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Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that placebo controls are almost never described according to standard reporting guidelines.

Poorly reported placebos may lead to mistaken estimates of benefits

Their findings are published today in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Placebo controls are the ‘gold’ standard against which new treatments are often measured. If a new treatment consistently proves to be better than a placebo treatment, then it is taken to be effective. Otherwise, it isn’t.

Co-lead author and Director of the Oxford Empathy Programme, Jeremy Howick, said: ‘There is a fundamental problem with this “gold” standard. Different placebos have very different effects, which then lead to (sometimes, mistaken) inferences about a new treatment’s effects or harms.’

Read more (University of Oxford website)

Jeremey Howick has also written an article for The Conversation 'Placebos: what they’re made of matters'