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Placebo theory 

Placebo theory
Chapter:
Placebo theory
Author(s):

Milton Cohen

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199674107.003.0021
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date: 31 March 2020

The doyen of pain medicine, the late Patrick Wall, wrote that the placebo phenomenon ‘seems to shake our belief in the reliability of our sensory experience’. Perhaps this arises out of the unpredictability of individual responses to therapy, especially in chronic illness where pathogenesis is uncertain. Or perhaps it stems from the recognition that therapies that could not possibly be influencing a known mechanism of disease are nonetheless effective. Mention of placebo tends to evoke images of charlatanism in practice or of nuisance in research. Indeed, this tainted reputation has tended to persist despite recent advances in understanding of the clinical and, more recently, the biological bases for the placebo phenomenon.

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