Fake pills can actually be effective as real medicine in some cases. In a recent Harvard study conducted by Ted Kaptchuk, it was revealed that under a test whether a person knew they were taking a placebo or not did not damper it’s effects. He had a tested this theory on a group of people with irritable bowel syndrome. Some of them did not receive treatment while others were given a placebo pill twice a day. much to their surprise 35 percent whom did not receive treatment claimed to fell better while 59 percent whom received the placebo claimed to feel better. With this in mind it is entirely possible that the placebo effect can take place simply by giving a person a sugar pill even if they know it is a sugar pill. Although this would not work for tumors or microbes this can be applied to ailments such as depression. In fact in 2008 a survey showed that one third of physicians prescribed a dummy pill to unsuspecting patients.

Sources: Gizmodo PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015591