We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sat 16 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Placebo protocols put under spotlight

A medical student has called for a review of placebo use, after her survey revealed almost half of US doctors admitted doling out placebo prescriptions at some point in their career.

A medical student has called for a review of placebo use, after her survey revealed almost half of US doctors admitted doling out placebo prescriptions at some point in their career.

Rachel Sherman, a medical student at the University of Chicago, and Dr John Hickner, a family medicine professor at the University of Chicago, sent surveys to 466 internists at three Chicago-area academic medical centers. 231 responded.

Of those, 45% said they had used a placebo during their clinical practice, a number that surprised the researchers.

"It illustrates that doctors believe expectation and belief have therapeutic potential," said Sherman, whose findings were published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Yet 12% of physicians surveyed said placebos should never be used, Sherman said, suggesting the practice creates ethical issues such as whether a doctor has an obligation to provide patients with informed consent.

Of respondents who reported using a placebo in clinical practice, 34% said they told the patients it was something that "may help and will not hurt".

About a third gave other information to patients including, "this may help you but I am not sure how it works".

Nineteen percent said it was a "medication," and 9% called it "a medicine with no specific effect." Only 4% of the doctors admitted, "it is a placebo".

Sherman suggested physicians consider asking all new patients for consent in advance. "The patient could say no. Then you avoid these ethical questions.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest health tips & news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.