A new study has found that a placebo can prove to be more effective if it is thought or perceived as an expensive drug by the patient.
The study, which was conducted by the researchers at the American Academy of Neurology, found that a consumer’s expectation and/or perception about a drug on the basis of its price remarkably influences the efficacy of the medication, regardless of the fact that generic and branded drugs have no difference.
“The expectations as well as perception of the Patients for a drug play a crucial role in the effectiveness of their treatments. The placebo effect has been well documented, especially in people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Alberto J. Espay, lead study author from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and the American Academy of Neurology.
Talking about the need of the study, Espay said, “We wanted to see if the people’s perceptions of the cost of the drug they received would affect the placebo response.”
In a bid to find the answer, the researchers administered the study participants with two placebo shots for the Parkinson’s disease. Both shots were just a saline solution and not a drug meant for Parkinson’s. The subjects were not informed about the saline solutions and were only aware of getting two different medications: One initial shot which was followed by a second shot after the original one “wore off.”
The researchers had also told the participants that they were getting shots that had been “tested and proven equally effective.” They also told the volunteers that the drugs only differed on the grounds of their cost, i.e. one drug costs “USD 100 per dose”, while another cost “USD 1,500 per dose.”
Even though the fact remained that both the so-called drugs were same saline solution, the researchers found that the “expensive” placebo emerged as the winner as it resulted in improving motor skills and minimize hand shaking among the Parkinson’s patients more effectively than the “cheaper” counterpart.
The researchers found that the difference in effectiveness was most noticeable in the participants who perceived their drugs as costly.
Concluding the findings of the study, Espay said, “If we can find strategies to harness the placebo response for enhancing the benefits of treatments, we could potentially maximize the benefit of treatment as well as reduce the dosage of drugs needed and possibly the side effects from them.”
The researchers reported the study’s findings this week in the journal Neurology.