Placebos have helped to ease symptoms of illness for centuries and have been a fundamental component of clinical research to test new drug therapies for more than 70 years. But why some people respond to placebos and others do not remains under debate.
With the advent of genomics, researchers are learning that placebo responses are modified by a person’s genetics, a discovery that raises important new questions regarding the role of the placebo in patient care and in drug development: How many genetic biomarkers exist? Can the medical field harness the placebo response to enhance personalized medical treatment? What might be the impact of placebo-drug interactions? And what will this new information mean for randomized clinical trials, which depend on placebo controls to test the efficacy of new drug candidates? Should a “no-treatment” control be added to future trials?