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The powerful placebo

Updated: June 01, 2008

Modern physicians practice evidence-based medicine. Whenever possible, they use the latest scientific studies to plan their tests and guide their treatments. Even so, medicine is an art as well as a science. Trust, confidence, and belief are important parts of the therapeutic relationship, and they can have a powerful effect on healing.

Scientists understand the importance of expectations and beliefs. They know that some patients feel better after they take a medication, even if the drug turns out to be entirely ineffective. Doctors call it the "placebo effect." It's well-named, since the term is derived from the Latin placere, or "to please."

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