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June 23, 1975

The Placebo Effect: A Neglected Asset in the Care of Patients

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Hospital, and the Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

JAMA. 1975;232(12):1225-1227. doi:10.1001/jama.1975.03250120013012

THE PLACEBO EFFECT is a neglected and berated asset of patient care. As health care delivery systems evolve, it is imperative to recognize the value of the placebo effect so that provisions can be made for its incorporation and proper use. Any health care system that minimizes and fragments the relationship between the physician and the patient will lessen the effects of this asset.

Disdain for the placebo effect is the prevalent attitude in medicine today. However, throughout much of the history of medicine, until the 19th century, the placebo effect was the most a physician was able to offer his patients,1-3 and it was relied on to maintain the physician's reputation. Despite patients' submission to "purging, puking, poisoning, puncturing, cutting, cupping, blistering, bleeding, leeching, heating, freezing, sweating, and shocking,"3 the doctor or healer managed to retain his respected position throughout the ages. Although medicine has since developed