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    Surprising Twists on the Placebo Effect in Migraine Study

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    Geo Beats

    by Geo Beats

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    In a recent study, doctors tried to use the power of “mind over matter” to increase the effectiveness of a migraine drug requiring multiple doses for total pain relief, but the results were not what they expected.

    According to the World Health Organization, around 10 percent of adults live with migraines, which happen due to irregular brain activity. In a recent study, doctors tried to use the power of “mind over matter” to increase the effectiveness of a migraine drug requiring multiple doses for total pain relief, but the results were not what they expected.

    Harvard’s Dr. Rami Burstein explained, “The motivation was to figure out whether there was something in the information we give the patients that could actually made the drug more effective.”

    Researchers told 66 patients to take the pain-relieving drug Maxalt and placebos, or sugar pills that do not relieve pain, in a certain order when a migraine started. The pills in envelopes were labeled “Maxalt,” “placebo,” or “Maxalt or placebo.” What the patients didn’t know was certain pills in each set were switched out.

    While Maxalt relieved the most pain when labeled “Maxalt,” Maxalt’s effectiveness was considerably reduced when labeled “placebo.” Even more strangely, 15 percent of patients reported no pain after taking a placebo labeled “placebo.”

    When it comes to mental perceptions, Burstein concluded, “We can reduce the effectiveness of the drug but we cannot increase it.” He added that while migraines are very real, future research should be aimed at why certain people’s brains have a stronger “ability to turn off pain signals.”