"New research shows that people who thought they were given a pricier painkiller reported less pain than those who believe they took the same drug at a discounted price."
Story on WebMD.
I also heard about this on NPR this morning, and the report there focused on the implications of the cost factor, as does this WebMD story. As one of the researchers asks, "How do we give people cheaper medication, or a generic, without them thinking it won't work?"
Two groups in the study were given sugar pills. One group was told the pills cost $2.50 each; the other was told they cost 10 cents each. Of those who took the "more expensive" pill, 85 percent experienced reduced pain when subsequently subject to an electric shock, while only 61 percent of those who took the "cheaper" pill felt their pain had been eased.
It seems to me there are many more important unanswered questions here than how do we give people cheaper drugs without undermining their effectiveness. Such as: why do we prescribe chemical substances at all when sugar pills often work just as well, as long as people think they're real drugs? Or, even: how is it that our bodies can heal themselves under the power of suggestion?