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Identifying Placebo Effects with Data from Clinical Trials

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  • Anup Malani

Abstract

A medical treatment is said to have placebo effects if patients who are optimistic about the treatment respond better to the treatment. This paper proposes a simple test for placebo effects. Instead of comparing the treatment and control arms of a single trial, one should compare the treatment arms of two trials with different probabilities of assignment to treatment. If there are placebo effects, patients in the higher-probability trial will experience better outcomes simply because they believe that there is a greater chance of receiving treatment. This paper finds evidence of placebo effects in trials of antiulcer and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 114 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 236-256

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:114:y:2006:i:2:p:236-256

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Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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Cited by:
  1. Armando Franco & Dana Goldman & Adam Leive & Daniel McFadden, 2013. "A Cautionary Tale in Comparative Effectiveness Research: Pitfalls and Perils of Observational Data Analysis," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Sylvain Chassang & Gerard Padro I Miquel & Erik Snowberg, 2012. "Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1279-1309, June.
  3. Gani Aldashev & Georg Kirchsteiger & Alexander Sebald, 2012. "Assignment procedure biases in randomized policy experiments," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 292, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  4. van den Berg, Gerard J., 2007. "An Economic Analysis of Exclusion Restrictions for Instrumental Variable Estimation," IZA Discussion Papers 2585, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Jens Ludwig & Jeffrey R. Kling & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2011. "Mechanism Experiments and Policy Evaluations," NBER Working Papers 17062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Chad D. Meyerhoefer & Muzhe Yang, 2011. "The Relationship between Food Assistance and Health: A Review of the Literature and Empirical Strategies for Identifying Program Effects," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 33(3), pages 304-344.
  7. Roberto Ippoliti, 2012. "Making profits working on patients’ expectations, a behavioral analysis of pharmaceutical clinical research," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 217-241, October.
  8. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2009. "Was there Really a Hawthorne Effect at the Hawthorne Plant? An Analysis of the Original Illumination Experiments," NBER Working Papers 15016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Roberto Ippoliti, 2013. "The market of human experimentation," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 61-85, February.

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