Existing tests also may not be appropriate for diagnosing disorders like social anxiety and premenstrual dysphoria—the very types of chronic, fuzzily defined conditions that the drug industry started targeting in the '90s, when the placebo problem began escalating. The neurological foundation of these illnesses is still being debated, making it even harder for drug companies to come up with effective treatments.
What all of these disorders have in common, however, is that they engage the higher cortical centers that generate beliefs and expectations, interpret social cues, and anticipate rewards. So do chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, Parkinson's, and many other ailments that respond robustly to placebo treatment. To avoid investing in failure, researchers say, pharmaceutical companies will need to adopt new ways of vetting drugs that route around the brain's own centralized network for healing.
As reported in Wired, expensive drugs are failing in tests against placebo, an inexpensive non-drug. The pharmaceutical industry is in a panic. No wonder. For what these disorders have in common is that they were invented by the pharmaceutical industry in order to sell drugs. Social Anxiety Disorder used to be known as shyness, before it became a Disorder that required treatment with chemicals. It is curious that the Wired author notes that these targeting of these new disorders and the growth of the placebo problem both began at the same time, but fails to notice that a connexion might exist.