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The University of Southampton

Placebos can be harmful

Published: 4 March 2014

New research published in the journal Psychiatry Research looked at a variety of clinical trials and studies in which a treatment for depression was tested against a placebo.

The research shows how placebos can have harmful effects on patients - these are called ‘nocebo' effects. Some patients given so-called "harmless" sugar pills experienced side-effects as intense as those who had taken the real thing.

A recent article in the Daily Mail picks up on this fascinating subject and draws on a variety of expert opinion. Among the experts is the University of Southampton's Dr Felicity Bishop, lecturer in health psychology: 'This study confirms that nocebo effects have the power to harm some patients. Our research has shown information leaflets for clinical trials often fail to tell patients that even if they get the placebo they might experience adverse side-effects...'

Read the full article here.

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