Factors That Predict Magnitude, Timing, and Persistence of Placebo-Like Response in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Jeffrey M. Lackner, Brian M. Quigley, Sigal Zilcha-Mano, Christopher Radziwon, Susan S. Krasner, Gregory D. Gudleski, Paul Enck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Aims: Placebo response impedes the development of novel irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) therapies and the interpretability of randomized clinical trials. This study sought to characterize the magnitude, timing, and durability of IBS symptom relief in patients undergoing a non-drug placebo-like control. Methods: One hundred forty-five Rome III-diagnosed patients (80% F, M age = 42 years) were assigned to education/nondirective support delivered over a 10-week acute phase. Treatment response was based on the IBS version of the Clinical Global Improvement Scale completed 2 weeks after treatment ended. Candidate predictors were assessed at baseline (eg, emotion regulation, pain catastrophizing, distress, neuroticism, stress, somatization, gastrointestinal-specific anxiety) or clinically relevant points during treatment (patient-provider relationship, treatment expectancy/credibility). Results: Midtreatment response was associated with lower levels of stress and somatization at baseline and greater patient-provider agreement on treatment tasks (P < .001). Treatment response was associated with baseline gastroenterologist-rated IBS severity, anxiety, ability to reappraise emotions to reduce their impact [cognitive reappraisal], and agreement that provider and patient shared goals from provider perspective (P < .001). The day-to-day ability to reappraise emotions at baseline distinguished rapid from delayed placebo responders (P = .011). Conclusion: Patient beliefs (eg, perceived stress, cognitive reappraisal) impacted the magnitude, timing, and persistence of placebo response measured at midway point of acute phase and 2 weeks after treatment discontinuation. Baseline beliefs that patients could alter the impact of stressful events by rethinking their unpleasantness distinguished rapid vs delayed placebo responders. Collaborative agreement between doctor and patient around shared tasks/goals from the clinician perspective predicted placebo response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-229
Number of pages9
JournalGastro Hep Advances
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

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  • Emotion Regulation
  • Expectancies
  • Placebo Effect
  • Randomized Clinical Trials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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