File(s) under permanent embargo

The nocebo effect : a clinicians guide

journal contribution
posted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by J Data-Franco, Michael BerkMichael Berk
Objective: This paper aims to provide an overview on the nocebo effect, focusing on recognition — its phenomenology, at-risk demographic profiles, clinical situations and personality factors, as well as discriminating somatic symptoms in the general population from treatment-related adverse effects. Lastly, the paper addresses available evidence-based strategies for management and minimisation of the nocebo effect.

Method: Data for this paper were identified by searching PubMed using the search terms "nocebo" and “nocebo effect”, augmented by a manual search of the references of the key papers and the related literature.

Results: The nocebo effect refers to non-pharmacodynamic, harmful or undesirable effects occurring after inactive treatment, a phenomenon that also occurs in the context of active therapy. Known drivers include classical conditioning and negative expectations concerning treatment. Recent meta-analyses have reported a considerable prevalence, ranging from 18% in the symptomatic treatment of migraine, to more than 74% in multiple sclerosis. Recognition of the nocebo-driven adverse effects presents a challenge, especially because of its non-specific nature and the similarity to the active medication’s expected profile. Traits such as neuroticism, pessimism and type A personalities may predispose individuals to this phenomenon. Clinical management of the nocebo effect includes awareness and recognition, changing the manner of disclosure of potential drug-related adverse effects, shaping patients’ expectations and enhancing the treatment alliance.

Conclusion: The nocebo effect is a common, clinically significant, yet covert driver of clinical outcomes. Increased awareness of its features, as well as knowledge of strategies on how to manage it, are fundamental so that clinicians can mitigate its impact on clinical practice.

History

Journal

Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry

Volume

47

Issue

7

Pagination

617 - 623

Publisher

Sage Publications

Location

London, England

ISSN

0004-8674

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2012, Sage publishers