Placebo effects in clinical trials … the blind leading the not so blind

The failure of blinding in clinical trials may be higher than previously thought, but there has been surprisingly little testing of how well the gold standard of medical research works in practice.

While fascinating in its own right, the placebo effect has important implications for testing treatment efficacy. If we give a patient a treatment and they improve, how do we know whether it was the active treatment or the placebo effect that helped them.

This is what double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trials (RCTs) – the gold standard for testing treatment efficacy - were designed to address. The problem is that even with double-blinding and placebo control, patients are good at figuring out to which treatment they have been