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Know your medical terms: Placebo

Do you know what 'placebo' means? Here's a simple explanation.

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Published : April 14, 2014 1:06 PM IST


Placebo is a term that you must have come across while looking at information related to drugs and medicines or while reading research based articles.

Basically, all drugs are tested for safety and efficacy, first on animals and then on humans, before they are approved for sale in the pharmaceutical market. A research involving determination of safety of a particular drug in humans as the subject group is called a clinical trial or a clinical study.

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A clinical study is designed such that there is no bias while determining the efficacy of a particular drug. Such studies therefore make use of a fake drug to check whether the real drug is actually effective for the condition under test. Such a fake drug is called a placebo. A placebo looks exactly the same as the real drug, in terms of colour, shape, size and texture. But it has an inactive substance which has no known effect on the condition.

In a placebo-controlled clinical study, patients or subjects are divided into groups, one of which receives the placebo and other group receives the real active drug. After the course of therapy is completed, the results obtained from both groups are compared to arrive at a conclusion regarding the drug under test.

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