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BBC: The placebo effect

7 October, 2018

Did anyone else watch this documentary? Fascinating! The placebo effect is a powerful force that can dramatically improve chronic pain, and the longer the patient spends with the doctor, the greater the effect (which may partly explain the benefits of traditional medicine, where patients typically receive longer treatments than in modern medicine - especially modern medicine provided in overcrowded and understaffed clinics in LMICs where each patient may only have 2 or 3 minutes with the healthcare provider.

Extracts below. Full text here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45721670

BBC TV documentary: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bmblb8

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Back pain and the placebo effect: ‘I’ll keep taking the pills’

By Michael Mosley

Could taking a placebo, a pill which contains nothing but ground rice, really help cure back pain?

Jim Pearce is certainly convinced. When we first met, the 71-year-old was confined to a wheelchair and using morphine because of his back pain. But after he took part in our study, taking our convincingly-labelled blue-and-white-striped "new" painkillers, he seemed like a different person. The only thing was that he'd been taking placebos; dummy pills - they contained nothing but ground rice. But they worked. "I just woke up one morning and I thought, hang about, I haven't got a twinge in my back. And it's been going from strength to strength." I asked him which he preferred, my pills or the morphine? "I got rid of the morphine and kept taking your blue pills."

Jim was one of 100 people who took part in a trial for our BBC2 Horizon programme: Can my brain cure my body?...

"The average person thinks that placebo is something that's a lie or some fakery, something where the person has been tricked and it isn't real. But science has told us, particularly over the last two decades, that it is something that is very real, it's something that we can see played out in our physiology and neurochemistry."...

The time they spent with the doctor had a substantial effect on the outcome, with people benefitting from having a longer consultation with their GP...

Watch Horizon - The Placebo Experiment: Can My Brain Cure My Body? - on BBC2 on Thursday at 21:00 BST and afterwards on iPlayer.

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Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on five global forums in three languages. He also currently chairs the Dgroups Foundation (www.dgroups.info), which supports 800 communities of practice on international development, health and social justice. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org