The most intriguing newspaper article I’ve read recently identified the “nocebo effect” of drugs on fearful patients.
“The placebo effect is a result of the patient’s expectation that the treatment will help,” wrote Paul Enck and Winfried Hauser in the New York Times. “But expectations can also do harm. When a patient anticipates a pill’s possible side effects, he can suffer them even if the pill is fake.”
The authors, the first a professor of psychology and the second a professor of psychosomatic medicine, advised doctors to be mindful of the dangers of the nocebo effect, “particularly when informing patients about a treatment’s potential complications.”
The article didn’t speculate on possible implications of the nocebo effect, but imaginative readers certainly will. To begin with, it sounds like the beginning of the end for those hilariously appalling pharmaceutical ads that pervade contemporary TV. These are the ones offering 30 seconds of rejuvenated men and women gamboling through fields of daisies, followed by a 30-second rapid-fire recitation of reported side effects, sudden death always among them.