New Yorker: Former NEJM editor dismisses placebo claims

Arnold Relman writes in this week’s New Yorker.  He argues that researchers claiming placebos can cure are driven by “substantial financial support for their anti-establishment views”  from NIH and private donors. From the letter’s page:

There is simply no evidence that physical diseases, such as cancer,  atherosclerosis, or organ disorders, can be cured or measurably improved by  placebos. Experienced physicians know that sympathetic concern and reassurance  can often allay subjective symptoms—at least temporarily—but only appropriate  medical treatment has a chance of curing physical disease. I suspect that the  main reason advocates of “alternative medicine” like Kaptchuk are receiving such  a friendly reception in many leading medical schools these days is that there is  substantial financial support for their anti-establishment views from one part  of the National Institutes of Health and from a few very wealthy private donors.

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