Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

The powerful placebo

PainSci » bibliography » Beecher 1955
Tags: mind, classics

One article on PainSci cites Beecher 1955: Placebo Power Hype

Plain white pill bottle labelled “powerful medicine.”

PainSci notes on Beecher 1955:

This is the 1955 paper that launched the Legend of Placebo. Dr. Henry Beecher reported that 35% of 1000 patients were “satisfactorily” treated with a placebo alone. His conclusion catapulted placebo to lasting fame… and wasn't really questioned for a long time.

Kienle and Kiene published a strong criticism of Beecher's findings in 1996, but no one took much notice. Much more prominently, Hróbjartsson and Gøtzsche reported in 2001 in the New England Journal of Medicine that they “found little evidence in general that placebos had powerful clinical effects” and concluded that there is “no justification for the use of placebos” outside clinical trials.

The topic has been hotly debated ever since, but few experts still believe that placebo is “powerful.”

For much more about Beecher and how this all started, see The Legend of the Wartime Placebo

related content

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: