australia; University Hospital Geelong, Barwon Health, Geelong, VIC Australia; Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia; Centre for Youth Mental Health, Parkville, VIC, Australia; Florey Institute, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia.
6
IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, School of Medicine, Deakin University, Geelong, VIC, Australia; University Hospital Geelong, Barwon Health, Geelong, VIC Australia; Department of Psychiatry, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia; Centre for Youth Mental Health, Parkville, VIC, Australia. Electronic address: seetald@barwonhealth.org.au.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

This overview focuses on placebo and nocebo effects in clinical trials and routine care. Our goal was to propose strategies to improve outcomes in clinical practice, maximizing placebo effects and reducing nocebo effects, as well as managing these phenomena in clinical trials.

METHODS:

A narrative literature search of PubMed was conducted (January 1980-September 2016). Systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials, observational studies, and case series that had an emphasis on placebo or nocebo effects in clinical practice were included in the qualitative synthesis. Search terms included: placebo, nocebo, clinical, clinical trial, clinical setting, placebo effect, nocebo effect, adverse effects, and treatment outcomes. This search was augmented by a manual search of the references of the key articles and the related literature.

FINDINGS:

Placebo and nocebo effects are psychobiological events imputable to the therapeutic context. Placebo is defined as an inert substance that provokes perceived benefits, whereas the term nocebo is used when an inert substance causes perceived harm. Their major mechanisms are expectancy and classical conditioning. Placebo is used in several fields of medicine, as a diagnostic tool or to reduce drug dosage. Placebo/nocebo effects are difficult to disentangle from the natural course of illness or the actual effects of a new drug in a clinical trial. There are known strategies to enhance clinical results by manipulating expectations and conditioning.

IMPLICATIONS:

Placebo and nocebo effects occur frequently and are clinically significant but are underrecognized in clinical practice. Physicians should be able to recognize these phenomena and master tactics on how to manage these effects to enhance the quality of clinical practice.

KEYWORDS:

adverse effects; clinical trial; nocebo; pharmacology; placebo; treatment

PMID:
28237673
DOI:
10.1016/j.clinthera.2017.01.031
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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