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Drug Prices & Nocebos

October 6, 2017

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



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.  


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