Three recent empirical studies on the use of placebos and two papers arguing for the deliberate use of placebos in clinical practice are analysed. Empirical studies demonstrate that placebos are commonly used. The concept of the placebo is currently understood in different ways, many of which do not refer to inert substances or treatments. The papers arguing for the use of placebos are shown to fail to make their case.
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Funding: The Finnish Cultural Foundation has supported my work.
Competing interests: None declared.
Provenance and Peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.