8. The World Gets Healthier

Nov-04-2011 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: A quartet of good news stories. The first one is based on a curious and strange fact: if you give people a sugar pill, and tell them it’s a sugar pill, a higher percentage will get better than if you did nothing. The power of a story…. And we follow up with traditional medical stories about progress on three fronts. Now all we need is a cure for aging.

* Meet the Ethical Placebo: A Story that Heals   NeuroTribes

In a previous study published in the British Medical Journal in 2008, Kaptchuk and Kirsch demonstrated that placebo treatment can be highly effective for alleviating the symptoms of IBS. This time, however, instead of the trial being “blinded,” it was “open.” That is, the volunteers in the placebo group knew that they were getting only inert pills — which they were instructed to take religiously, twice a day. They were also informed that, just as Ivan Pavlov trained his dogs to drool at the sound of a bell, the body could be trained to activate its own built-in healing network by the act of swallowing a pill.

In other words, in addition to the bogus medication, the volunteers were given a true story — the story of the placebo effect. They also received the care and attention of clinicians, which have been found in many other studies to be crucial for eliciting placebo effects. The combination of the story and a supportive clinical environment were enough to prevail over the knowledge that there was really nothing in the pills. People in the placebo arm of the trial got better — clinically, measurably, significantly better — on standard scales of symptom severity and overall quality of life. In fact, the volunteers in the placebo group experienced improvement comparable to patients taking a drug called alosetron, the standard of care for IBS.

Meet the ethical placebo: a powerfully effective faux medication that meets all the standards of informed consent.

* Battle against TB is being won, says World Health OrganisationThe Guardian

The battle against what used to be known as the White Death –tuberculosis – is apparently being won, with a steady year on year decline in the numbers infected with the disease and dying from it, according to the World Health Organisation. The WHO’s annual report says that 2010 saw the lowest number of cases and of deaths for a decade. There were 8.8 million cases of disease, down from 9 million in the peak year of 2005. Deaths dropped from 1.8 million in 2003 to 1.4 million. Yet the UN warned that declining funding, as donor governments retrench in response to the tough economic climate, could put this progress at risk and cause problems in dealing with the worrying rise in cases of multi drug-resistant TB (MDRTB).

* Cancer Drug Trial Halted In Uk For Being Too SuccessfulAustralian News

THE trail of a new drug for prostate cancer was halted in the UK because the results were too good. Doctors at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London concluded that it would have been unethical not to offer it to all 922 cancer patients on the trial after the drug was shown to ease pain and cause only minor side-effects, The (London) Sunday Telegraph said….Cancer patients on the new treatment have a 30 per cent lower death rate compared to those on placebo pills. “It would have been unethical not to offer the active treatment to those taking placebo,” Dr Parker said at the 2011 European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm.

* AIDS vaccine breakthrough

Scientists say they have found a way to disarm the AIDS virus in research that could lead to a vaccine.  Researchers have discovered that if they eliminate a cholesterol membrane surrounding the virus, HIV cannot disrupt communication among disease-fighting cells and the immune system returns to normal.



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