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Science of the Placebo: Toward an Interdisciplinary Research Agenda



Science of the Placebo: Toward an Interdisciplinary Research Agenda

Harry Guess (Editor), Linda Engel (Editor), Arthur Kleinman (Editor), John Kusek (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-727-91594-8 March 2002 BMJ Books 346 Pages


Based on a meeting in November 2000, this book brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines to examine the biological, behavioral, social, cultural and ethical aspects related to the placebo effect. Perspectives on the necessity for including a placebo in randomized clinical trials will also be examined.
This is the first attempt to examine the evidence-base of the placebo effect and will provide important information for clinicans.


1 An Overview.

Section 1: Historical and Ethical Perspectives.

2 “Seeing” the Placebo Effect: Historical Legacies and Present Opportunities.

3 Ethical Issues in Use of Placebo in Medical Practice and Clinical Trials.

Section 2: Elucidating Placebo Effects: Explanatory Mechanisms.

4 Explanatory Mechanisms for Placebo Effects: Cultural Influences and the Meaning Response.

5 Explanatory Mechanisms for Placebo Effects: Cognition, Personality and Social Learning.

6 Explanatory Mechanisms for Placebo Effects: Pavlovian Conditioning.

7 Regression to the Mean or Placebo Effect?.

Section 3: Elucidating Placebo Effects: Intervening Psychophysiology.

8 Neuriendocrine Meidators of Placebo Effects on Immunity.

9 Endogenous Opioid and Non-Opioid Pathways as Mediators of Placebno Analgesia.

Section 4: Use of Placebo Groups in Clinical Trials-Methodological and Ethical Issues.

10 Placebo controlled Trials and Active Controlled Trials: Ethics and Inference.

11 When is it Appropriate to Use a Placebo Arm in a Trial?.

12 The Pros and Cons of Non-Inferiority (Equivalence) Trials.

13 Use of Placebo in Large-Scale, Pragmatic Trials.

14 Placebo Controls in Clinical Trials of New Therapies for Conditions for which there are Known Effective Treatments.

Section 5: Priorities for Future Research.

15 The Research and Ethical Agenda.

Section 6: Conclusions and Future Directions.

16 Conclusions and Future Directions.



First book of it's kind to examine the placebo effect
An essential practical and theoretical guide for those who want a comprehensive review of the state of placebo science and ethical use of placebos in clinical trials