This site is intended for health professionals only

Placebos make you better, adherence therapy and a jab for baldness

By Alisdair Stirling

Our roundup of the health news headlines on Thursday 17 February.

Is your glass half empty or half full? It depends on whether you work for the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph it seems.

They both report on the same research suggesting expectations affect how well a drug works. The Mail says having faith in your medication increases the chance of it working. While the Telegraph’s take is that the drugs won’t work if you don’t believe in them.

Both are true according to the researchers from Oxford, Cambridge and two German universities. They compared pain levels in two groups of patients – one who were told they were being given a painkiller and the other group who weren’t told. Pain levels were lower in the group who´d been told they were getting pain relief, according to their findings published in the Science Translational Magazine.

The Telegraph is also among the papers reporting that hypertensive patients are failing to take their medication with the result that thousands are having strokes and heart attacks that could have been prevented.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia writing in the Journal of Human Hypertension have reported encouraging results from an ‘adherence therapy’ scheme of seven weekly 20 minute sessions in which patients’ medication is explained to them and their attitudes and fears explored. The results suggest those patients on the course reduced their blood pressure by an average of 14%.

The Daily Express hails the prospect of an injection for baldness. Hair loss caused by the over- production of the stress hormone corticotropin-releasing factor causes hair follicles to go into a permanent state of rest, rather than a continuous cycle of growth and rest.

And researchers at UCLA have found that a compound called astressin-B blocks the action of the hormone – and kick-starts the growth cycle. It works on balding mice, but according to UK experts it´s likely to be less relevant to male pattern balding and the female hair loss suffered by some women going through the menopause.

Spotted a story we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments and we’ll update the digest throughout the day…

Daily digest