I read an article in the Wall Street Journal this week on why placebos really work. It indicated that new studies of placebo use found the brain, through neurobiological effects, releases neuromodulators that reduce the symptoms of the illness or disease state. It also found that placebos work along the same pathway as the pharmacological agents. The directors of the study are from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
If this is true then we may be able to significantly reduce the cost of healthcare with a sugar pill (as long as they’re not diabetic). Unfortunately, I don’t see physicians adopting this new way of treating any time soon. It will probably take more studies and many years to support a change in treatment guidelines. A change that academia will have to adopt but one the drug companies will try to block.