News and events - 2010

PMRI leads new research about placebo - the mind-brain interaction which unlocks the body's own healing mechanisms.
Researchers have found that the much maligned placebo effect deserves enormous respect. In fact there is more than one type of placebo effect, there are many – most of which are under-recognised and under-used.

“Most people still think of placebo as an effect which occurs in some people when they receive a sham or dummy treatment, usually when studying the effectiveness of a new treatment. But we’ve moved past that” says Damien Finniss from the University of Sydney’s Pain Management Research Institute at Royal North Shore Hospital, who led a team of international experts in a landmark paper recently published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet (Friday 19th February 2010).

“This new research shows that placebo effects may occur in conjunction with any form of treatment, when the mind-brain interaction works to promote the body’s natural healing mechanisms.”
The research project brought together the world’s scientific papers on research into placebo effects and studied how they have an impact on patients.

“You don’t need a sugar pill to create a placebo effect. Our research reveals that placebo effects can occur in routine medical practice across a wide range of medical conditions - and these effects can be therapeutically powerful. Clearly there is a great deal more to placebo than we previously thought”.

The effects of placebo are many, ranging from the reduction of persisting pain to improvement of movement in Parkinson’s disease. Placebo effects can make routine treatments of any kind more effective, and we can all be responders.

“Essentially, placebo effects change the way our brains and bodies work, complementing the effects of medical or other therapeutic treatments, often leading to reduction in symptoms.”

“The placebo component of every therapy should not be over-looked. It has the potential to make routine medical treatments more effective” said Damien Finniss.

The next task for researchers is to better understand the many factors that drive placebo effects and attempt to exploit them in routine practice.

For further Information: or 0412-742-710

Relief for pain sufferers in Queensland budget
An injection of $39.1 million over four years into persistent pain services in Queensland will have a huge positive impact on the people living with pain in that state. Download the press release for more details.

Professor Cousins on ABC Conversations Hour
If you missed the conversation between Michael Peschardt and Professor Michael Cousins on ABC Conversations Hour on Thursday 4th June you can catch up here.

World-first National Pain Strategy Agreed at Summit
The world’s first National Pain Strategy - the result of 18 months work by representatives of 150 healthcare and consumer organisations - was released in April, following agreement by all stakeholders at the National Pain Summit held at Parliament House Canberra in March.

PMRI Director Professor Michael Cousins who led the initiative said this was the first comprehensive strategy world-wide which aims to improve the assessment and treatment of all forms of pain.

“The burden of pain is enormous, in humanitarian, healthcare and financial terms. Pain is Australia’s third most costly health problem and arguably the developed world’s largest neglected heath priority.

“In more than 46 years in health care, I know of no other health initiative to harness such a breadth and depth of experience on a single health problem. The most remarkable outcome of the summit was the high level of agreement about what needs to be done, as set out in very specific and practical terms in the strategy document,” said Professor Cousins.

The lead organisations – Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, Faculty of Pain Medicine, Australian Pain Society and Chronic Pain Australia – played an essential role is spear-heading the National Pain Summit initiative. Some 200 delegates, representing healthcare, consumer, employer, funder and government stakeholders attended the summit event which was officially opened by the Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP.

The first step in implementing the strategy - the formation of a National Advocacy Body for Pain - has now commenced and lawyers Corrs Chambers Westgarth are working with the NPS Executive to develop the constitution, in consultation with all stakeholder bodies.

For further information about the NPS, contact Lesley Brydon on email:

2010 Seminars

The seminar program features clinical and basic science research from investigators at PMRI, and guests from Australia and overseas.

Seminars are held in the Pain Management Conference Room on Level 9 Main block Royal North Shore Hospital at 4 or 5pm every Thursday afternoon.

The programs are updated regularly.

Date Time
Speaker Title
Dr David Wang
Opioids, sleep and breathing
Further information:
Research opportunities in Opioids and sleep
7-Oct-10 4pm Clinical Research Topic TBA :: no links available
4pm No seminar
13th World Congress on Pain (Montreal)
Dr Ute Vollmer-Conna
Sick and tired - a study of post-infective fatigue syndrome
details on Dr Vollmer-Conna's publications with the
Brain and Mind Institute
1-Jul-10 4pm Cancelled
Seminar cancelled due to illness
3-Jun-10 4pm Assoc Prof Janet Taylor
Muscle pain, fatigue and the control of movement:
no links available
Prof Michael Cousins The Australian National Pain Strategy
download the strategy in PDF format