March 6, 2011
Pamela Katz Ressler, RN, BSN, HN-BC, MS-PREP graduate student and PREP-AIRED blog moderator and administrator, Tufts University School of Medicine
Beliefs and expectations of a medication’s pain reducing ability may influence the amount of pain relief a patient receives from the drug, suggests a study recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine Science. In the study, The Effect of Treatment Expectation on Drug Efficacy: Imaging the Analgesic Benefit of the Opioid Remifentanil, investigators observed that the expectation of efficacy or lack of efficacy of the potent opioid Remifentanil shaped both therapeutic and adverse effects of the medication. Those participants who believed that the drug would have a positive effect on the experimental pain condition had double the pain relief benefit as compared to those who believed that the drug would have a negative or exacerbating effect on their pain. Evidence from behavioral and neuroimaging data suggest a multifocal expression of pain in the study participants with brain activity changes correlated to the expectation of efficacy of the analgesic. The study authors conclude that integrating patients’ beliefs and expectations into pain management may produce better treatment outcomes in the future.