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ERIC Number: EJ788998
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Mar-14
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Placebo Effect
Bausell, R. Barker
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n27 pB12 Mar 2008
The author advocates for less, rather than more, research on alternative medicine. From a historical perspective, there is little newsworthy about public infatuation with what Bausell terms pseudomedicine. What is new is the role of institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, who now awards both research and educational grants in alternative medicine, and medical schools that now work with complementary and alternative clinics, offer fellowships in alternative medicine, and both include material on alternative medicine in required courses and offer optional courses about it. While not attempting to dictate what academics should and should not be allowed to teach, or what they might and might not study, the author does believe that alternatives exist to compiling more and more evidence, which requires extensive experimental evaluation before formulating a plausible theory. The author describes personal research to test the broad hypothesis that therapeutic effects attributed to complementary and alternative medicine are basically nothing more than placebo and placebo-like effects. The logic used was: If there is a plausible biological explanation for why the placebo effect should occur, and credible experimental evidence that it does occur; but there is no plausible biological explanation for why any therapeutic effect from complementary or alternative medicine should exist, nor any credible experimental evidence that one does, which cannot also be attributed to the placebo effect; then a reasonable scientific conclusion would be that complementary and alternative therapies are nothing more than placebos. To evaluate the effectiveness of complementary and alternative therapies, the author looked at high-quality trials that controlled for the placebo effect, and that had been published since January 2000 in the four American medical journals not limited to a specific disease that had the highest citation rates; and also examined systematic reviews by a research organizations dedicated to locating, appraising, and synthesizing evidence regarding the effectiveness of specific medical interventions of all types, conventional and alternative, that included two or more trials evaluating the effectiveness of complementary or alternative medicine. Only one of the trials published in the four selected journals in more than seven years demonstrated an effect of alternative medicine beyond the placebo effect, a trial sponsored, conducted, and its publication written, by employees of the company that marketed the product in question. The research organization reviews were almost as definitely negative. Because there is little doubt that a placebo effect does exist, but little evidence to suggest that any complementary or alternative therapy is more effective than a placebo, the writer believes that an evidenced-supported answer can be addressed to the question of whether or not it is necessary to continue spending in excess of $100-million a year on alternative-medicine research to prove the obvious, that sometimes we do actually reach a point at which more research is not needed, and we have reached it with alternative and complementary therapies. Sometimes, in fact, certain types of research need never have been conducted in the first place.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A