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Why Use Placebos in Animal Research?

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posted on Jan, 4 2012 @ 10:55 PM
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Why Use Placebos


In Animal Research?




Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- An experimental vaccine developed by a Johnson & Johnson unit and the U.S. military protected monkeys against an animal version of the AIDS virus, a study found.

Monkeys that got the vaccine were as much as 83 percent less likely than those that got a dummy shot to become infected with simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, researchers from Harvard Medical School and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program said in a study published online in the journal Nature today.

They now plan to test the vaccine in humans. While previous vaccine trials have helped to keep AIDS at bay by controlling the virus in infected monkeys, this is the first to prevent monkeys from becoming infected, said Dan Barouch, a professor of medicine at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who led the study.

“There’s more hope now than ever before that the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine is indeed possible,” Barouch said in a telephone interview today.

The research builds on the first partially successful HIV vaccine trial in Thailand in 2009, which showed that two inoculations that hadn’t worked on their own offered some patients protection when given in combination. The first prompts the immune system to produce so-called killer T-cells that are primed to hunt and destroy infected cells, and antibodies that go after the virus itself. The second repeats the dose, boosting the body’s defenses.

The results in that trial showed about a 31 percent reduction in infections compared with placebo, though the benefit waned after a year.


As I understand the use of placebos in human medical research, an inert substance such as distilled water or saline or sugar is substituted for the actual drug therapy. Presumably, this is a laboratory control, administered so that the human recipient doesn't KNOW whether or not he's receiving an actual drug.

As we know, humans have a curious facility for healing themselves when they BELIEVE they are healing, whether or not they are receiving drug therapy. So, humans can be fooled into thinking that they're getting better. That's the so-called "placebo effect," which can skew the results of drug testing.

To compensate for this peculiar human tendency to heal by Faith alone, drug researchers will introduce a doubt factor into the testing, by administering a placebo to half of the test subjects and an actual drug therapy to the other half of the subjects.

All test subjects are informed of the placebo, but NOBODY knows who actually received it (not even many of the researchers). This introduces an element of doubt into the testing, which tends to compensate for the Placebo Effect, resulting in more reliable test results.

Now, I can see how this would work in human test subjects, okay? Humans can be fooled through the use of placebo controls.

But WHY must drug researchers employ placebo controls with rhesus monkeys? Monkeys have no idea, they have no concept of drug testing or human faith healing.

It would seem to me that researchers could test groups of monkeys without ANY placebo controls, right? The monkeys either respond to the drug therapy or they do not, because the monkeys have no anticipation of healing.

So, why do you think placebo controls are necessary for testing dumb animals?

Can it be because drug researchers ACKNOWLEDGE that third-party observation can remotely INFLUENCE drug testing? That is to say, if the researchers themselves expect a certain result, can their EXPECTATIONS skew the test results, even when the test subjects are dumb animals?




posted on Jan, 4 2012 @ 11:02 PM
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I would disagree, if they didn't give the placebo to the monkeys, then they would have nothing to compare the numbers to, meaning no available data.



posted on Jan, 4 2012 @ 11:09 PM
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I use to help conduct double-blind placebo studies amongst others in Austin...placebo is used in human for multiple reasons, the main one is for integrity of research.

But in the OP the drug was given to a percentage while a percentage was basically given a sugar pill..My guess would be to compare the drug's effectiveness against the disease in ration to the one's who weren't.



posted on Jan, 4 2012 @ 11:18 PM
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Originally posted by pocketsando
I would disagree, if they didn't give the placebo to the monkeys, then they would have nothing to compare the numbers to, meaning no available data.


My point is, the animal researchers KNOW that all the test subjects are similarly infected. ALL the monkeys have been infected with simian immunodeficiency virus. Half of them receive the actual drug therapy, while the other half do not receive the drug therapy.

Isn't that enough of a control situation for dumb animals who do not even KNOW they're participating in a clinical experiment? On the one hand, the animals' immune systems are knowingly compromised — on the other hand, half of the animals receive a prospective drug therapy.

Isn't that enough of a control for dumb animals? Their natural immune response versus a vaccine therapy?

Why is saline or distilled water or fruit sugar a deciding factor? The monkeys don't know they're involved in a clinical trial, so why complicate the testing with inert compounds?



posted on Jan, 4 2012 @ 11:38 PM
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It is because we want variables such as being stuck with a needle, and having saline injected into your system to be excluded in the data collected. Therefore we can conclude they have no factor in the outcome.



posted on Jan, 4 2012 @ 11:39 PM
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You understand why I posted this under "general conspiracies," I hope.

I think the use of placebo controls in drug testing is to circumvent a VERY REAL facility of human test subjects to not only heal themselves through the power of suggestion, but to prevent researchers from skewing the test results through their anticipation of specific results.

It's the Quantum Physics conundrum, whereby a Universe that KNOWS it's being observed tends to produce the RESULTS anticipated by the observer.

Hence the necessity of not only fooling the test subjects, but also fooling the researchers.



posted on Jan, 4 2012 @ 11:44 PM
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Originally posted by randomtangentsrme
It is because we want variables such as being stuck with a needle, and having saline injected into your system to be excluded in the data collected. Therefore we can conclude they have no factor in the outcome.


But ALL the simian test subjects have been injected, they've ALL been infected similarly. The simians don't know the difference between a lethal injection, a prospective vaccine, and a placebo control.

Only the RESEARCHERS know the difference.

So isn't the placebo control intended to circumvent the expectations of the researchers?

I mean, you could just as well PRAY over half the test subjects, could you not?



edit on 4-1-2012 by ZeskoWhirligan because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 12:05 AM
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reply to post by ZeskoWhirligan
 


You could pray over them. I do not think that was part of the study. But how simians react to a saline shot vs. how they react to the drug might be. I was not part of the study so I cannot be certain.



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 12:45 AM
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Originally posted by randomtangentsrme
reply to post by ZeskoWhirligan
 


You could pray over them. I do not think that was part of the study. But how simians react to a saline shot vs. how they react to the drug might be. I was not part of the study so I cannot be certain.


Well, why would simians (or humans) react in a certain way to INERT COMPOUNDS? Why not control the content of oxygen and nitrogen in the air they breathe? Don't be naive here... There is no physical reason to think distilled water or saline or fruit sugar is more or less a factor in the way infected animals respond to a prospective vaccine.

We could STOP FEEDING the animals, couldn't we? I mean, you could alter the amount of LIGHT they received. Why introduce placebo controls of ANY kind?



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 01:12 AM
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reply to post by ZeskoWhirligan
 



Because if the saline was contaminated it might kill all of them and without a control you wouldn't know if it was the drug or the mixing agent. Because if the random grad student was bad at giving shots it would show on both sides of the equation. There is always a reason to have a control.
I fail to see why a possible breakthrough on AIDS research has you in such a huff.



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 01:29 AM
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Originally posted by randomtangentsrme
I fail to see why a possible breakthrough on AIDS research has you in such a huff.


Sweetheart, I don't give a damn about a breakthrough in AIDS research. HIV/AIDS is NOT a contagion, it's NOT a pandemic. HIV/AIDS is a disease of CHOICE. We could stop it right NOW if we just modified our behavior slightly, okay?

You have to CHOOSE to catch HIV/AIDS. You can CHOOSE to stop the disease. It aint smallpox, okay?

My premise, from the OP onward, concerns the use of placebos in animal test subjects.

No, you don't get to derail the thread with your AIDS-conscious accusations. Keep moving.



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 01:38 AM
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reply to post by ZeskoWhirligan
 


Agreed. Let's leave the nature of the research out of it.
Please respond to the rest of my post.
I will pick this up tomorrow after work.



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 02:09 AM
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Originally posted by randomtangentsrme
Because if the saline was contaminated it might kill all of them and without a control you wouldn't know if it was the drug or the mixing agent.


Well, as I've said, WHY introduce another element of uncertainty into the testing process? WHY introduce an injection of ANYTHING that has nothing to do with the vaccine? Why not inject the control group with HELIUM, for petesake?

Why not inject the control group with CYANIDE? Heh heh heh

See? There's no reason to inject the controls with ANYTHING. The animals were ALREADY infected with SIVS. Why not test the animals' natural immune systems against the vaccine therapy?


Originally posted by randomtangentsrme
Because if the random grad student was bad at giving shots it would show on both sides of the equation. There is always a reason to have a control.


Well, if THAT is the reason for placebo controls, then I would be conducting an entirely different set of tests — I'd be testing the researchers for COMPETENCY.


edit on 5-1-2012 by ZeskoWhirligan because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 02:40 AM
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There should be no animal research , just as there should be no expolitation of children/ the infirm/or the disadvantaged..
We all are equal in love.
Deeper understanding.



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 03:28 AM
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Great question with an easy answer. This is called a "double blind" study -- the participant AND the scientists don't know whether any medication was administered.

Scientists found out awhile back that simply knowing which of their test subjects received a drug, and which received a placebo, would actually affect the results because of their own confirmation bias.

So in a double blind study, neither the patient, nor the researcher are aware of what is really going on.

It's the holy grail of the scientific method.

en.wikipedia.org...-blind_trials



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 03:31 AM
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Originally posted by ZeskoWhirligan

Originally posted by randomtangentsrme
Because if the saline was contaminated it might kill all of them and without a control you wouldn't know if it was the drug or the mixing agent.


Well, as I've said, WHY introduce another element of uncertainty into the testing process? WHY introduce an injection of ANYTHING that has nothing to do with the vaccine? Why not inject the control group with HELIUM, for petesake?

It's not another element of uncertainty. Because of confirmation bias, using a placebo control group actually makes this test much more accurate than it would be otherwise. Check out the above link I posted, and research the reasoning behind double blind studies.

The reason you administer a placebo is because you specifically want as little reaction to occur as possible, for your control group. If you injected helium as your secondardy group, you would be introducing all manner of affects, and you would not have anything to compare to.
edit on 1/5/2012 by Pseudonaut because: (no reason given)

edit on 1/5/2012 by Pseudonaut because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 04:33 AM
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Originally posted by Pseudonaut
Scientists found out awhile back that simply knowing which of their test subjects received a drug, and which received a placebo, would actually affect the results because of their own confirmation bias.


AHHHH... This is what I was talking about in the first place. Go back and review my posts... It's all about the OBSERVER and his EXPECTATION of the test results.



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 05:02 AM
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Seems like a lot of arguing about something that's most likely just a poor choice of wording. It's a Bloomberg article, not a medical journal. The reporter says "dummy shot" like placebo is a word too difficult for the readers to understand.. chances are the original press release only mentioned a control group and the reporter ad-libbed the rest.



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 05:12 AM
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Originally posted by randomtangentsrme
It is because we want variables such as being stuck with a needle, and having saline injected into your system to be excluded in the data collected. Therefore we can conclude they have no factor in the outcome.


Thank you. A calm, rational explanation. To add, some compounds might have a carrying agent such as DMSO. Simple injections of straight DMSO would eliminate any "system artifact" that might occlude the true results from a target drug application.



posted on Jan, 5 2012 @ 05:27 AM
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reply to post by ZeskoWhirligan
 


I don't think it's a matter of the researchers' expectations magically (or psychically, or spiritually, or whatever-agency-you-want-to-credit-ally) influencing the test outcomes that drives the use of placebos in animal testing, so much as the purely human ability to see what we want to see. If a researcher has spent years of time developing a significant drug, and knows that successful test results will hugely boost his (or her) professional stature, then said researcher is going to see improvement in subjects treated with said drug. If, on the other hand, the researcher doesn't know whether he's observing a drug recipient or a placebo recipient, he's more likely to accurately observe and record any results.



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