Efficacy of pain killers affected by patient perceptions

The effects of pain killers can be undermined by a person's negative perceptions of them, it has been claimed.

According to new research published in the journal Science Transnational Medicine, the painkilling effects of analgesics can be completely removed by manipulating a patient's expectations.

The scientists behind the new international study claim that as well as having implications in a clinical setting, the startling finding could alter the way that future clinical trials are conducted.

They claimed that the subjective effects witnessed are down to significant changes in neural activity in parts of the brain that are used to code the intensity of pain.

"On the basis of subjective and objective evidence, we contend that an individual's expectation of a drug's effect critically influences its therapeutic efficacy," the researchers claimed.

They added: "It may be necessary to integrate patients' beliefs and expectations into drug treatment regimes."

Recent research conducted at John Moores University in Liverpool found that visual stimuli play a major role in pain perception.


1 Bingel, Ulrike et al. "The Effect of Treatment Expectation on Drug Efficacy: Imaging the Analgesic Benefit of the Opioid Remifentanil". Science Transnational Medicice. Wednesday, February 17th 2011.

2 Manici, Falvia et al. "Visual Distortion of Body Size Modulates Pain Perception". Psychological Science. January 2011.


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