Daily Health Headlines

Power of Suggestion Revealed in Study of Migraine Drug

👤by Mary Brophy Marcus 0 comments 🕔Thursday, January 9th, 2014

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new study of migraine sufferers suggests that what you're told when your doctor prescribes medication can influence your body's response to it.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston compared the effects of a common migraine drug and an inactive placebo in 66 people who suffer from migraines. The condition includes throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.

The results consistently showed that taking the pills accompanied by positive information increased the effectiveness of the treatment, whether the patient had taken the real deal -- the drug Maxalt -- or a pill labeled "placebo."

Headache specialist Dr. Andrew Charles said the study demonstrates that expectation about response plays an important role in the ultimate response to a treatment.

"When migraine patients were told by their doctor that a pill would help ease their headaches, this advice seemed to produce results whether or not the pill was a real migraine medication or a dummy placebo," said Charles, professor and director of the headache research and treatment program in the department of neurology at University of California School of Medicine, Los Angeles.

"Relief was still higher with the actual medicine, so drugs do work beyond the placebo effect, but the researchers say that the placebo effect may still account for half of the therapeutic value of a drug," said Charles, who was not involved in the research.

For the study, published online Jan. 8 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the scientists studied more than 450 migraine attacks in the study participants, following them over seven separate episodes.

To establish a baseline, each person was asked to report their pain and symptoms 30 minutes after the onset of an unmedicated migraine episode, and again 2.5 hours after its onset.

Each participant then received six treatment envelopes. The envelopes were labeled in one of three ways: "Maxalt" (rizatriptan); "placebo"; or "Maxalt or placebo." The labels were true for four attacks and false for two attacks.

The three situations were labeled by the researchers as positive (meaning a drug that could help with migraine symptoms was provided), negative (meaning no drug, only a placebo pill was provided), or neutral (meaning it was unknown if the drug or placebo pill was within the envelope). But for two situations, one of the "Maxalt" envelopes actually held a placebo and one of the "placebo" envelopes contained Maxalt.

The participants were asked to self-report their responses to treatment over the course of their next six migraine episodes.

Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, a senior author of the study, said that even though Maxalt was superior to the placebo in terms of alleviating pain, "we found that under each of the three messages, the placebo effect accounted for at least 50 percent of the subjects' overall pain relief."

When Maxalt was labeled "Maxalt," the patients' reports of pain relief more than doubled compared to when Maxalt was labeled "placebo," said Kaptchuk, a professor of medicine at Harvard. "This tells us that the effectiveness of a good pharmaceutical may be doubled by enhancing the placebo effect," he said.

When patients received Maxalt labeled as placebo, they were being treated by the medication but without any positive expectation, the other senior author, Rami Burstein, a professor of medicine at Harvard, said in a Beth Israel news release. "This was an attempt to isolate the pharmaceutical effect of Maxalt from any placebo effect," Burstein said.

The authors were surprised to find that even when patients were given a placebo labeled as "placebo," they reported pain relief, compared with no treatment.

"We don't know what that's about. It's a novel finding," added Kaptchuk.

Charles said the study was interesting and confirms what many experts believe about the placebo effect. "It's more rigorous than perhaps a number of the other studies that have been done previously," he noted.

Could these results play out across the spectrum of medical care?

"Obviously we don't know, we only looked at migraine," said Kaptchuk, "but I think that in many categories of illness and drugs, this would be proof of concept.

"This is likely to be operating in many other conditions, especially in conditions like nausea or irritable bowel syndrome, where a person's illness is defined by self-report," he added. "Self-reporting is a big part of what people feel."

More research will be needed to explore how these findings could be applied to clinical care and to learn more about how placebos might help boost drug treatment care, Kaptchuk said.

Some research has suggested that simply hearing the words of medicine can have a healing effect, he noted.

The study was partly funded by Merck and Co., the maker of Maxalt.

Article Credits / Source

Mary Brophy Marcus / HealthDay

Mary Brophy Marcus wrote this story for HealthDay. HealthDay provides up to the minute breaking health news. Click here to view this full article from HealthDay.

SOURCES: Ted Kaptchuk, professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Andrew Charles, M.D., professor and director, Headache Research and Treatment Program, department of neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles; Jan. 8, 2014, Science Translational Medicine, online

View More Articles From Mary Brophy Marcus 🌎View Article Website

Sponsored Product

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

People who have trouble sleeping typically have low levels of melatonin, so melatonin supplements seem like a logical fix for insomnia. There is a high demand for sleep aids, especially in the U.S. The National Health Interview Survey done in 2002, and again in 2007, found 1.6 million US adults were using complementary and alternative sleep aids for insomnia. Lunar Sleep was a top choice. Use Promo Code: Sleep2014 and only pay $1.95 S&H.

Get Lunar Sleep for $1.95

More Migraine Headaches Articles

Migraine and Stroke Risk Linked Again

Migraine and Stroke Risk Linked Again0

TUESDAY, Nov. 15, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Women who experience migraines have more than double the risk of suffering a stroke, new research shows. The finding adds evidence to the suspected link between these two conditions. Although it's not ...

Study Questions Use of Migraine Meds in Kids, Teens

Study Questions Use of Migraine Meds in Kids, Teens0

THURSDAY, Oct. 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A new study raises questions about the effectiveness of medicines commonly prescribed to prevent migraines in children and teens. The 24-week clinical trial involving 328 patients found no significant ...

More Kids and Teens Heading to ER With Headaches

More Kids and Teens Heading to ER With Headaches0

FRIDAY, Oct. 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A growing number of American children with headaches are being seen at pediatric emergency departments and admitted to the hospital, researchers report. The researchers at the Children's Hospital of ...

Mouth and Gut Germs May Be Linked to Migraines

Mouth and Gut Germs May Be Linked to Migraines0

TUESDAY, Oct. 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- People with migraines have higher levels of certain microbes, or germs, in their mouths and digestive systems, new research suggests. Specifically, the analysis of data from the American Gut Project ...

For Migraine Sufferers, Is a Chiropractor's Touch All in the Mind?

For Migraine Sufferers, Is a Chiropractor's Touch All in the Mind?0

TUESDAY, Oct. 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- People with migraines sometimes seek a chiropractor for help, but a small study suggests that any pain relief they get might be a placebo effect. When researchers pitted real chiropractic manipulation ...

View More Migraine Headaches Articles

0 Comments

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest health news as it breaks!

Your information will not be shared with anyone!