Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Nocebo


Musculoskeletal pain, the most common cause of disability globally, is most frequently managed in primary care. People with musculoskeletal pain in different body regions share similar characteristics, prognosis, and may respond to similar treatments. This overview aims to summarise current best evidence on currently available treatment options for the five most common musculoskeletal pain presentations (back, neck, shoulder, knee and multi-site pain) in primary care.

Concepts: Difference, Nocebo, Neck, Body, Kanye West, Flo Rida, World government, Blame It


Placebo response in the clinical trial setting is poorly understood and alleged to be driven by statistical confounds, and its biological underpinnings are questioned. Here we identified and validated that clinical placebo response is predictable from resting-state functional magnetic-resonance-imaging (fMRI) brain connectivity. This also led to discovering a brain region predicting active drug response and demonstrating the adverse effect of active drug interfering with placebo analgesia. Chronic knee osteoarthritis (OA) pain patients (n = 56) underwent pretreatment brain scans in two clinical trials. Study 1 (n = 17) was a 2-wk single-blinded placebo pill trial. Study 2 (n = 39) was a 3-mo double-blinded randomized trial comparing placebo pill to duloxetine. Study 3, which was conducted in additional knee OA pain patients (n = 42), was observational. fMRI-derived brain connectivity maps in study 1 were contrasted between placebo responders and nonresponders and compared to healthy controls (n = 20). Study 2 validated the primary biomarker and identified a brain region predicting drug response. In both studies, approximately half of the participants exhibited analgesia with placebo treatment. In study 1, right midfrontal gyrus connectivity best identified placebo responders. In study 2, the same measure identified placebo responders (95% correct) and predicted the magnitude of placebo’s effectiveness. By subtracting away linearly modeled placebo analgesia from duloxetine response, we uncovered in 6/19 participants a tendency of duloxetine enhancing predicted placebo response, while in another 6/19, we uncovered a tendency for duloxetine to diminish it. Moreover, the approach led to discovering that right parahippocampus gyrus connectivity predicts drug analgesia after correcting for modeled placebo-related analgesia. Our evidence is consistent with clinical placebo response having biological underpinnings and shows that the method can also reveal that active treatment in some patients diminishes modeled placebo-related analgesia. Trial Registration NCT02903238 NCT01558700.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Clinical trial, Effectiveness,, Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical research, Nocebo, Placebo


Copperhead snake (Agkistrodon contortrix) envenomation causes limb injury resulting in pain and disability. It is not known whether antivenom administration improves limb function. We determine whether administration of antivenom improves recovery from limb injury in patients envenomated by copperhead snakes.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Nocebo, Placebo, Viperidae, Crotalinae, Agkistrodon contortrix, Agkistrodon piscivorus, Agkistrodon


To investigate the effectiveness and the safety of a probiotic-mixture (Vivomixx®, Visbiome®, DeSimone Formulation®; Danisco-DuPont, Madison, WI, USA) for the treatment of infantile colic in breastfed infants, compared with a placebo.

Concepts: Infant, Clinical trial, Polymerase chain reaction, Effectiveness, Clinical research, Nocebo, Placebo, Baby colic


Placebos are widely used in clinical practice in spite of ethical restrictions. Whether such use is justified depends in part on the relative benefit of placebos compared to ‘active’ treatments. A direct test for differences between placebo and ‘active’ treatment effects has not been conducted.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Medical ethics, Medical statistics, Effectiveness, Clinical research, Nocebo, Placebo, Bioethics



To assess the quantity and quality of randomised, sham-controlled studies of surgery and invasive procedures and estimate the treatment-specific and non-specific effects of those procedures.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Evaluation, Randomized controlled trial, Effectiveness, Nocebo, Placebo


The purpose of this 21-day assessor blinded, randomized-controlled trial was to compare an open-label placebo (OLP) to treatment as usual (TAU) for cancer survivors with fatigue. This was followed by an exploratory 21-day study in which TAU participants received OLPs while OLP participants in the main study were followed after discontinuing placebos. Cancer survivors (N = 74) who completed cancer treatment 6 months to 10 years prior to enrollment reporting at least moderate fatigue (i.e., ≥4 on a 0-10 scale) were randomized to OLP or TAU. Those randomized to OLP took 2 placebo pills twice a day for 21 days. Compared to those randomized to TAU, OLP participants reported a 29% improvement in fatigue severity (average difference in the mean change scores (MD) 12.47, 95% CI 3.32, 21.61; P = 0.008), medium effect (d = 0.63), and a 39% improvement in fatigue-disrupted quality of life (MD = 11.76, 95% CI 4.65, 18.86; P = 0.002), a large effect (d = 0.76). TAU participants who elected to try OLP for 21-days after the main study reported reductions in fatigue of a similar magnitude for fatigue severity and fatigue-disrupted quality of life (23% and 35%, respectively). OLP may reduce fatigue symptom severity and fatigue-related quality of life disruption in cancer survivors.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Cancer, Clinical research, Nocebo, Placebo, Arithmetic mean, Effect size, Fatigue


Explanation models for the effectiveness of homeopathy are not supported by natural sciences and the aggregated evidence from clinical trials is unconvincing. From this standpoint, placebo effects seem the most obvious explanation for the therapeutic effects experienced in homeopathy. Still, many physicians continue to prescribe homeopathic treatments.

Concepts: Scientific method, Therapeutic effect, Medicine, Clinical trial, Effectiveness, Nocebo, Placebo, Homeopathy


Placebo and nocebo effects are embodied psycho-neurobiological responses capable of modulating pain and producing changes at different neurobiological, body at perceptual and cognitive levels. These modifications are triggered by different contextual factors (CFs) presented in the therapeutic encounter between patient and healthcare providers, such as healing rituals and signs. The CFs directly impact on the quality of the therapeutic outcome: a positive context, that is a context characterized by the presence of positive CFs, can reduce pain by producing placebo effects, while a negative context, characterized by the presence of negative CFs, can aggravate pain by creating nocebo effects. Despite the increasing interest about this topic; the detailed study of CFs as triggers of placebo and nocebo effects is still lacked in the management of musculoskeletal pain.Increasing evidence suggest a relevant role of CFs in musculoskeletal pain management. CFs are a complex sets of internal, external or relational elements encompassing: patient’s expectation, history, baseline characteristics; clinician’s behavior, belief, verbal suggestions and therapeutic touch; positive therapeutic encounter, patient-centered approach and social learning; overt therapy, posology of intervention, modality of treatment administration; marketing features of treatment and health care setting. Different explanatory models such as classical conditioning and expectancy can explain how CFs trigger placebo and nocebo effects. CFs act through specific neural networks and neurotransmitters that were described as mediators of placebo and nocebo effects.Available findings suggest a relevant clinical role and impact of CFs. They should be integrated in the clinical reasoning to increase the number of treatment solutions, boosts their efficacy and improve the quality of the decision-making. From a clinical perspective, the mindful manipulation of CFs represents a useful opportunity to enrich a well-established therapy in therapeutic setting within the ethical border. From a translational perspective, there is a strong need of research studies on CFs close to routine and real-world clinical practice in order to underline the uncertainty of therapy action and help clinicians to implement knowledge in daily practice.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Clinical trial, Medical ethics, Neuroscience, Cognition, Nocebo, Placebo