Autism’s Placebo Problem

December 2, 2016

(The Atlantic) – Both drugs seemed effective in early tests until they were compared with a placebo control. In each case, about 30 percent of the participants in the placebo arm improved, which essentially canceled out the power of the drugs being tested. That number is not nearly as high as placebo responses seen in drug trials for pain or depression, but it is higher than expected for a condition that supposedly precludes placebo altogether. Several teams are starting to look more carefully at the placebo effect in people with autism. Their early results paint a fascinating picture of how belief affects not just people with the condition, but also their families.