97% of Doctors Have Prescribed Placebos
Philby, Charlotte, The Independent (London, England)
Patients given drugs with no active ingredients, or unproven or unnecessary treatments, finds study
Almost all doctors have given some form of placebo treatment or test to patients at least once in their career, a study has revealed.
The survey of doctors showed that 12 per cent admitted to giving what are known as "pure" placebos - treatments without any active ingredients. These include sugar pills or saline injections.
But this figure jumped to 97 per cent, when doctors were asked if they had ever administered unproven treatments - dubbed "impure placebos". This category includes giving out antibiotics for suspected viral infections, or agreeing to conduct unnecessary physical examinations and blood tests.
Researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Southampton based their results on a random sample of 783 doctors who completed a survey online. The backgrounds and experience levels of those who completed the tests reflected the overall make-up of all doctors registered with the General Medical Council (GMC), the researchers say. According to the poll, doctors prescribe both pure and impure placebos for broadly similar reasons. Some medics said they hoped to induce the psychological effects of treatment in patients, while others said they acted after patients requested treatment. Doctors also said they used placebos to reassure worried patients.
Dr Jeremy Howick, co-lead author of the study from the University of Oxford, said: "This is not about doctors deceiving patients. The study shows that placebo use is widespread in the UK, and doctors clearly believe that placebos can help patients. …