Hidden administration of drugs

Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Nov;90(5):651-61. doi: 10.1038/clpt.2011.206. Epub 2011 Oct 12.


In placebo-controlled trials, the placebo component of treatments is usually assessed by simulating a therapy through the administration of a dummy treatment (placebo) in order to eliminate the specific effects of the therapy. Recently, a radically different approach to the analysis of placebo responses has been implemented in which placebo responses are assessed without placebo groups. To do this, the placebo (psychological) component is eliminated by conducting hidden (unexpected) administrations of the active treatment. Compelling experimental evidence now shows that when the psychological component is eliminated through the administration of therapies unbeknownst to the patient, the effects of a variety of treatments are significantly reduced. Overall, the experimental data show that the action of different pharmacological agents can be modulated by cognitive and affective factors that can increase or decrease the effects of drugs. This experimental approach is thus a window into the complex interactions between psychology and pharmacodynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic / psychology
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Placebo Effect
  • Placebos / administration & dosage
  • Research Subjects / psychology*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Placebos