Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Doctors commonly enlist the power of placebos

Have any of the pharmacists reading this ever fill a prescription for an actual placebo tablet? According to the chart at the bottom of the article, it seems that this does occur from time to time.

From the Globe and Mail:
Doctors prescribe placebos more often than patients might imagine.

A survey of Chicago-area physicians found that 45 per cent report they have given a patient a placebo at least once, according to a study published in this month's Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Past surveys of Israeli and Danish doctors revealed that 60 per cent and 85 per cent, respectively, admit they've relied on the "placebo effect" to heal patients.

So, should patients worry about their doctors shamming them?

Maybe not. Though prescribing dummy pills is viewed as ethically shady, the placebo effect can work. Brain-scan research indicates that placebos trigger pain-relieving endorphins in the brain. Indeed, anyone who has ever felt better after taking cough syrup may have enjoyed the placebo effect - some studies suggest that sugar water is just as good at healing sore throats. Belief in medicine can contribute heavily to its success. ...more

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