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Concept: Placebo


This randomized controlled trial was performed to investigate whether placebo effects in chronic low back pain could be harnessed ethically by adding open-label placebo (OLP) treatment to treatment as usual (TAU) for 3 weeks. Pain severity was assessed on three 0- to 10-point Numeric Rating Scales, scoring maximum pain, minimum pain, and usual pain, and a composite, primary outcome, total pain score. Our other primary outcome was back-related dysfunction, assessed on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire. In an exploratory follow-up, participants on TAU received placebo pills for 3 additional weeks. We randomized 97 adults reporting persistent low back pain for more than 3 months' duration and diagnosed by a board-certified pain specialist. Eighty-three adults completed the trial. Compared to TAU, OLP elicited greater pain reduction on each of the three 0- to 10-point Numeric Rating Scales and on the 0- to 10-point composite pain scale (P < 0.001), with moderate to large effect sizes. Pain reduction on the composite Numeric Rating Scales was 1.5 (95% confidence interval: 1.0-2.0) in the OLP group and 0.2 (-0.3 to 0.8) in the TAU group. Open-label placebo treatment also reduced disability compared to TAU (P < 0.001), with a large effect size. Improvement in disability scores was 2.9 (1.7-4.0) in the OLP group and 0.0 (-1.1 to 1.2) in the TAU group. After being switched to OLP, the TAU group showed significant reductions in both pain (1.5, 0.8-2.3) and disability (3.4, 2.2-4.5). Our findings suggest that OLP pills presented in a positive context may be helpful in chronic low back pain.This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Pharmaceutical industry, Statistical significance, Clinical research, Acupuncture, Low back pain, Effect size, Placebo


Background Intravenous sodium bicarbonate and oral acetylcysteine are widely used to prevent acute kidney injury and associated adverse outcomes after angiography without definitive evidence of their efficacy. Methods Using a 2-by-2 factorial design, we randomly assigned 5177 patients at high risk for renal complications who were scheduled for angiography to receive intravenous 1.26% sodium bicarbonate or intravenous 0.9% sodium chloride and 5 days of oral acetylcysteine or oral placebo; of these patients, 4993 were included in the modified intention-to-treat analysis. The primary end point was a composite of death, the need for dialysis, or a persistent increase of at least 50% from baseline in the serum creatinine level at 90 days. Contrast-associated acute kidney injury was a secondary end point. Results The sponsor stopped the trial after a prespecified interim analysis. There was no interaction between sodium bicarbonate and acetylcysteine with respect to the primary end point (P=0.33). The primary end point occurred in 110 of 2511 patients (4.4%) in the sodium bicarbonate group as compared with 116 of 2482 (4.7%) in the sodium chloride group (odds ratio, 0.93; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.72 to 1.22; P=0.62) and in 114 of 2495 patients (4.6%) in the acetylcysteine group as compared with 112 of 2498 (4.5%) in the placebo group (odds ratio, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.78 to 1.33; P=0.88). There were no significant between-group differences in the rates of contrast-associated acute kidney injury. Conclusions Among patients at high risk for renal complications who were undergoing angiography, there was no benefit of intravenous sodium bicarbonate over intravenous sodium chloride or of oral acetylcysteine over placebo for the prevention of death, need for dialysis, or persistent decline in kidney function at 90 days or for the prevention of contrast-associated acute kidney injury. (Funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia; PRESERVE number, NCT01467466 .).

Concepts: Sodium chloride, Placebo, Kidney, 25th century, 3rd millennium, Nephrology, Renal physiology, Renal failure


Background Antiretroviral medications that are used as prophylaxis can prevent acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. However, in clinical trials among African women, the incidence of HIV-1 infection was not reduced, probably because of low adherence. Longer-acting methods of drug delivery, such as vaginal rings, may simplify use of antiretroviral medications and provide HIV-1 protection. Methods We conducted a phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a monthly vaginal ring containing dapivirine, a non-nucleoside HIV-1 reverse-transcriptase inhibitor, involving women between the ages of 18 and 45 years in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Results Among the 2629 women who were enrolled, 168 HIV-1 infections occurred: 71 in the dapivirine group and 97 in the placebo group (incidence, 3.3 and 4.5 per 100 person-years, respectively). The incidence of HIV-1 infection in the dapivirine group was lower by 27% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1 to 46; P=0.05) than that in the placebo group. In an analysis that excluded data from two sites that had reduced rates of retention and adherence, the incidence of HIV-1 infection in the dapivirine group was lower by 37% (95% CI, 12 to 56; P=0.007) than that in the placebo group. In a post hoc analysis, higher rates of HIV-1 protection were observed among women over the age of 21 years (56%; 95% CI, 31 to 71; P<0.001) but not among those 21 years of age or younger (-27%; 95% CI, -133 to 31; P=0.45), a difference that was correlated with reduced adherence. The rates of adverse medical events and antiretroviral resistance among women who acquired HIV-1 infection were similar in the two groups. Conclusions A monthly vaginal ring containing dapivirine reduced the risk of HIV-1 infection among African women, with increased efficacy in subgroups with evidence of increased adherence. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health; number, NCT01617096 .).

Concepts: Africa, Virus, Immune system, Antiretroviral drug, AIDS, Placebo, Clinical trial, HIV


Aging is variably but inevitably accompanied by declines in health; concomitantly, in men, circulating sex-steroid levels fall with age.(1) To what extent these two processes are causally linked and whether testosterone therapy can prevent or ameliorate important age-related problems have been major issues in men’s health. In 2003, a committee assembled by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found a paucity of randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials involving older men and noted a lack of definite evidence that testosterone therapy conferred benefits.(2) The committee recommended that clinical trials be initiated, first to evaluate the efficacy of testosterone supplementation in older men and . . .

Concepts: Placebo, Randomized controlled trial, Avicenna, The Canon of Medicine, Death, Clinical trial, Health care, Medicine


Background Dupilumab, a human monoclonal antibody against interleukin-4 receptor alpha, inhibits signaling of interleukin-4 and interleukin-13, type 2 cytokines that may be important drivers of atopic or allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis. Methods In two randomized, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trials of identical design (SOLO 1 and SOLO 2), we enrolled adults with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis whose disease was inadequately controlled by topical treatment. Patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive, for 16 weeks, subcutaneous dupilumab (300 mg) or placebo weekly or the same dose of dupilumab every other week alternating with placebo. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients who had both a score of 0 or 1 (clear or almost clear) on the Investigator’s Global Assessment and a reduction of 2 points or more in that score from baseline at week 16. Results We enrolled 671 patients in SOLO 1 and 708 in SOLO 2. In SOLO 1, the primary outcome occurred in 85 patients (38%) who received dupilumab every other week and in 83 (37%) who received dupilumab weekly, as compared with 23 (10%) who received placebo (P<0.001 for both comparisons with placebo). The results were similar in SOLO 2, with the primary outcome occurring in 84 patients (36%) who received dupilumab every other week and in 87 (36%) who received dupilumab weekly, as compared with 20 (8%) who received placebo (P<0.001 for both comparisons). In addition, in the two trials, an improvement from baseline to week 16 of at least 75% on the Eczema Area and Severity Index was reported in significantly more patients who received each regimen of dupilumab than in patients who received placebo (P<0.001 for all comparisons). Dupilumab was also associated with improvement in other clinical end points, including reduction in pruritus and symptoms of anxiety or depression and improvement in quality of life. Injection-site reactions and conjunctivitis were more frequent in the dupilumab groups than in the placebo groups. Conclusions In two phase 3 trials of identical design involving patients with atopic dermatitis, dupilumab improved the signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis, including pruritus, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and quality of life, as compared with placebo. Trials of longer duration are needed to assess the long-term effectiveness and safety of dupilumab. (Funded by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals; SOLO 1 number, NCT02277743 ; SOLO 2 number, NCT02277769 .).

Concepts: Interleukin 4,, Regeneron, Placebo, Cytokine, Clinical trial, Allergy, Monoclonal antibodies


Background Which, medication, if any, to use to prevent the headache of pediatric migraine has not been established. Methods We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of amitriptyline (1 mg per kilogram of body weight per day), topiramate (2 mg per kilogram per day), and placebo in children and adolescents 8 to 17 years of age with migraine. Patients were randomly assigned in a 2:2:1 ratio to receive one of the medications or placebo. The primary outcome was a relative reduction of 50% or more in the number of headache days in the comparison of the 28-day baseline period with the last 28 days of a 24-week trial. Secondary outcomes were headache-related disability, headache days, number of trial completers, and serious adverse events that emerged during treatment. Results A total of 361 patients underwent randomization, and 328 were included in the primary efficacy analysis (132 in the amitriptyline group, 130 in the topiramate group, and 66 in the placebo group). The trial was concluded early for futility after a planned interim analysis. There were no significant between-group differences in the primary outcome, which occurred in 52% of the patients in the amitriptyline group, 55% of those in the topiramate group, and 61% of those in the placebo group (amitriptyline vs. placebo, P=0.26; topiramate vs. placebo, P=0.48; amitriptyline vs. topiramate, P=0.49). There were also no significant between-group differences in headache-related disability, headache days, or the percentage of patients who completed the 24-week treatment period. Patients who received amitriptyline or topiramate had higher rates of several adverse events than those receiving placebo, including fatigue (30% vs. 14%) and dry mouth (25% vs. 12%) in the amitriptyline group and paresthesia (31% vs. 8%) and weight loss (8% vs. 0%) in the topiramate group. Three patients in the amitriptyline group had serious adverse events of altered mood, and one patient in the topiramate group had a suicide attempt. Conclusions There were no significant differences in reduction in headache frequency or headache-related disability in childhood and adolescent migraine with amitriptyline, topiramate, or placebo over a period of 24 weeks. The active drugs were associated with higher rates of adverse events. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health; CHAMP number, NCT01581281 ).

Concepts: Medicine, Randomization, Mass, Migraine, Clinical trial, Randomness, Amitriptyline, Placebo


Background Each year, rotavirus gastroenteritis is responsible for about 37% of deaths from diarrhea among children younger than 5 years of age worldwide, with a disproportionate effect in sub-Saharan Africa. Methods We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in Niger to evaluate the efficacy of a live, oral bovine rotavirus pentavalent vaccine (BRV-PV, Serum Institute of India) to prevent severe rotavirus gastroenteritis. Healthy infants received three doses of the vaccine or placebo at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Episodes of gastroenteritis were assessed through active and passive surveillance and were graded on the basis of the score on the Vesikari scale (which ranges from 0 to 20, with higher scores indicating more severe disease). The primary end point was the efficacy of three doses of vaccine as compared with placebo against a first episode of laboratory-confirmed severe rotavirus gastroenteritis (Vesikari score, ≥11) beginning 28 days after dose 3. Results Among the 3508 infants who were included in the per-protocol efficacy analysis, there were 31 cases of severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in the vaccine group and 87 cases in the placebo group (2.14 and 6.44 cases per 100 person-years, respectively), for a vaccine efficacy of 66.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 49.9 to 77.9). Similar efficacy was seen in the intention-to-treat analyses, which showed a vaccine efficacy of 69.1% (95% CI, 55.0 to 78.7). There was no significant between-group difference in the risk of adverse events, which were reported in 68.7% of the infants in the vaccine group and in 67.2% of those in the placebo group, or in the risk of serious adverse events (in 8.3% in the vaccine group and in 9.1% in the placebo group); there were 27 deaths in the vaccine group and 22 in the placebo group. None of the infants had confirmed intussusception. Conclusions Three doses of BRV-PV, an oral rotavirus vaccine, had an efficacy of 66.7% against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis among infants in Niger. (Funded by Médecins sans Frontières Operational Center and the Kavli Foundation; number, NCT02145000 .).

Concepts: Malaria, Clinical trial, Pediatrics, Diarrhea, Vaccine, Placebo, Rotavirus vaccine, Rotavirus


Background Preterm preeclampsia is an important cause of maternal and perinatal death and complications. It is uncertain whether the intake of low-dose aspirin during pregnancy reduces the risk of preterm preeclampsia. Methods In this multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we randomly assigned 1776 women with singleton pregnancies who were at high risk for preterm preeclampsia to receive aspirin, at a dose of 150 mg per day, or placebo from 11 to 14 weeks of gestation until 36 weeks of gestation. The primary outcome was delivery with preeclampsia before 37 weeks of gestation. The analysis was performed according to the intention-to-treat principle. Results A total of 152 women withdrew consent during the trial, and 4 were lost to follow up, which left 798 participants in the aspirin group and 822 in the placebo group. Preterm preeclampsia occurred in 13 participants (1.6%) in the aspirin group, as compared with 35 (4.3%) in the placebo group (odds ratio in the aspirin group, 0.38; 95% confidence interval, 0.20 to 0.74; P=0.004). Results were materially unchanged in a sensitivity analysis that took into account participants who had withdrawn or were lost to follow-up. Adherence was good, with a reported intake of 85% or more of the required number of tablets in 79.9% of the participants. There were no significant between-group differences in the incidence of neonatal adverse outcomes or other adverse events. Conclusions Treatment with low-dose aspirin in women at high risk for preterm preeclampsia resulted in a lower incidence of this diagnosis than placebo. (Funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Program and the Fetal Medicine Foundation; EudraCT number, 2013-003778-29 ; Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN13633058 .).

Concepts: European Union, Uterus, Placebo, Obstetrics, Embryo, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Fetus


Background Acetaminophen is a common therapy for fever in patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) who have probable infection, but its effects are unknown. Methods We randomly assigned 700 ICU patients with fever (body temperature, ≥38°C) and known or suspected infection to receive either 1 g of intravenous acetaminophen or placebo every 6 hours until ICU discharge, resolution of fever, cessation of antimicrobial therapy, or death. The primary outcome was ICU-free days (days alive and free from the need for intensive care) from randomization to day 28. Results The number of ICU-free days to day 28 did not differ significantly between the acetaminophen group and the placebo group: 23 days (interquartile range, 13 to 25) among patients assigned to acetaminophen and 22 days (interquartile range, 12 to 25) among patients assigned to placebo (Hodges-Lehmann estimate of absolute difference, 0 days; 96.2% confidence interval [CI], 0 to 1; P=0.07). A total of 55 of 345 patients in the acetaminophen group (15.9%) and 57 of 344 patients in the placebo group (16.6%) had died by day 90 (relative risk, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.66 to 1.39; P=0.84). Conclusions Early administration of acetaminophen to treat fever due to probable infection did not affect the number of ICU-free days. (Funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and others; HEAT Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry number, ACTRN12612000513819 .).

Concepts: Estimator, Mathematics, Intensive care medicine, Interquartile range, Statistics, Fever, Clinical trial, Placebo


Background A simple treatment regimen that is effective in a broad range of patients who are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains an unmet medical need. Methods We conducted a phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving untreated and previously treated patients with chronic HCV genotype 1, 2, 4, 5, or 6 infection, including those with compensated cirrhosis. Patients with HCV genotype 1, 2, 4, or 6 were randomly assigned in a 5:1 ratio to receive the nucleotide polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir and the NS5A inhibitor velpatasvir in a once-daily, fixed-dose combination tablet or matching placebo for 12 weeks. Because of the low prevalence of genotype 5 in the study regions, patients with genotype 5 did not undergo randomization but were assigned to the sofosbuvir-velpatasvir group. The primary end point was a sustained virologic response at 12 weeks after the end of therapy. Results Of the 624 patients who received treatment with sofosbuvir-velpatasvir, 34% had HCV genotype 1a, 19% genotype 1b, 17% genotype 2, 19% genotype 4, 6% genotype 5, and 7% genotype 6. A total of 8% of patients were black, 19% had cirrhosis, and 32% had been previously treated for HCV. The rate of sustained virologic response among patients receiving sofosbuvir-velpatasvir was 99% (95% confidence interval, 98 to >99). Two patients receiving sofosbuvir-velpatasvir, both with HCV genotype 1, had a virologic relapse. None of the 116 patients receiving placebo had a sustained virologic response. Serious adverse events were reported in 15 patients (2%) in the sofosbuvir-velpatasvir group and none in the placebo group. Conclusions Once-daily sofosbuvir-velpatasvir for 12 weeks provided high rates of sustained virologic response among both previously treated and untreated patients infected with HCV genotype 1, 2, 4, 5, or 6, including those with compensated cirrhosis. (Funded by Gilead Sciences; number, NCT02201940 .).

Concepts: Hepatitis, Infection, DNA, Medical terms, Hepatitis C virus, Placebo, Clinical trial, Hepatitis C