Clinical Trials Vocabulary
Is the process by which two or more alternative treatments are assigned to study participants by chance rather than by choice. It is similar to flipping a coin.
Importance of Placebo Group
A placebo is a substance or other kind of treatment that looks just like a regular treatment or medicine, but is not. It’s actually an inactive “look-alike” treatment or substance. This means it’s not a medicine.
Typically, the person getting a placebo doesn’t know for sure that the treatment isn’t real. Sometimes the placebo is in the form of a “sugar pill,” but a placebo can also be an injection, a liquid, or even a procedure. It’s designed to seem like a real treatment, but doesn’t directly affect the illness or condition.
Placebos may be used in clinical trials. Before a new treatment is used on people, it’s studied in the lab. If lab studies suggest the treatment will work, the next step is to test it on animals. If that also gives promising results, it may then be tested in clinical trials to see if it has value for humans.
The main reason to have a placebo group is to be sure that any effects that happen are actually caused by the treatment and not some other factor. Study participants that receive placebo treatment receive the same care and study procedures as those that are treated with the study treatment or medicine. This allows investigators to attribute changes in participant health to the study treatment or medicine.
The placebo looks, tastes, or feels just like the actual treatment, so that the patient and doctor’s expectations don’t affect the outcomes. The placebo control makes it possible to “blind” patients and doctors to which treatment they’re getting. This is called a double-blind controlled study, and neither the volunteers taking part in the study nor their doctors know who’s getting which treatment. This study design helps avoid biases in measuring outcomes that can be caused by the researchers or the patients’ expectations about the treatment.