Christopher J. Combs, Ph.D.

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04/23/2004: "I Need This Like Another Hole in the Head"

Remember when I told you about how they used to do studies of cardiac bypass graft surgery by performing sham surguries on those assigned to the control group? Well, here's a summary of an article looking at the effects of fetal tissue implants on Parkinson symptoms. It appears that much, if not all, of the improvement can be attributed to the placebo effect. But mainly, I thought you would like to hear about patients in the control condition:

"NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Apr 22 - In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of fetal tissue transplantation for the treatment of Parkinson's disease (PD), clinicians and patients both reported greater improvement when they believed the patients were in the active treatment arm of the study.

"The results of the first double-blind study of embryonic dopamine-neuron transplantation for PD suggested some improvement with active treatment. Both groups received four burr holes in the forehead. In the sham treatment group, however, needles did not penetrate the brain."

Its seems that almost all of the patients, having received the burr holes and needles, were convinced they were in the treatment condition. Also makes you wonder about the effectiveness of the informed consent.

P.S. To read the article, registration at Medscape may be required.

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