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Review
. 2017 Oct;58(10):1102-1110.
doi: 10.1007/s00108-017-0294-0.

[Placebo and Nocebo : How Can They Be Used or Avoided?]

[Article in German]
Affiliations
Review

[Placebo and Nocebo : How Can They Be Used or Avoided?]

[Article in German]
E Hansen et al. Internist (Berl). .

Abstract

The expectations of patients enhance the probability of their occurrence and are thereby the main triggers for inducing placebo and nocebo responses. Strong placebo effects are not only regularly observed in pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical sham treatment in placebo controlled studies but also make a considerable contribution to any real treatment. The accompanying words are essential to ensure maximum impact of drugs and other forms of treatment. They should contain positive expressions instead of negations. Such a strengthening of drug therapy by placebo effects is more important than the widespread use of placebos that remains a problem because of the obligation to provide information and effective therapy and because of inherently induced side effects. Any false comments about symptoms or side effects can aggravate or induce them. Nocebo effects are not imagined but real symptoms that can definitely be harmful. They constitute a considerable proportion of the side effects requiring treatment. Awareness and knowledge is needed to prevent or neutralize them. Nocebo effects are avoidable when risk information is always directly combined with positive aspects, such as the expected benefits of the treatment or the prophylactic measures and therapeutic options for side effects. Existing negative expectations are disrupted by providing more alternative options and by leaving negative experiences in the past where they belong. Placebo and nocebo effects are strongly sensitive to the context. They are dependent on the experiences and conceptions of the individual patient, as well as on the physician-patient relationship. The latter can provide the best protection against harm from risk disclosure. In addition, the expectations of patients and their consequences are strongly affected by the expectations of the treating doctor, by fellow patients, the media and society.

Keywords: Communication; Drug effects; Nocebo effect; Placebo effect; Risk disclosure.

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