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Placebos Help Patients Even Without Faking It, Scientists Say

The placebo effect, an improvement in health that occurs when a clinical trial patient is given a dummy pill, works even when the patient knows the medicine is fake, according to a Harvard study.

Fifty-nine percent of patients with irritable bowel syndrome who were given placebos described to them as “like sugar pills,” reported relief of their symptoms, compared with 35 percent of those who got no treatment at all, according to a published in the journal PLoS One. Placebos are mostly used in trials as comparisons to drugs being studied.