Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

97 percent of UK doctors have given placebos to patients at least once

Date:
March 20, 2013
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
A survey of UK doctors found that 97 percent have prescribed placebo treatments to patients at least once in their career. Researchers discovered that 97 percent of doctors have used 'impure' placebo treatments, while 12 percent have used 'pure' placebos. 'Impure' placebos are treatments that are unproven, or more commonly non-essential physical examinations and blood tests performed to reassure patients. 'Pure' placebos are treatments such as sugar pills which contain no active ingredients.

A survey of UK doctors found that 97% have prescribed placebo treatments to patients at least once in their career.

Related Articles


Researchers at the Universities of Oxford and Southampton in the UK discovered that 97% of doctors have used 'impure' placebo treatments, while 12% have used 'pure' placebos.

'Impure' placebos are treatments that are unproven, such as antibiotics for suspected viral infections, or more commonly non-essential physical examinations and blood tests performed to reassure patients. 'Pure' placebos are treatments such as sugar pills or saline injections which contain no active ingredients.

A random sample of doctors was surveyed online, and returned 783 responses. This sample was found to be representative of all UK doctors registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, the University of Oxford Department of Primary Health Care Sciences and The Southampton Complementary Medical Research Trust. The results are published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

'This is not about doctors deceiving patients,' says Dr Jeremy Howick, co-lead author of the study from the University of Oxford, 'The study shows that placebo use is widespread in the UK, and doctors clearly believe that placebos can help patients.'

The survey showed that doctors prescribing both pure and impure placebos reported doing so for broadly similar reasons. Placebos were mainly given to either induce psychological treatment effects, because patients requested treatment or to reassure patients.

Ethical attitudes towards placebo usage varied among doctors, with 66% saying that pure placebos are ethically acceptable under certain circumstances and 33% saying they are never acceptable. Impure placebos were more widely accepted, with 84% of doctors deeming them acceptable.

This widespread use and acceptance of placebos is consistent with similar studies worldwide, yet they are still against General Medical Council ethical codes. 'Current ethical rulings on placebos ought to be revisited in light of the strong evidence suggesting that doctors broadly support their use,' says Dr Howick.

For both pure and impure placebos, over 90% of doctors objected to their use where it endangered patient/doctor trust and over 80% were against using them if it involved deception.

'This latest study with the University of Oxford demonstrates that doctors are generally using placebos in good faith to help patients,' says Professor George Lewith, co-lead author of the study from the University of Southampton, 'Other previous published studies by Southampton have clearly shown placebos can help many people and can be effective for a long time after administration. The placebo effect works by releasing our body's own natural painkillers into our nervous system. In my opinion the stigma attached to placebo use is irrational, and further investigation is needed to develop ethical, cost-effective placebos.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jeremy Howick, Felicity L. Bishop, Carl Heneghan, Jane Wolstenholme, Sarah Stevens, F. D. Richard Hobbs, George Lewith. Placebo Use in the United Kingdom: Results from a National Survey of Primary Care Practitioners. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (3): e58247 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058247

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "97 percent of UK doctors have given placebos to patients at least once." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130320212816.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2013, March 20). 97 percent of UK doctors have given placebos to patients at least once. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130320212816.htm
University of Oxford. "97 percent of UK doctors have given placebos to patients at least once." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130320212816.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Having children has always been a frightening prospect in Sierra Leone, the world's most dangerous place to give birth, but Ebola has presented an alarming new threat for expectant mothers. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

AP (Nov. 21, 2014) Marine Corps officials say a special operations officer left paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan walked using robotic leg braces in a ceremony to award him a Bronze Star. (Nov. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
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