A new study revealed that Parkinson’s placebo drugs that were believed to be more expensive than regular drugs are much more effective that regular placebo drugs. The study was published in the American Academy of Neurology online issue of Neurology.
Dr. Alberto Espay, study author, believes this has to do with the patients’ expectations that play a major role in the effectiveness of their own treatments. Placebo drugs have achieved great results in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and this new study sheds some more light on why that is.
This is the first study in Parkinson’s disease to test the placebo effects of drug cost. Espay revealed that they wanted to see if the people’s perception of the cost of the treatment and of the drug would affect the placebo’s efficacy.
The 12 people that participated in the study were told that they would be given two injections for their disease, each injection would be a different formulation of the same drug. They were told that the second injection would be given after the effects of the first shot had worn off. The Parkinson’s patients were also told that the first shot costs $100, while the second one $1,500 and that even if the drugs were priced differently, they would work pretty much the same.
Both injections were a placebo drug, a saline solution. Scans of brain activity and measures of the patients’ motor skills were done before the treatment, after the first shot and after the second one.
The results of the research showed that when people thought that they were given the more expensive treatment, motor skills improved by 28% compared with when they believed they were receiving the cheaper drug. One motor skill test performed on 12 patients showed that scores improved by seven points when the people thought they were getting the expensive drug, as opposed to thee points when they were told they were being given the cheap drug.
After they were told of the nature of the study, the patients said they were simply amazed by the power of their own expectations.
Dr. Espay comments on why the results of this Parkinson’s placebo drug study are so important in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease:
If we can find strategies to harness the placebo response to enhance the benefits of treatments, we could potentially maximize the benefit of treatment while reducing the dosage of drugs needed and possibly reducing side effects.
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