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Open-Label Placebo Studied in Children With Abdominal Pain, IBS

Open-label placebo may contribute to therapeutic effect in children and adolescents with functional abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome

FRIDAY, Feb. 11, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Open-label placebo (OLP) may have a beneficial effect for the treatment of functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome in children and adolescents, according to a study published online Jan. 31 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Samuel Nurko, M.D., M.P.H., from Boston Children's Hospital, and colleagues conducted a multicenter crossover randomized clinical trial from July 1, 2015, to June 15, 2018, involving children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years with functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome. Participants completed one week of observation and were randomly assigned to OLP for three weeks followed by a three-week control period or a three-week control period followed by three weeks of OLP. Participants took 1.5 mL of an inert liquid placebo twice a day during the OLP period. Participants also were given a bottle of hyoscyamine pills to use as a rescue medication. Data were included for 30 patients: 16 and 14 with functional abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome, respectively.

The researchers found that compared with the control period, the mean pain scores were significantly lower during OLP treatment (39.9 versus 45.0; difference, 5.2). Compared with the OLP period, during the control period, patients took nearly twice as many hyoscyamine pills (mean number, 3.8 versus 2.0; difference, 1.8 pills).

"Our findings suggest that OLP may provide an ethical way to harness the placebo effect as a therapeutic tool in the clinic," the authors write. "More research is required to confirm and extend these findings."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

Abstract/Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)

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