Views & Reviews Outside the Box

The golden age of the placebo

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 30 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3016
  1. Colin Brewer, research director of the Stapleford Centre, London SW1W 9NP
  1. brewerismo{at}

The first general practice locum I did was in a large Yorkshire village. I soon got to know the local pharmacist, whose family had owned the business for three generations. Among the Victorian devices in the back of his shop was a small, lidded box about 5 cm square. The pharmacist drew my attention to traces of gold in the corners; it was a device for coating placebo pills with a thin layer of gold dust. Their price could then …

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