Preventing the nocebo effect

23 Nov 2017

Prominent in the media this week has been the nocebo effect, which involves the overemphasis of negative side-effects inadvertently reducing the pharmacological effectiveness of pain medication.

Research from a recent paper provides tips on helping to prevent the nocebo effect, which includes emphasising positive drug effects and avoiding overemphasising adverse effects. The authors also recommend explaining the mechanisms of drug action and speaking to the patient, rather than just providing written material.

A recent article in MJA also addressed this topic and the difficulties doctors face in finding balance between providing full and complete disclosure and the iatrogenic potential of other information. Doctors could, with their patient’s consent, elect not to describe the benign, non-specific symptoms of the medication. This could potentially help reduce the nocebo effect.