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Concept: Randomized controlled trial


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


To reanalyse SmithKline Beecham’s Study 329 (published by Keller and colleagues in 2001), the primary objective of which was to compare the efficacy and safety of paroxetine and imipramine with placebo in the treatment of adolescents with unipolar major depression. The reanalysis under the restoring invisible and abandoned trials (RIAT) initiative was done to see whether access to and reanalysis of a full dataset from a randomised controlled trial would have clinically relevant implications for evidence based medicine.

Concepts: The Canon of Medicine, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Avicenna, Major depressive disorder, Paroxetine, GlaxoSmithKline, Beecham


The effects of probiotic supplementation on fecal microbiota composition in healthy adults have not been well established. We aimed to provide a systematic review of the potential evidence for an effect of probiotic supplementation on the composition of human fecal microbiota as assessed by high-throughput molecular approaches in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of healthy adults.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Gut flora, Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Effectiveness, Pharmaceutical industry, Meta-analysis


Background Whether arthroscopic partial meniscectomy for symptomatic patients with a meniscal tear and knee osteoarthritis results in better functional outcomes than nonoperative therapy is uncertain. Methods We conducted a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial involving symptomatic patients 45 years of age or older with a meniscal tear and evidence of mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis on imaging. We randomly assigned 351 patients to surgery and postoperative physical therapy or to a standardized physical-therapy regimen (with the option to cross over to surgery at the discretion of the patient and surgeon). The patients were evaluated at 6 and 12 months. The primary outcome was the difference between the groups with respect to the change in the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) physical-function score (ranging from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms) 6 months after randomization. Results In the intention-to-treat analysis, the mean improvement in the WOMAC score after 6 months was 20.9 points (95% confidence interval [CI], 17.9 to 23.9) in the surgical group and 18.5 (95% CI, 15.6 to 21.5) in the physical-therapy group (mean difference, 2.4 points; 95% CI, -1.8 to 6.5). At 6 months, 51 active participants in the study who were assigned to physical therapy alone (30%) had undergone surgery, and 9 patients assigned to surgery (6%) had not undergone surgery. The results at 12 months were similar to those at 6 months. The frequency of adverse events did not differ significantly between the groups. Conclusions In the intention-to-treat analysis, we did not find significant differences between the study groups in functional improvement 6 months after randomization; however, 30% of the patients who were assigned to physical therapy alone underwent surgery within 6 months. (Funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; METEOR number, NCT00597012 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Hospital, Randomized controlled trial, Surgery, Physician, Randomness, Arthritis, Randomization


Previous studies indicate that in published reports, trial results can be distorted by the use of “spin” (specific reporting strategies, intentional or unintentional, emphasizing the beneficial effect of the experimental treatment). We aimed to (1) evaluate the presence of “spin” in press releases and associated media coverage; and (2) evaluate whether findings of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) based on press releases and media coverage are misinterpreted.

Concepts: Cohort study, Experimental design, Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial,, Evaluation methods, Pharmaceutical industry


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


The inability of current recommendations to control the epidemic of diabetes, the specific failure of the prevailing low-fat diets to improve obesity, cardiovascular risk, or general health and the persistent reports of some serious side effects of commonly prescribed diabetic medications, in combination with the continued success of low-carbohydrate diets in the treatment of diabetes and metabolic syndrome without significant side effects, point to the need for a reappraisal of dietary guidelines. The benefits of carbohydrate restriction in diabetes are immediate and well documented. Concerns about the efficacy and safety are long term and conjectural rather than data driven. Dietary carbohydrate restriction reliably reduces high blood glucose, does not require weight loss (although is still best for weight loss), and leads to the reduction or elimination of medication. It has never shown side effects comparable with those seen in many drugs. Here we present 12 points of evidence supporting the use of low-carbohydrate diets as the first approach to treating type 2 diabetes and as the most effective adjunct to pharmacology in type 1. They represent the best-documented, least controversial results. The insistence on long-term randomized controlled trials as the only kind of data that will be accepted is without precedent in science. The seriousness of diabetes requires that we evaluate all of the evidence that is available. The 12 points are sufficiently compelling that we feel that the burden of proof rests with those who are opposed.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Nutrition, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, The Canon of Medicine, Obesity, Randomized controlled trial, Carbohydrate


The aim of this study was to determine the cumulative effect of a routine (hot-to-) cold shower on sickness, quality of life and work productivity.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical research, Hygiene



Caffeine in doses <400 mg is typically not considered arrhythmogenic, but little is known about the additional ingredients in energy drinks. We evaluated the ECG and blood pressure (BP) effects of high-volume energy drink consumption compared with caffeine alone.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Caffeine, Energy drink