I am a lab manager looking to design a placebo experiment in a behavioral lab with a medical doctor. I believe our study needs to be credible and professional. I'd appreciate any recommendations on details of placebo manufacturer or retailer, type of pill bottle to use, how to create brochures of information about the purported effect of the placebo pill. Info on points of methodology is also appreciated.


2 Answers 2


Ethical procedures are specific to your country and even differ between universities and sometimes even per department. Of course you know everything about the Declaration of Helsinki, being immersed in the city of its origins (you seem to (have) be(en) affiliated to the University of Helsinki). You seem to be located in NY now, but I'm unsure to your affiliation. So I started wandering on the sites of the uni of Helsinki and the New York University for some information. But note you should look into the local requirements yourself (although your study has likely long since started :-)

First, you need to find out the IRB (or here for NY) you will be dealing with, often operating under a university, or affiliated hospital. These folks can tell you anything you need to know. Here is a site of the IRB with all the specifics you need to submit an IRB proposal to NY Uni. Note that the best thing is for specifics such as pill bottles and placebos is to talk to the IRB, or try to find investigators that have done such a thing recently in your neighborhood. For example, there's a study from Segal et al (2017):

Randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with azithromycin selects for anti-inflammatory microbial metabolites in the emphysematous lung,

that was conducted by the New York University School of Medicine and by the looks of it it is exactly the thing you are planning to do. These guys can likely help you out, and reading the papers and related ones may help you as well. For example the linked paper says in the Methods:

Both placebo and AZM were prepared in an opaque capsule by the NYU pharmacy...

Hence, the NYU pharmacy, apparently, assists in these kinds of matters - the place to go!

- Segal et al., Thorax (2017); 72 :13-22


This might seem a bit random at the moment, but if you run a 15 minutes personality test on a placebo group you'll be to have a better understanding how it works, so it might help with the methodology and overall conclusion.It might also help the process: a person is likely to cooperate if they believe that you genuinely care. Doing and analyzing test for each subject might come handy for gaining that trust.

I strongly believe that people who have trust in authority are likely to be treated successfully with the placebo. Just like faith healing, but 'modern' one. (No data to back it up, unfortunately.)

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    $\begingroup$ How is this related to placebo pills production/presentation? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 16:59

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