Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent moderate to severe headaches often in association with a number of autonomic nervous system symptoms.
In a new study, Science News reports, migraine medications labeled as placebos dulled headache pain less effectively than the same pills identified either as the genuine medication or as possibly a genuine drug. In the study, placebo pills were given to migraine patients alongside traditional remedies. The placebo pills worked the same way, easing headache pain better, when they were labeled as definitely or possibly containing active medication.
The placebo pills were mislabeled as the migraine drug Maxalt. These pills provided close to as much pain relief as when the drug Maxalt mislabeled as a placebo. Relative to no treatment, the placebo, under each information condition, accounted for more than 50 percent of the drug effect. Increasing “positive” information incrementally boosted the efficacy of both placebo and medication during migraine attacks.
The study was carried out by neuroscientist Rami Burstein of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues. The findings have been reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The study is called “Altered Placebo and Drug Labeling Changes the Outcome of Episodic Migraine Attacks.”