Understanding The Placebo Effect

Grind for December 16th, 2018
“Wish not so much to live long as to live well.”

– Benjamin Franklin

The Saga Continues

The Headline

China agrees to reduce auto tariffs

The Grind

Officials from the US and China held a teleconference Monday in what was the first in a series of negotiations aimed avoid additional tariffs.

Trump on Twitter referred to the talks as “very productive.”

As specified by Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer last week, the Trump Administration will increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10% to 25% if a deal is not reached by March 1st.

The Details

During the teleconference, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He agreed to ramp up agricultural purchases (including soybeans) and to cut tariffs on American cars from 40% to 15%.

Last year, the US sent 266,000 vehicles to China.

The US also expects China to overturn laws that force US companies doing business there to divulge valuable technology and is planning to use export controls, criminal charges, and indictments to counter China’s theft of intellectual property.

According to Chinese lawmaker Wu Handong, Beijing is in the process of passing a revised patent law that would address US concerns.

Adding to the tensions Monday was the recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who was detained by officials in Canada at the request of the US.

The US is seeking Meng’s extradition for misleading banks about Huawei’s business in Iran to evade US sanctions. Meng was released Tuesday on bail.

Say What?

The Headline

New research seeks to pin down the science behind the “placebo effect”

The Grind

The term “placebo” refers to a harmless medication given for psychological rather than physiological benefit.

The effect is bizarre but well documented.

For example, many patients with conditions like depression, PTSD, postoperative pain, and IBS will respond to a sugar pill the same way they would respond to traditional medication.

Despite the research, most doctors, refuse to utilize placebos because they can’t explain how the placebo effect works. And the industry is uninterested because there is no money to be had.

However – based on research presented last month at a placebo conference in the Dutch city of Leiden, all of this could soon change.

The Details

Harvard researcher Ted Kaptchuk has long theorized the placebo effect is a biological response to an experience between a patient and doctor.

To prove this theory, Kaptchuk and his team are taking a close look at the complex biochemical processes that occur when someone experiences the placebo effect. “What makes our research believable to doctors?” asks Kaptchuk. “It’s the molecules. They love that stuff.”

Kaptchuk’s research seeks to prove:

— How the placebo effect works

— Why the effect works for some people and not others

— Why the effect works for some conditions and not others

Overall, Kaptchuk wants to doctors to accept placebos as a real treatment method.

So far, Kaptchuk’s team has determined that a person’s placebo response is related to the COMT enzyme.

“For years, we thought the placebo effect was the work of imagination,” says molecular biologist Kathryn Hall. “Now, through imaging, you can literally see the brain lighting up when you give someone a sugar pill.”

As noted by The New York Times, the team’s research could have massive implications for clinical drug trials and for drugs themselves.

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