This one actually surprised me.
A national survey sent out to nearly 700 doctors of various specialties showed that half of them admitted to prescribing placebos in the form of vitamins or headache medicine to their patients. Some went further and prescribed antibiotics or sedatives for symptoms of conditions like Fibromyalgia that some doctors believe are psychosomatic.
The results of this survey will be seen in the BMJ (the new name for the British Medical Journal).
Doctors believe it's simply easier to prescribe a placebo to make a patient think he or she is getting real treatment, because the placebo effect is so strong - so strong, they say, that the effect has often matched that of legitimate medication.
What is most concerning (apart from the fact that doctors may dismiss a condition like Fibromyalgia as a figment of someone's imagination) is prescribing antibiotics or sedatives to someone who is taking them without consent. One can only hope that these doctors know exactly what other medications these patients are taking, whether they are taking birth control pills and whether they use alcohol or drugs - and these are only some of the concerns.
Only 5% of doctors said they told their patients that they were being prescribed a placebo.
Ethical concerns abound. Would anyone choose a doctor, knowing that he or she routinely prescribes a placebo - or worse, an active placebo like an antibiotic or sedative?
Reassurance is required. If half the doctors admitted to this practice, this is surely a question we should ask our doctors on our next visit. We need to be fully informed of what we are putting in our bodies and both the risks and benefits attached. Drug interactions are serious - can we be expected to be an informed consumer if the information is being deliberately withheld?
For more on this troublesome story, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/24/health/24placebo.html?_r=1&ref=health&...
Have you asked your doctor if he or she partakes in this practice? Do you suspect you have been given a placebo and not informed of it?
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