We have all heard of the placebo effect of certain drugs: believing that the pill we are given is a drug makes it possible to heal, even if it is a simple sugar pill. A new study shows that the price of the drug also has a placebo effect. Indeed, the more we think that a drug is expensive, the more we believe in its effectiveness… and the more we improve our health.
In a study published in the professional journal Neurology, researchers asked a dozen patients with Parkinson disease to test two similar treatments “in order to compare their effectiveness”. The first group was injected with the correct drug and told that each injection cost US$100. The second group was injected with saline solution while explaining that the product cost the modest sum of 1500 US dollars. Before taking these treatments, all patients had performed motor skills tests and performed an MRI.
Interesting fact: the patients who received the placebo injection (but which they thought was an expensive treatment) improved their motor skills by 28%. Twice as many as those injected with real medicine. After telling them the real reason for this study, some patients admitted that they had placed very high expectations in the drug which they thought was expensive, convinced that it was an innovative treatment that would work better than their usual treatment.
According to Dr Alberto Espay, lead author of the study and associate professor of neurology at the University of Cincinnati (USA) “it is likely that putting a lot of hope in a drug has a dopamine-releasing effect in the brain. To treat Parkinson’s disease, we act on the neurotransmitters that transmit dopamine in the brain”.
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