El mito de los placebos

Frecuentemente los médicos e investigadores dan a los pacientes un tratamiento que parece real pero que en realidad es “falso”. Esos tratamientos (llamados placebos) se aplican en dos situaciones. Se utilizan en investigaciones para que los pacientes (y con frecuencia también los investigadores) no sepan si están recibiendo medicamentos o, digamos, sólo una tableta de lactosa. Esto es importante si se quiere probar científicamente la verdadera efectividad de un nuevo fármaco (o tratamiento). Sin embargo, los médicos e investigadores también creen que dar una píldora a un paciente puede tener efectos poderosos sobre las enfermedades, incluso si la pastilla no contiene ninguna sustancia activa. Durante medio siglo se ha sostenido que los placebos pueden afectar no sólo las sensaciones subjetivas (como cuando un paciente que está recibiendo tabletas de lactosa reporta una disminución de dolor) sino también resultados objetivos, como la inflamación e incluso el infarto al miocardio. En efecto, en 1955, Henry Beecher publicó un famoso artículo en el
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