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During the clinical evaluation of drugs for various diseases, it has been found that drugs known to be inactive still produce what appears to be a healing response.   This presents a complication in the design of clinical drug trials since their purpose of is to determine the specific contribution of an active drug to the healing process.  To isolate the efficacy of the drug alone, drug trials are usually designed to compare the test drug to that of a physically identical, yet inert substance.  Such inert substances are known as placebos.  

In clinical drug trials, the response of the trial drug is often tested against the inactive placebo.  as the difference between The placebo effect is the measurable or observable effect on a person or group that has been given a placebo rather than an active substance.  It is likely that much of the response to homeopathic medicines is attributable to the placebo effect.  

Placebo Effect External Links

The Hawthorne Effect
Homeopathy Mail List Placebo effect
Skeptical Inquirer - January 1997 - The Mysterious Placebo
Placebo as Suggestion
Placebo Effect In Depressed Patients Taking Antidepressants
Skeptic's Dictionary the placebo effect
The placebo effect in physical therapy
The Placebo Effect
Placebo effect lasts for years
New Scientist Planet Science Award-winning weekly news from around the world
New Scientist Planet Science Patient heal thyself
Real Audio Coverage reports on National Public Radio:
Placebo effect in conventional medicine
Placebo effect in alternative medicine
Psychiatric Times study of placebo effect

Other references

Placebo: Theory Research and Mechanisms edited by Leonard White, Bernard Tursky, and Gary Schwartz, Guilford Press, New York, 1985
Placebo Effects in Health and Disease: Index of New Information with Authors, Subjects and References by Joseph Hartwick, ABBE Publications, Washington DC, 1996

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