Topical and Injected Placebos More Effective Than Pills Interview with:
Raveendhara R Bannuru MD, PhD, FAGE
Director, Center for Treatment Comparison and Integrative Analysis (CTCIA)
Asst Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine
Special & Scientific Staff, Center for Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases
Tufts Medical Center Boston, MA

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Bannuru: Placebos are used to determine the efficacy of a wide variety of treatments for medical conditions such as osteoarthritis. A sound understanding of potential differences among placebos is essential for determining the relative efficacy of such treatments.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Bannuru: Our results indicate that different types of placebos do in fact differ in efficacy. Placebo injections and topical placebos were both found to be more effective than orally administered placebos for reducing knee osteoarthritis pain.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Bannuru: Clinicians and patients should consider the method of administration when choosing treatments for knee osteoarthritis pain, as intra-articular injections and topical creams are associated with placebo benefits in addition to their active treatment effects.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Bannuru: Selection of appropriate placebo controls is an important consideration in the design of future clinical trials.  Moreover, future research should rule out potential confounding study factors such as trial design or patient population differences as explanations for differences among placebo types. Such endeavors could thereby confirm the potential clinical benefits associated with treatment administration methods.


Bannuru RR, McAlindon TE, Sullivan MC, Wong JB, Kent DM, Schmid CH. Effectiveness and Implications of Alternative Placebo Treatments: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis of Osteoarthritis Trials. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 28 July 2015] doi:10.7326/M15-0623


Raveendhara R Bannuru MD, PhD, FAGE (2015). Topical and Injected Placebos More Effective Than Pills 

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