It may shed light,or specifically a glaring high..." /> It may shed light,or specifically a glaring high..." />

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Norman Cousins on Placebos Paige

Posted by Jane D on May 26, 2001, at 22:57:54

In reply to Re: NEJM Article says placebo effect small Jane D, posted by Paige on May 26, 2001, at 6:48:40

> Jane,
> Read "Anatomy of An Illness," by Norman Cousins.
> It may shed light,or specifically a glaring high
> beam on the issue of placebos. Not a panacea, but amust
> read I think.
> Paige


Thank you for the recommendation. I'm finding the book interesting. It has also given me a new favorite image.

"No greater popular fallacy exists about medicine than that a drug is like an arrow that can be shot at a particularized target. Its actual effect is more like a shower of porcupine quills."
(Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness)


I think he's a bit sneaky in the placebo chapter. He starts by stating that most illness go away all by themselves even if you do nothing. He then argues that placebos cure and supports it with a long list of studies. Here he assumes that everytime a patient in the placebo group got better AFTER they received a placebo it means that they got bettter BECAUSE of the placebo.

The current article says that those patients are the ones who would have gotten better anyway and it seems to be able to prove it. If this is true then all the theories on why placebos cure go out the window.


PS. There is an editorial about this in the same edition of the journal. The editorial is available online for free. And it does have some criticisms of the study. It is at:




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