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Many doctors give patients placebo treatment

Posted Oct 27 2008 6:07am
If a placebo works, I think I'd thank my doc for circumventing the need for pharmaceuticals. Note how different the take is on this US vs UK. From Reuters:

By Will Dunham Will DunhamThu Oct 23, 10:48 pm ET
File photo illustration of pills of all kinds, shapes and colours, March 2003.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Many American doctors give their patients a placebo, usually a relatively innocuous drug such as a pain reliever, in the guise of medical treatment and view the practice as ethical, researchers said on Thursday.

Among 679 primary-care doctors and rheumatologists, who treat arthritis patients, about half reported prescribing placebos at least two to three times a month and most said they did not explicitly tell patients they were getting a placebo.

The idea may be to trigger the " placebo effect" -- a genuine improvement in health driven by psychological expectations of a benefit and not due to the physiological effect of a given treatment -- in cases in which normal treatment might not be warranted, the researchers said.

More than 60 percent of the doctors who answered the survey published in the British Medical Journal said that prescribing a placebo is ethically permissible.

But such actions run afoul of standards set by the American Medical Association, which asserts it is unethical to use placebo therapy on patients without clearly telling them.

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