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Why drugs are not as effective - or safe - as they're telling us
About the author: 

How do you know a drug is safe and effective? Because it's tested against a placebo, or sugar pill, and you know it works if it significantly outperforms the dummy pill

How do you know a drug is safe and effective? Because it's tested against a placebo, or sugar pill, and you know it works if it significantly outperforms the dummy pill. But suppose the sugar pill isn't as benign as we think - suppose it contains a chemical that makes even a bad drug look good? The trouble is, nobody has checked - until now.
Finally, researchers have started to take a look at the placebo, a method used in countless drug trials over the years. A research team from the University of California's school of medicine in San Diego scanned four of the major medical journals published in 2008 and 2009 - and discovered that hardly any trials listed the ingredients of the placebo.
As the composition of the placebo can have a big effect on a drug trial's results, its ingredients should be listed every time, they say.
(Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, 2010; 153: 532-5).

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