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Open-label placebo effective therapy for children with functional abdominal pain or irritable bowel syndrome

0 2 years ago

Patients’ use of rescue pain medication was also significantly lower during the use of the placebo.


Disorders of gut-brain interaction such as functional abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are often chronic and difficult to treat due to a lack of identified organic targets. In several double-blinded studies of medications in children with these disorders, there is a high rate of favourable response amongst those receiving placebo. This multicenter, crossover study is the first to examine the efficacy of an open-label placebo in a pediatric population. 30 participants were randomized to undergo a 3-week control period either before or after taking a placebo sugar suspension twice daily for 3 weeks. All patients were given hyoscyamine tablets as an as-needed rescue pain medication. Patient-reported daily pain scores were significantly lower during the placebo than the control period, and patients required fewer doses of rescue medication. There were no significant patient-reported differences in bowel movements between periods. This study shows a small but convincing effect of open-label placebo on pain associated with functional abdominal pain and IBS in children. Generalizability is limited by the very small sample size. Physicians in this study used a standardized script to explain the nature of the placebo and its potential benefits based on past studies. This could potentially contribute to the placebo effect observed in this study, but could also be readily reproduced in clinical practice.


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