Half Of Doctors Routinely Prescribe Placebos

The New York Times says that half of doctors responding to a nationwide survey admitted to routinely prescribing placebos.

Most of the doctors in question said that they used vitamins and headache pills, but some also prescribed antibiotics and sedatives. The study says that in most cases the doctors described these prescriptions to patients as “a medicine not typically used for your condition but might benefit you.”

From the NYT:

Dr. William Schreiber, an internist in Louisville, Ky., at first said in an interview that he did not believe the survey’s results, because, he said, few doctors he knows routinely prescribe placebos.

But when asked how he treated fibromyalgia or other conditions that many doctors suspect are largely psychosomatic, Dr. Schreiber changed his mind. “The problem is that most of those people are very difficult patients, and it’s a whole lot easier to give them something like a big dose of Aleve,” he said. “Is that a placebo treatment? Depending on how you define it, I guess it is.”

But antibiotics and sedatives are not placebos, he said.

Of course, placebos have shown to be effective. The NYT says that 30 percent to 40 percent of depressed patients who are given placebos get better, which is almost as good as the results from real anti-depressants.

Half of Doctors Routinely Prescribe Placebos
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I can see why some doctors might want to prescribe placebos. For example, I know that frantic parents with kids who are sick with a cold or something insist on the doctor giving them something. Since it would be irresponsible to prescribe antibiotics (which is what doctors used to do before realizing that doing so built up antibiotic immunity), a doctor might prescribe a placebo instead.

  2. Keen314 says:

    I’d prescribe placebos too if my patients were a bunch of self-diagnosing idiots.

    • CrazyRedd says:

      @Keen314: Whatever you say, House.

    • FrankenPC says:


      “Self diagnosing idiots”? Wow, that has a lot of presumption loaded on top.

      I have a lot of presumptions as well. For instance, every time I have to see a doctor (which I only do as a last straw) I ASSUME the Dr. has been bribed, bought and payed for by “Big Pharma” companies to HO their overpriced and potentially dangerous drugs.

      I’m really glad to see some Dr’s are using placebos. That shows some serious thought is going into the “legal” drug pushing arena.

      • Keen314 says:

        @FrankenPC: “companies to HO their overpriced”
        Is that ho, as in “Pimps and…”?

      • lincolnparadox says:

        @FrankenPC: Most clinics have pretty strict rules about how Pharm reps can contact physicians nowadays. Most of that is in-house regulation. The AMA has rules about compensation (for example, Pharm corps can’t even give free office supplies anymore). The Pharm companies can offer free samples of their product, which most doctors hand out to their needier patients. Still, this kind of generosity can sway a physician to prescribe one particular drug over another.

        But, the days of free trips to Hawaii are long gone.

      • Segador says:

        @FrankenPC: Wow! Your intelligent discourse has enlightened me to the dangers of all doctors everywhere!

      • boxjockey68 says:

        @FrankenPC: Here Here! I only take my 4 year old to the doc when we have to, and I mean HAVE to. We use natural things to help with cold & flu and so far it has worked every time. I have found that most docs. are bought & paid for by big pharma and I would rather not have my son be a test subject.

    • TechnoDestructo says:


      I’ll go to a doctor every time I have a sniffle. Wouldn’t want to presume I know what it is, I mean it might be something fatal.

    • alexawesome says:

      @Keen314: Doctors and health insurance companies advise patients to do the research and know as much as they possibly can before seeing the doctor. We’ve all been coached to be “that” patient. So WTF? Now we’re going to be given bullshit meds because it’s assumed we’re “difficult?”

      Give me a break. This is crap.

    • bohemian says:

      @Keen314: Considering one doctor gave me medications that ended up actually being what made me horribly sick and it took four others five freaking years to diagnose a routine problem, exactly who is the idiot here.
      I found the drug side effect myself in legit studies, quit taking said drug, got suddenly cured. I told this to my current doc, after the fact, she agreed it was the meds the previous doc. had me on.
      It also should not take four doctors five years to figure out what I was telling them was wrong, actually was what was wrong. I asked doctor #4 to try the meds class that has helped long ago since nothing else was working. They just came out with a new one sans some of the side effects. Ta-da, five years of bullet biting pain, gone. Oh and I was right about what the problem was, I just couldn’t get anyone to slow down long enough to listen to me.

    • Parting says:

      @Keen314: Unfortunately, that happens a lot… I’ve met some, and I’m not a doctor.

  3. floraposte says:

    I don’t have any problem with placebos in theory. It’s problematic that some of the medications given with the hope of placebo effect have effects of their own that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and the placebo effect also increases the more a medication costs, which is its own can of worms.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @floraposte: Probably the biggest problem is that use of placebos when NOT part of a clinical trial is generally iffy or outright forbidden under the ethical rules doctors agree to abide by when admitted to practice in whatever state.

      If you’ve got half of all doctors blithely ignoring an ethical rule, that’s a serious problem. If the ethical rule is that bad, it should be rewritten. But if half of doctors are totally comfortable ignoring the ethics rules, rather than confronting a problem with them, we should probably worry.

      • floraposte says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: Thanks for the info; I hadn’t thought about official guidelines, etc. Mind you, I’ve encountered ethics violations around here that are considerably more counterproductive than that, so that’s not actually my biggest concern, but no need to add to them.

        However, it sounds like some physicians don’t think of what they’re doing as prescribing placebos. Does it count if the doctor believes in the treatment even though it’s never resulted in any clinical improvement? Is it ethical to simply report that other patients with this problem have spoken positively about a treatment even if there’s no reason to believe it genuinely helps? What about something like the suggestion of Aleve for fibromyalgia, as the article mentions, since Aleve is at least a recognized painkiller? I can see that “haha, it’s actually a sugar pill” is an obvious breach, but I think some of this is grayer than the study suggests.

        And now, back to my monkey glands.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @floraposte: “Does it count if the doctor believes in the treatment even though it’s never resulted in any clinical improvement?”

          No. That’s just off-label … although of course it raises separate questions if the doctor’s prescribing random things against medical evidence. :)

  4. downwithmonstercable says:

    Pretty interesting. I’m surprised that doctor admitted to it and used his real name. Doesn’t seem right though that they can decide if you’re really sick or not and just give you placebos. Nobody knows how you feel but you.

    • ilves says:


      um… their job IS to decide if you are sick or not. People ask, for example, for antibiotics when they have a viral cold. Antibiotics don’t work, but most people don’t want to hear that, so the doctor gives them pills that won’t do anything (because there’s nothing they can give that will) to make the patient go about their business.

      • alexawesome says:

        @ilves: Right… except this guy admits to giving out antibiotics as placebos. It would be one thing if they gave out sugar pills. It’s quite another to prescribe actual drugs that the doctors know or think will not have any effect on the condition in question.

  5. dorianh49 says:

    Is there a 12-step program for placebo addiction? Not for me…. For a, uh, friend.

  6. Tiber says:

    This has been on the news repeatedly, but I think it’s overblown. Some people go to the doctor because they think they are sick, and finding out that it’s all in their heads won’t help them much. For the most part, this is no big deal. The only thing I might consider an issue is how much the placebos cost. Some costs might be justified, since a psychological cure is still a cure, but it is definitely an abuse of the doctor/patient relationship if this is being used as an opportunity to make a serious profit.

  7. Yokai Monsters Spook Warfare says:

    This is one of the reasons why I ALWAYS do research on anything my doctor prescribes (another is to check for side effects, as my doctors usually just mention the serious “call me if you experience this” ones).

    If it is something I have an issue with, I’ll call the doctor or go back in for another prescription. Luckily, I don’t have any major health problems, so I haven’t really had to deal with this particular problem.

  8. mwshook says:

    Just to be clear: none of the study’s questions used the word “placebo.” From what I can tell, I consider some of the questions to be leading. But I can’t say for certain, because the original paper doesn’t include the actual wording of the scenarios and questions.

    • Eilonwynn says:

      @mwshook: That’s my question – I can just picture someone asking “Have you ever prescribed placebos for any patient” rather than, say, “Do you prescribe placebos to multiple patients on a regular basis, more than, perhaps, once a week?”

  9. uncle moe says:

    so you’re telling me that epsom salts won’t cure this rash?

  10. Echomatrix says:

    they forgot to mention the success rates.

  11. j-o-h-n says:

    This is the equivalent of tech support sending away the problem client with “here, try this {random item which hopefully takes several hours}” — which I’m sure many here can relate to…

    • EyeHeartPie says:

      @j-o-h-n: Not really. Those random things usually have no chance at all of working, and are only to get the annoying customer off the phone rep’s back. At least a doctor prescribing a placebo has a chance of actually working and making the person feel better.

  12. tande04 says:

    Uh, isn’t using antibiotics as a ‘placebo’ (whether you want to call it that or not) part of the reason that their effectiveness has become limited in recent years?

    • ilves says:


      Antiobiotics aren’t a placebo. Placebo’s are used probably most frequently in place of antio-biotics because people think its a cure all that it is not.

      • tande04 says:

        @ilves: I took it right from the article and consumerist’s write up.

        “The most common placebos the American doctors reported using were headache pills and vitamins, but a significant number also reported prescribing antibiotics and sedatives.”

        From a strictly definitional stand point, a placebo is an inert medication like a sugar pill. Thats why I quoted the word ’cause the way they’re using it wouldn’t strictly be a placebo (at least not the way I think of it). A “big dose of aleve” wouldn’t fit what I’d conisder a placebo but its example they used. Which is part of the point I think since some of these (even the “big dose of aleve”) could have unintended side effects.

        I was just pointing out that I was surprised to see any doctor prescribing an antibiotic as a “placebo” when the over prescribing of them has been pointed to the decline in their effectiveness recently.

        • bohemian says:

          @tande04: I had a doctor tell me I had whatever winter virus that was going around, then offer me antibiotics “if I wanted them”. Then he went on to admit they probably wouldn’t do anything.
          Sure doc, I have $75 I just want to blow on antibiotics for no apparent benefit.

    • lincolnparadox says:

      @tande04: Only if they don’t take the full course of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is caused when bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic, but it doesn’t kill them. The best way to prevent selecting for bugs that are resistant is to take your full course of pills. Whether it’s 3, 7 or 10 days, make sure that you take them or, or use that cream, or whatever. Or else the bug might come back, and be resistant the next time.

      One prophylactic use of antibiotics that might be a source for resistant bugs is the meat industry. Many cows/pigs/chickens are on antibiotics for most of their lives. It’s one thing for a person to take an unneeded 10 day course of Keflex. It’s another thing for a cow to spend 5 years on cow antibiotics. That’s asking for selection of a resistant bug.

      • 3eyes says:

        @lincolnparadox: You are wrong. Bugs are either going to be killed or not be killed by an antibiotic. If it isn’t killed, then it is resistant. A resistant bug isn’t going to be killed by more antibiotics. So therefore the resistant bugs reproduce and make baby resistant bugs.

        • Trai_Dep says:

          @3eyes: You can have bugs that are half-resistant to antibiotics. These annoyed bugs have lil’ squirmy kids that evolve total resistance to the drug and, ta da! Resistant bug.
          Isn’t Natural Selection great? (Well, not so much in this case but…)
          Thus a whole class of antibiotic is rendered useless and our health care costs sky rocket.
          So yeah, it’s a bad (and real) thing. :)

        • crashfrog says:

          @3eyes: Bugs are either going to be killed or not be killed by an antibiotic.

          Do you have a citation for that? I’m pretty sure that concentration plays a role in effectiveness.

          That’s why you have to take the full course, to maintain a constant therapeutic concentration of the antibiotic in your system, or otherwise the low concentration of the antibiotic produces an environment where wild-type bacteria are killed, but partially-resistant strains survive and flourish in the absence of concentration. Some of their subsequent progeny may be slightly more resistant, and so on. You know, natural selection.

          But the idea that antibiotics are a binary thing, or that bacteria are, is just absurd. It flies in the face of evolution, medical research, and not least of which the atomic theory of matter.

  13. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I would love to take placebo but the side effects are horrendous.

  14. zigziggityzoo says:

    As long as I don’t pay for it, and I feel better, then fine.

  15. toddkravos says:

    What i fail to understand is how someone can be duped into actually taking a placebo thinking it’s the real deal. If the doc gives you a bunch of ‘samples’ then i guess I could understand it. But, if I take a Rx for something like Prozac to the pharmacy, and get my Rx filled, wouldn’t I know it’s a fake?

    I guess I just don’t understand how that works.

    • photomickey says:

      @toddkravos: I suspect it’s not for big name medications, but for other problems.
      i.e. “I have mood swings, I’m depressed”, “Ok, here’s a prescription, take these, they always work” when the prescription is for ibuprofen.

    • shepd says:


      Ever been prescribed “Obecalp” or “Cebocap”? Probably not, but those are placebo “brands” (The first being the generic! LOL!)

      Of course, being lactose intolerant, I expect I’d be prescribed lactase rather than lactose as a placebo. :D

      Some pharmacies have special code names for their placebos that (I’m assuming) would be shared with local doctors upon request. I’m sure a doctor/nurse could tell you more, but then they’d have to kill you.

      Another one from googling: Normazaline.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        @shepd: Well this explains why doctors always scribble.

        • RedwoodFlyer says:

          @Rectilinear Propagation:

          And the scribbling would explain why a doc once prescribed me Cialis instead of Concerta…and I took 6 of them because the pills said 5mg and I was on 36mg of Concerta.

          Boy was that a bad day to have a lunch meeting in dress slacks with an only-decent looking-with beer goggles-supplier……

      • SunnyLea says:

        I’ve heard this but I can also tell you that I worked as a certified pharmacy tech for almost a decade and it certainly wasn’t the case at my pharmacy (which was one of the biggest chains there is).

    • JennaBelle says:

      @toddkravos: I don’t get this either. I have had a doctor give me something that is primarily used to treat another problem, but I’ve always been able to find information online to prove that it is actually used for other things (like the prescription info says: may be used to treat another condition as determined by your doctor) so that doesn’t explain it. I’d still love to figure this one out.

  16. Goodnightbabytron says:

    I’d love to market placebo.

    “The most studied medication in history — Placebo!”

    “20% to 30% effective for every ailment or disorder — Placebo!”

    “The industry, academia, and government all agree: Placebo sets the standard for safety and effectiveness!”

    “Now available without a prescription!”

    coming soon — placebo XR!

  17. firefoxx66 says:

    I have nothing against placebos, but I don’t like the idea of doctors having to prescribe pills to patients because the patients are demanding a prescription (even if medically they don’t need one (ex: have a virus)) or because doctor’s ASSUME patients are going to want a prescription.

    There’s been an important shift in the relationship between doctors and patients in the last 20 years or so with the advent of medical information readily available online. Only a few doctors have been able to actually cope with it. Most doctors simply long for the old days, when patients blindly believed whatever you told them, and moan endlessly about the patients that now come in with stacks of self-researched information.

    The problem is, this is not something that’s suddenly going to change back. The internet is here now. Medical information is available now. It’s not going away. Rather than trick patents into taking placebos, doctors need to be learning to communicate more effectively with their patients, and explain why they don’t need medication and why they don’t have disease X in terms they can understand. For doctor’s that learned and practised for years to just tell patients anything and be believed, this is a big change.

    But it’s one that must come. Because unless you can think of a way to stop everyone in America from Googling their symptoms, this is the new doctor-patient relationship.

    • ilves says:


      Unfortunately the insurance system is making sure that Doctor’s never have the time to explain all that to the patients. Primary care docs need to see multiple patients per hour just to keep up and get compensated enough… and most primary care docs earn under 100k per year, not counting in cost of insurance. Your new doctor-patient relationship won’t get any better until doctors can actually take time with each patient.

      • deadspork says:

        @ilves: So the doctor explains it, and the patience gets all stupid and irate and goes to another doctor, where he or she gets the scrip.

        When my doctor told me that antibiotics wouldn’t help my upper respiratory infection, I shook his hand and thanked him for doing the right thing, isntead of assuming that I wouldn’t be satisfied with an honest answer. But I don’t know if all of his patients are like that.

        I actually knew someone once who said he took antibiotics whenever he got a migraine, just to make sure it didn’t get really bad. Cue me ahem, gently, explaining to him how antibiotics work and why they would have no effect on his migraine…

      • Madame_Dry_Ice says:

        @ilves: Hence, in their greed to make the almighty buck, they run them through like animals in a meat processing plant or cars in an assembly line to increase productivity [of money into their bank accounts], when poor people live in such low income brackets they could not work a year to pay a month of these doctor’s car payments, they whine about how little they make. [rolling my eyes]

    • soloudinhere says:


      The problem comes when a patient comes into the office insisting that they have some major illness when they just don’t. The patient also has to be receptive to the idea of not being all that sick, or the idea that there is no reasonable treatment, and most just aren’t. We despise patients who come in toting 400 pages printed off WebMD because they’ll be reading about a disease, without adequate knowledge of what they’re reading, and come in and refuse to believe that they’re wrong.

      If you feel that your doctor is wrong in expecting you to “blindly believe” what he’s telling you, you should probably find a doctor you actually trust. The internet is a great resource for researching a diagnosis once you have one–but arriving at the office convinced you have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever helps no one and it certainly doesn’t help you get better or help your doctor treat you.

      • oneandone says:

        @soloudinhere: That’s part of the problem, but part is also some doctors’ unwillingness to admit that they (or medical science in general) don’t know how to adequately treat someone’s condition. A placebo – or some medication the doctor doesn’t think will actually work but might placate the patient – might given so the patient feels less anxiety than hearing ‘we don’t know what to do to help you.’

        Some/most of the problem is patient insistence, but I think that a big chunk of the placebo-prescribing originates on the doctors’ end.

      • bohemian says:

        “but arriving at the office convinced you have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever”

        Heh. I actually did that once. We got infested with ticks while camping out of state. Came home and the man had all the signs of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I used to be a vet tech so the symptoms are taught to you in your training. The doc thought I was totally nuts and ran a bunch of tests. When they all came back negative he ran one for RMSF. That was what he had and I was right. Do I win a prize?

      • Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

        @soloudinhere: The problem with this? They can be wrong.

        My family has a medical background – my mother works in NHS labs and my father is a Pharma rep (and no it doesn’t work ANYTHING like it does in the US here in the UK thank god – I would have shot him by now if it did). Since the age of 12 I had repeated period problems. I went to the Dr, he gave me painkillers. I insisted over a period of years that this was NOT normal. More painkillers. At one point he outright refused to send me for tests. I saw other Drs in the surgery trying to get a second opinion, by this point he’d actually put HYPOCHONDRIAC on my file and had me dosed up on opiate-derived painkillers (Which I admit I was taking because without paint releif I couldn’t function).

        Two years ago I moved. I had the medical equivalent of a health MOT with the new surgery before my notes were transferred. I mentioned the period thing, the GP was rather horrified that the strength of painkiller I was on was hardly touching the pain. I said I’d happily give up the painkillers just to know what was wrong. She referred me immediately to a gynecologist. I have severe PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome AND Endometriosis, which is what I had thought might be wrong. I’m now on the RIGHT medication and off painkillers altogether. The downside is, they don’t know how bad my liver is damaged from the nearly twelve years of mis-prescribed painkillers, and there is no way to get the hypochondriac note removed.

      • Madame_Dry_Ice says:

        @soloudinhere: That word “despise” is rather accurate. Doctors are proven to have an overall level of contempt for not only their own patients but humanity in general.

        We did research in the military as to who could be trusted to report a terrorist if they knew it, and time after time, the person with the lowest level of personal connection to others was the doctors, particularly the veteran physicians who has many many years in the profession.

      • RedwoodFlyer says:

        @soloudinhere: calling BS because there’s no condition on WebMD with nearly 400 pages of info…not to mention the fact that they’d need to swap ink cartridges several times…which statistically speaking, would involve a trip to Wal-Mart/Rapid Refill.

    • MikeGrenade says:

      WebMD is like Christmas for hypochondriacs.

  18. MrFrankenstein says:

    This information is common knowledge.

    What needs to be understood from it – is the equally
    common knowledge that easily 70-80% of the contents of the average pharmacy, are also nothing more than placebo’s – and often deeply stupid and damaging placebo’s, designed for the ignorant and desperate.
    (Like almost all ‘cold’ medicines which contain sweet or sugary substances. If your body’s producing excess mucus – causing everything from sinus issues to headaches – the only way to stop it, is to avoid mucus-producers. Period. So eating anything with sugar or sweeteners, or incipient sugars,just keeps it going.)

  19. The Porkchop Express says:

    I don’t like that the “placebo” is an actual medication. Can’t that cause some harm? in actual testing situations where placebos are used, it’s not a real medicine right? Just sugar pills or whatever.

    So the study IMHO shows that doctors are giving people random medicine (not placebos) for random conditions.

  20. frodo_35 says:

    Thats sounds good but then people would just doctor shop. The tv tells us we need these drugs to feel better
    or to just feel. We are a over medicated society and the corps love it unless you self medicate. Smoke a joint you grew in your back yard and your a drug addict go to jail do not pass go we take your house etc. But here take this prozac or zanex or ambian to cope with the depresion of getting f-ed by the legal system.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      @frodo_35: Shrill anti-drug zealots in 3… 2…

    • deadspork says:

      @frodo_35: Come on, how is anyone supposed to make any money if you do your FREE drugs instead of buying ours??

    • bohemian says:

      @frodo_35: Solution. Ban pharma advertising like they did smokes and booze.

      • Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

        @bohemian: I found pharma advertising in the US completely bizaare when I was visiting. The strongest stuff that’s advertised on TV over here is cold medcine and athletes foot treatments! I also discovered very quickly admitting your Dad works for a pharma company is a BAD idea…

  21. InThrees says:

    I read a similar article a few days ago and I’m sort of torn. While I agree with the informed consent angle as a problem in theory, I know that most people go to a doctor because they aren’t doctors and they need a doctor to nudge them into the right conformed consent in the first place. If a doctor is sure something is psychosomatic, then why not make the patient happy with a sugar pill, right?

    The most obvious ethical trap here is the doctor making money by taking advantage of hypochondriacs. If Joe keeps imagining problems and keeps paying his doctor $140 a visit to get a packet of 10 white pills the doctor just hands him after a cursory examination and quick ‘research’ withdrawal, then we have a pretty serious problem.

    • deadspork says:

      @InThrees: I don’t think they can prescribe a sugar pill. As in, there is no ‘brand’ of placebo pills that a person can just go pick up.
      “I’m here to pick up my prescription of Sucrosia RX, thanks!”

      • InThrees says:

        @deadspork: I think you are probably correct. (And note how I said ‘packet of 10 white pills the doctor just hands him.’ – Doctors frequently have prescription samples. I’ve gotten several from various doctors.)

  22. AndyMan1 says:

    So is there some sort of super-secret doctor/pharmacy shorthand for placebos (e.g. Dupahexopharmaleve PLCBO, 20mg), or do doctors only do what’s described in the article and prescribe pain relievers, vitamins, etc. and try to convince the patient that’s what they need?

    and if there is a super-secret shorthand, does it cost the same as the real drug?

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @AndyMan1: No secret shorthand; even this placebo crap borders on violating ethical guidelines…

      A family member works at the VA (jokes aside…many locations are superior to most hospitals…first system to be 100% computerized among other things). She said even prescribing a drug known to be inert to the condition is a big no no, and it opens the floodgates to malpractice claims.

  23. spanky says:

    I am as annoyed as anyone by hypochondriacs and attention seekers, but as a middle aged woman, I now realize that this is all too often the default diagnosis for those of us in the demographic. Twice so far I’ve been diagnosed with vague and completely irrelevant ‘syndromes’ and only later discovered that I was actually sick and getting worse.

    Last year, I saw a doctor for a series of admittedly odd, diffuse symptoms, and was twice sent home with diagnoses that amounted to telling me I had Hysterical Lady Syndrome; before the third visit when they finally did a blood test and discovered that I was so anemic I was almost to the point that I would have needed blood transfusions.

    So while I don’t doubt that there really are a lot of hypochondriacs and drama junkies out there, I also know, based just on personal experience, that at least some of these bullshit diagnoses are actual sick people who’ve been blown off by stupid, lazy doctors.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      So while I don’t doubt that there really are a lot of hypochondriacs and drama junkies out there, I also know, based just on personal experience, that at least some of these bullshit diagnoses are actual sick people who’ve been blown off by stupid, lazy doctors.

      @spanky: Yes, thank you.

      It makes me so angry that these doctors would actually risk making someone sick(er) or suffer some side effect by giving them real drugs that they don’t need.

    • Despiridius says:

      Without knowing the specifics regarding time course and symptoms, you could argue that things went well for you. If your doctor order broad blood tests for everyone that came in with similar symptoms, there would be wasteful spending and a high number of false-positives. When your symptoms persisted and progressed beyond the usual person who gets better on their own, the correct blood test was ordered and was more specific at that juncture.
      The outpatient encounter isn’t designed to diagnose everything in 15 minutes. Having data points over several weeks helps you and the doctor.

      • spanky says:

        @Despiridius: Nope, things did not “go well” for me in that case, and there is no reasonable argument that they did. The diagnosis was about six months after my first visit, and I do not visit doctors lightly. My symptoms included excessive bruising, fatigue, syncope, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations, and the only reason I went in in the first place was that I was extremely pale and cold to the touch, and my boyfriend was scared and kept dragging me back. If left to my own devices, I would probably still be sick unless I’d fainted out in public somewhere and ended up in an ER.

        I spent many months severely incapacitated because the doctor apparently decided that I was exaggerating my symptoms, likely because he believed that that’s what middle aged women do. Except that I don’t. I do not visit doctors unless I’m really really sick, which he would have known if he’d been paying attention to my actual records rather than treating me like a demographic.

        Oh, and the office visits were about $75 each, and the blood test was something like $50.

  24. mike says:

    Dogbert: This’ll cure you immediately.
    Dilbert: Really? What is it?
    Dogbert: A placebo.
    Dilbert: A placebo? Now that you’ve told me it’s a placebo, it’s not gonna work.
    Dogbert: It will if you think it will.
    Dilbert: But I already know it’s a placebo!
    Dogbert: Maybe it isn’t.
    Dilbert: You just said it was!
    Dogbert: That’s precisely the power of the placebo.

  25. mythago says:

    Of course, there is no real “placebo effect” – it’s medical urban legend.

  26. MrEvil says:

    If the placebo was a real placebo and not actual medication It wouldn’t bother me. However, one reason we get resistant staph is due to over-prescribing of antibiotics to patients often as a placebo.

    Mind you a responsible physician would ask their placebo patient for a follow up appointment in a week or two. If the problem persists then the doctor could prescribe some real meds.

  27. ninabi says:

    Make mine “Akdov”, a clear medicinal liquid. Mix with orange juice or soda. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of “Akdov”.

    Use as directed to control stress and to help with the disorder “social inhibition”, also known as shyness.

    Do not take “Akdov” while nursing or pregnant.

  28. rubberkeyhole says:

    I’m always paranoid that I’m going to be given placebos…and as someone with fibromyalgia, now I see that it’s a valid concern.

    However, it should be considered dangerous to just placate a “difficult” patient with whatever they have handy…as a fibro patient, I am aware that it might make me “difficult,” but he should try living with chronic pain for a few days and see how much he likes being talked down to.

  29. Brazell says:

    “A big dose of Aleve,” is a key sentence to this. He’s not prescribing them actual placebos — like a sugar pill — he’s prescribing them something that is a general pain reliever and it’s “treating” their other symptoms. This is fine, usually, you’d be surprised how well Ibuprofen works at curing just about everything :)

  30. banmojo says:

    so many uninformed comments here today.

    1. placebo effect is likely involved in most of medication/cure interactions, to some extent. The human mind has power that science hasn’t been able to clearly delineate yet – we CAN talk ourselves into illness, and we CAN talk/think ourselves OUT of illness as well.

    2. studies have shown that in many cases of the common cold, taking a prescribed course of Abx will shorten the entire course of the illness by up to 12 hours. Abx, it turns out, in addition to killing certain types of bacteria, also have antiinflammatory properties we don’t fully understand yet. To some people, 12 hours of extra good health may be worth 10-200$ for a Rx. This is not placebo effect.

    3. doctors don’t have the time nowadays to explain everything they are deciding to do for a patient to that patient and their family. if they did take that time, they wouldn’t make enough money to keep their offices open. family doctors around the states are having to close their offices because the insurance companies and THE GOVERNMENT (esp nObama’s vision of the gov.) are making the compensation for seeing patients dwindle month by month. Their salary is going DOWN, not UP, even while inflation and office costs go UP. Hence, the 5 minute consult, with the doctor trying to diagnose, workup, and treat within that short time period.

    If society decides they want to pay to have their MDs spend time and educate and talk to them, then MDs will start doing so. As it is, some MDs try to do this anyways, and ultimately work 18 hr days as a result, just to keep their practice open. Then they get divorced as a result of this.

    Unless you’ve gone to pre med, gone to med school, gone through residency and fellowship, then worked for 10 yrs as a licenced physician, you’ll have no idea of what I’m talking about.


  31. Madame_Dry_Ice says:

    I have a life threatening condition which has had me hospitalized twice and given a blood transfusion the second time because the evil bastreds gave me placebos.

    This is a very real and very deadly situation of stupid pre-judgmental quacks pretending to be doctors allowing patients to die because they rule their patients as “hypochondriacs”, often times IN SPITE OF CLEAR MEDICAL EVIDENCE that showed that there was SOMETHING wrong with the patient, but the doctor in their ignorance simply decided to try and see if a placebo would fix the problem.

    Medical quackery like this is not only intentional because of inept and incompetent doctors either. Its because in BOTH CASES, the money paid out is full price and even the FDA has investigated this, because doctors get kickbacks from pharmaceuticals for selling placebos of their given brand of medicines.

    And disgustingly, if you fail to prove you died of a placebo [and laws make that pretty hard, especially since usually it is the victim who is required to press charges as the victim] when you are now, in fact dead, and can not witness or call expert medical witnesses in your behalf, these violations of the medical codes of ethics [which are still, after all of this time not actual LAWS] will go unnoticed and unreported.

  32. ShariC says:

    People need to have more confidence in the ability of the body and the mind to heal without intervention. Double-blind studies show that a reasonable number of problems can be recovered from with no intervention beyond interaction with a care giver. People with back problems, for example, get better at a same rate whether they receive medication, surgery, or nothing at all. One third get better, one third get worse, and one third experience no change regardless of treatment.

    Unfortunately, both medical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in making people believe they cannot heal without outside help so we get fed the notion that we need strong medicine in most cases to get better.

  33. Meathamper says:

    Hey, if it works, it works. And as a plus, the virus wouldn’t get resistant to the meds, because it’s not even a medicine! Thank the Lord for sugar pills!

  34. RedwoodFlyer says:

    What worries me is that this nutjob thinks Fibromyalgia is made up….having been around/close to someone with Fibro, I can assure you that it’s very real…sometimes their nerves are so high strung that if you hug them, they nearly scream in pain.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I do not doubt it and I highly agree with the use of placebos. I was given a placebo as a child by an MD to prove that my illness was completely psychosomatic. Thankfully, he was able to get me right over to a psychologist that treated me for OCD. I love that doc!

  36. zyodei says:

    I say bravo to the doctors! Seeing how many pharmaceuticals weaken the system and invite more illness which necessitates more pharmaceuticals, I think they’re really doing their patients a good turn.