Michael Specter of The New Yorker has a piece on Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center .
The program was formed to explore an idea that even twenty years ago would have seemed preposterous: that placebos—given deliberately—might be deployed in clinical practice. As medicine. … The research has been propelled in large measure by the emerging discipline of neuroimaging. In several recent studies, placebos have performed as well as drugs that Americans spend millions of dollars on every year.
There’s growing evidence that placebos can actually help cure people, or at least make them feel better. If true, this could spark a major revolution in medicine, because traditionally placebos have had a bad name. After all, they’re usually a fake pill, nothing more than a bit of sugar, for example, designed to deceive people in clinical drug trials.