Placebos rarely accurately described in research protocolsPlacebo controls are the 'gold' standard against which new treatments are often measured. If a new treatment consistently proves to be better than a placebo treatment, then it is taken to be effective. Otherwise, it isn't. Co-lead author and Director of the Oxford Empathy Programme, Jeremy Howick, said: 'There is a fundamental problem with this "gold" standard. Different placebos have very different effects, which then lead to (sometimes, mistaken) inferences about a new treatment's effects or harms.'