Breakthrough study: patient expectations affect drug efficiency

Scientific studies rarely venture into the realm of the irrational; yet it seems that that is exactly where we could find answers to many of the unsolved connundrums of modern medicine.  A recent paper published in Science Translational Medicine, is a notable, and exciting, exception*.  The study claims to have detected a noticeable inluence of patients’ expectations upon the effectiveness of painkillers: in the words of of Professor Anthony Jones, Salford Royal Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, ‘expectations are a key driver to pain perception and to placebo analgesic effects’.  The study also identifies the specific regions of the human brain which are involved in the process.

* U. Bingel, V. Wanigasekera, K. Wiech, R. Ni Mhuircheartaigh, M. C. Lee, M. Ploner, I. Tracey, The Effect of Treatment Expectation on Drug Efficacy: Imaging the Analgesic Benefit of the Opioid Remifentanil. Sci. Transl. Med. 3, 70ra14 (2011).

Read (free) abstract

Read article on the BBC website about the study

Read (somewhat emotional, but nevertheless interesting) commentary at

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