[LINK] Double Blind Trials (Was to do with EMF)

Stewart Fist stewart_fist at optusnet.com.au
Sat Jan 13 12:01:58 AEDT 2007

Kim writes re placebo/blind trials
> I hadn't thought about it quite like that.  Do you think then, that
> the placebo effect is just a virtual effect for the purposes of drug
> testing and not something that's really happening at all?

Double blind trials are used in all sorts of scientific research, most of
which has no placebo at all.

For instance, in-vitro research on cells in the laboratory: in-vivo research
with mice and other animals.  Blinding (single and double) is even used in
epidemiology to avoid investigator-bias in asking questions and recording
answers (not much unfortunately).

The main problem with the placebo effect is that it has been popularised and
promoted by alternate medicine practitioners as if it were something real.

 I haven't looked at the evidence recently, but the last time I looked, a
few years ago, the scientists researching the phenomenon couldn't agree
whether there were real effects or not. Some thought it was entirely
psychological; others said they had found real changes.

Unfortunately most of these trials weren't blind, so it may have been their
own prejudices in action (either way).

That's the problem when you are dealing with humans.  I don't think anyone
disputes that most of the placebo outcomes are positive, but whether they
are physically positive, or mentally positive is the question.

And with complementary medicine, you can also question whether paying
hundreds of dollars for a sugar pill, or for a million-times-diluted
tea-tree-oil enema is entirely justified.

[Did anyone see Hugh McKay's piece in Saturday Sydney Morning Herald?  He
writes about the value of Complimentary Medicine [sic] and placebo.  I think
he must be lurking on Link.  It was right-on.]

Stewart Fist, writer, journalist, film-maker
70 Middle Harbour Road, LINDFIELD, 2070, NSW, Australia
Ph +61 (2) 9416 7458

More information about the Link mailing list