Identifying Placebo Effects with Data from Clinical Trials

Posted: 17 May 2006

See all articles by Anup Malani

Anup Malani

University of Chicago - Law School; University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine; Resources for the Future; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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.

Suggested Citation

Malani, Anup, Identifying Placebo Effects with Data from Clinical Trials. Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 114, pp. 236-256, April 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=901838

Anup Malani (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/malani/

University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Resources for the Future

1616 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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