Why do open-label placebos work?

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Open-label placebos (OLPs) are placebos administered without deception, meaning patients are aware they are receiving a placebo. Despite this knowledge, OLPs have been found to be effective in various clinical trials, although the exact mechanisms behind their effectiveness are not fully understood125. One theory suggests that the effectiveness of OLPs is linked to the power of positive suggestion and the body's automatic response to taking medication. For instance, patients are often briefed that although placebos are inactive substances and contain no medication, placebo effects may still be powerful. This explanation points out that the body may automatically respond to taking medication, similar to Pavlov's dogs that salivated when they heard a bell. Patients are also told that a positive attitude may be helpful for the placebo effect, but it is not necessary3. Another aspect that may contribute to the effectiveness of OLPs is the interaction between the patient and the healthcare provider. During these interactions, patients are often informed about the placebo effect and the aims of the trial. This open communication may foster a therapeutic relationship that contributes to the placebo effect8. However, it's important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind the effectiveness of OLPs. The current research is promising, but it's still in its early stages1.
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