What’s in the placebo?

July 2023 article from Maryanne Demasi.

While placebos are meant to be benign, drug companies frequently use “active” placebos, meant to mimic the side effects of the real drug. The specifics of the placebos are rarely disclosed, and their effects may decrease the reliability of trial data.

“Drug regulators are expected to analyse the CoA to ensure the placebo and the experimental drug are appropriately matched, to eliminate an unknown variable. However, the details relating to the contents of a placebo are often unknown to independent researchers and remains proprietary information of the drug manufacturers. For example, the in trials of Gardasil (HPV vaccine), the manufacturer often used a placebo containing amorphous aluminium hydroxyphosphate sulfate (AAHS) – an adjuvant to enhance immune response – and has kept the formulation a proprietary secret.”