Managing the placebo effect: Enhancing the signal-to-noise ratio

Kayode A. Williams, Norman Harden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Confirming the absence of the placebo response has been the bane of researchers throughout the ages. Thus, the gold standard of research methodology is the evidence for a treatment modality provided by a prospective randomized controlled trial. The "control" arm of a trial is the arm in which the placebo has been administered. Increasing evidence from basic science and clinical research is pointing to the fact that the placebo response may have some biological basis that can translate into enduring therapeutic benefit. Have our placebo-controlled trials simply compared one treatment effect to the treatment effect of the "placebo"? Thus, the "δ" is relative treatment effect; perhaps this may provide some insight as to why some treatment response is low compared to a relatively strong placebo response. How can we use this knowledge to create more robust clinical designs that help establish true treatment effect? This article aims to provide an overview of the contemporary insight into the placebo response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-38
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Pain and Headache Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Placebo effect
  • Treatment noise
  • Treatment signal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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