Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

U.S. Doctors Regularly Prescribe Real Drugs As Placebo Treatments, Study Claims

Date:
October 25, 2008
Source:
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Summary:
Many rheumatologists and general internal medicine physicians in the US say they regularly prescribe "placebo treatments" including active drugs such as sedatives and antibiotics, but rarely admit they are doing so to their patients, according to a new study.

Many rheumatologists and general internal medicine physicians in the US say they regularly prescribe "placebo treatments" including active drugs such as sedatives and antibiotics, but rarely admit they are doing so to their patients, according to a study on bmj.com.

The use of placebo treatments in clinical practice has been widely criticised because it is claimed that the practice by its very nature is deceptive and therefore violates patients' autonomy. But advocates of placebo treatments argue that they could offer effective treatment for many chronic conditions without necessarily deceiving patients. Despite the controversy, to date there has been little data on doctors' attitudes towards and the use of placebo treatments in the US.

Dr Jon Tilburt and his colleagues from the National Institutes of Health as well as collaborators at Harvard and the University of Chicago examined the attitudes and behaviours to placebo treatments in a national sample of general internal medicine physicians and rheumatologists in the US.

The researchers sent a confidential survey to 1200 randomly selected practising general internal medicine physicians and rheumatologists (a group of doctors who commonly treat patients with debilitating chronic conditions that are notoriously difficult to manage medically).

The authors report that among the 679 physicians (57%) who responded to the survey half of them said they prescribed "placebo treatments" on a regular basis. Most physicians (62%) believed the practice to be ethically acceptable and were happy to recommend or prescribe placebo treatments.

The most commonly used placebo treatments prescribed in the past year were over the counter painkillers (41%) or vitamins (38%). Some of the physicians reported using antibiotics (13%) and sedatives (13%) as placebos, only 3% reported using sugar pills.

Interestingly, among those who prescribe placebo treatments, most doctors (68%) said they typically describe the placebo treatments to patients as "a potentially beneficial medicine or treatment not typically used for their condition", only rarely did they admit to explicitly describing them to patients as "placebos".

Although there was only a moderate response rate to the survey (57%), even if all the non-responders never gave placebos, placebo prescribing is still surprisingly common, say the authors.

The authors say that while the use of placebos has been controversial, the physicians in the study did not believe they were behaving unethically by either using placebos or not being upfront with their patients about doing so.

They point out that understanding the role of placebo treatments in contemporary medicine is complex. They conclude that prescribing harmless treatments like vitamins or over the counter painkillers to promote positive expectations without full disclosure of motivations might not raise alarm bells, but prescribing antibiotics and sedatives when there is no clear medical indication could have serious adverse consequences for both patients and public health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

BMJ-British Medical Journal. "U.S. Doctors Regularly Prescribe Real Drugs As Placebo Treatments, Study Claims." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081023195216.htm>.
BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2008, October 25). U.S. Doctors Regularly Prescribe Real Drugs As Placebo Treatments, Study Claims. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081023195216.htm
BMJ-British Medical Journal. "U.S. Doctors Regularly Prescribe Real Drugs As Placebo Treatments, Study Claims." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081023195216.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for "real-world" testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe in soon to start trials, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set up new guidelines for health workers taking care of patients infected with Ebola. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins