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Double-blind placebo-controlled study?

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Terri R.
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Joined: 21 Apr 2004
Posts: 562
Location: So. Calif.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2005 3:21 p    Post subject: Double-blind placebo-controlled study? Reply with quote

What is a Double-blind placebo-controlled study?

The most often talked about, and most reliable method of research, is the double-blind placebo-controlled study.  Treatments are considered to be proven effective when they have been examined in properly designed and sufficiently large double-blind studies. 

In these experiments, half a group of subjects receives the actual treatment or substance being tested while the other half receives a placebo (fake) designed to appear, as much as possible, like the real treatment or substance. Individuals in both groups don't know whether they are getting the real treatment or placebo (thus the term "blind"). Furthermore, the researchers administering the treatment and the placebo are also kept in the dark about which group is receiving which treatment (making it a "double-blind" experiment).  The researchers are kept in the dark, so to speak, in order to prevent them for unintentionally tipping off the study participants, or unconsciously biasing their evaluation of the results.

The purpose of this kind of study is to eliminate the power of suggestion. It's quite common to see the placebo treatments produce dramatic and long-lasting results in a majority of the people who are given them. If the people in the real treatment group fare significantly better, it is a strong indication that the treatment really works.

A good double-blind study should enroll at least 100 people, preferably as many as 300.  While effective treatments canprove themselves in smaller trials, 30 or fewer people generally doesn't prove anything at all.
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