Individual differences in the placebo effect

22 Apr

I have long believed that social science has underestimated the role individual differences. Here is research that suggests that individuals may differ in their susceptibility to the placebo effect:

“•Predisposition to respond to placebo treatment may be in part a stable heritable trait.
•Candidate placebo response pathways may interact with drugs to modify outcomes in both the placebo and drug treatment arms of clinical trials.
•Genomic analysis of randomized placebo and no-treatment controlled trials are needed to fully realize the potential of the placebome.
Placebos are indispensable controls in randomized clinical trials (RCTs), and placebo responses significantly contribute to routine clinical outcomes. Recent neurophysiological studies reveal neurotransmitter pathways that mediate placebo effects. Evidence that genetic variations in these pathways can modify placebo effects raises the possibility of using genetic screening to identify placebo responders and thereby increase RCT efficacy and improve therapeutic care. Furthermore, the possibility of interaction between placebo and drug molecular pathways warrants consideration in RCT design. The study of genomic effects on placebo response, ‘the placebome’, is in its infancy. Here, we review evidence from placebo studies and RCTs to identify putative genes in the placebome, examine evidence for placebo–drug interactions, and discuss implications for RCTs and clinical care.”


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