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Drug Prices & Nocebos

October 6, 2017

Can a drug’s price tag influence its side effects?

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The side effects of drug prices. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

More expensive drugs sometimes work better because patients expect them to. But this can have a flipside called the nocebo effect: people also expect pricier drugs to have more negative side effects. Now, researchers report in the journal Science that volunteers using a dermititis cream labeled with an expensive name brand reported more pain and had increased activity in pain processing areas of the brain, than those who used a cream with a cheap, generic label. University Medical Center of Hamburg neuroscientist Alexandra Tinnermann says the creams were actually identical and contained no active ingredients.

ALEXANDRA TINNERMANN (University Medical Center of Hamburg, Germany):

The nocebo effect is stronger in the expensive group than the cheap group.  

HIRSHON:

She says the results could help guide doctors when discussing a drug’s side effects with patients. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard