The placebo effect is far more interesting than it might seem at first glance. It’s not just lying to oneself. A fake painkiller actually does kill pain, not just convince the subject to say that they feel less pain. So, when the placebo effect gets stronger and overwhelms real pharmaceuticals with good biochemical research to back them, what is a scientist to do?
Wired magazine explore the issue. If you’re a medical student, or a scientist you must consider the effect of your control on your interpretation. It’s a common benchmark for drugs to assess efficacy (does it work?) by comparing to a placebo. That’s reasonable. But it’s probably worth also including a null, no intervention control to see how well the placebo works, too, if possible.