Biological, clinical, and ethical advances of placebo effects

Lancet. 2010 Feb 20;375(9715):686-95. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61706-2.


For many years, placebos have been defined by their inert content and their use as controls in clinical trials and treatments in clinical practice. Recent research shows that placebo effects are genuine psychobiological events attributable to the overall therapeutic context, and that these effects can be robust in both laboratory and clinical settings. There is also evidence that placebo effects can exist in clinical practice, even if no placebo is given. Further promotion and integration of laboratory and clinical research will allow advances in the ethical use of placebo mechanisms that are inherent in routine clinical care, and encourage the use of treatments that stimulate placebo effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / ethics*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Ethics, Research
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics
  • Placebo Effect*
  • Placebos / pharmacology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / ethics
  • Research Subjects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Placebos