In 1962, after a rise in birth defects, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment requiring pharmaceutical trials to include enhanced safety testing and placebo control groups, making Henry Beecher’s double-blind placebo-controlled RCT the new standard in testing. Beecher wrote a paper in 1955 that described how the placebo effect had undermined the results of over a dozen trials by causing improvements mistakenly attributed to the tested drugs. His findings have been proven true once again, after the success of mood enhancing drugs in the 80’s and 90’s enticed Big Pharma to promote remedies for a variety of disorders related to higher brain function, essentially attempting to dominate the central nervous system. However, it is exactly those types of ailments that are susceptible to the placebo effect described by Beecher.
From 2001 to 2006 the percentage of new products cut from development after Phase II trials (when drugs are first tested against placebo) rose by 20 %, and now half of all drugs that fail in late-stage trials are due to their inability to compete against sugar pills. Disorders engaging the higher cortical centers that generate beliefs and expectations, anticipate rewards and otherwise interpret social cues have been effectively treated with placebos.
Big Pharma is finally getting the message about how powerful the brain really is, requiring only the expectation of getting better in order to self-heal.
This is another reason going to the doctor can make us feel better. I believe in this healer’s great powers (even though I am skeptical by nature) and this kicks in my body’s healing powers based on my expectations.