Migraine Drug Benefits Are Half in Your Head
Study demonstrates power of suggestion
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2014 11:30 AM CST
   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – How effective a drug is has a lot to do with how effective you think it'll be, a new study suggests. Researchers gave 66 migraine sufferers a set of pills, some in envelopes labeled "Maxalt," a common migraine medicine, and others in envelopes labeled "placebo." The catch: Sometimes the "Maxalt" packets contained placebos, and vice-versa. Participants wound up reporting drastically better results when taking Maxalt out of the Maxalt packages than when the drug came out of the placebo packets, WebMD reports.

While the study showed that the drug was effective, "the placebo effect accounted for at least 50% of the subjects' overall pain relief," lead author Ted Kaptchuk said. People taking the placebo, believing it was real, got almost as much relief as those taking real drugs, but believing they were fake. Strangely, even taking a placebo that was labeled as such brought patients some relief. Kaptchuk speculates that simply taking pills triggers a healing subconscious memory, the AP reports.