Antipruritic Placebo Effects by Conditioning H1-antihistamine

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ObjectiveAllergic rhinitis symptoms can be reduced by behaviorally conditioning antihistamine. It is unclear whether these findings extend to histamine-induced itch or work when participants are informed about the conditioning procedure (open-label conditioning). The current study aims to investigate the efficacy of (open-label) antipruritic behavioral conditioning for histamine-induced itch.MethodsHealthy participants (n = 92; 84% female) were randomized to I) an open-label conditioned, II) closed-label conditioned, III) conditioned-not-evoked control, or IV) nonconditioned control group. A two-phase conditioning paradigm was used. During acquisition, a conditioned stimulus (CS; distinctively tasting beverage) was repeatedly paired with the H1-antihistamine levocetirizine (groups I–III). During evocation, the CS was paired with placebo (I, II), or instead of the CS, water was paired with placebo (III). The nonconditioned control group (IV) received CS with placebo in both phases. Itch after histamine iontophoresis and physiological data (i.e., spirometry, heart rate, skin conductance) were assessed. Combined conditioned and combined control groups were first compared, and analyses were repeated for separate groups.ResultsMarginally lower itch was reported in the combined conditioned compared with the control groups (F(1,88) = 2.10, p = .076, η2partial = 0.02); no differences between separate groups were found. No effects on physiological data were found, except for heart rate, which reduced significantly and consistently for control groups, and less consistently for conditioned groups (group by time interaction: F(7,80) = 2.35, p = .031, η2partial = 0.17).ConclusionLimited support was found for the efficacy of antipruritic behavioral conditioning, regardless of whether participants were informed about the conditioning procedure. The application of open-label conditioning in patient populations should be further researched.Trial; ID NTR5544.

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