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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 Nov 2023 - 24 Nov 2023

2023 Nov 16



The desire for side-effect information in pain treatment: an experimental analysis of contextual and individual difference factors.


Clemens KS, Vang M, Colloca L, Sieg M, Vase L, Ruble A, Geers AL


Informing patients about potential side effects of pain treatment is a requirement that protects patients and aids decision making, but it increases the likelihood of unwanted nocebo side effects. If patients do not desire all side-effect information, it may be possible to ethically reduce nocebo effects through authorized concealment of side effects, whereby patients and clinicians engage in shared decision-making to regulate the disclosure of side-effect information. Currently, there is no experimental data clarifying the factors that causally influence desire for side-effect information in pain treatment. In 2 cross-sectional, between-subjects scenario experiments (experiment 1 N = 498, experiment 2 N = 501), 18 to 79-year-old community adults learned about a lower back pain treatment, and potential side-effect severity, frequency, and duration were manipulated. Individual differences in information avoidance were also recorded. In both experiments, participants reported high desire for side-effect information, but the desire was reduced when side effects were described as less severe, less frequent, and participants scored high in information avoidance. Results were not moderated by participants’ level of contact with the health care system, chronic health condition, or clinical pain history. Additional analyses indicated that low side-effect severity and frequency lessen desire for side-effect information because these variables reduce belief that side-effect information will be needed in the future and lower feelings of anticipated regret. The experiments identify situational and individual-difference factors that decrease the desire for side-effect information and provide evidence on when and for whom it may be useful for physicians to engage in shared medical decision-making with the goal of reducing nocebo side effects.