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)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.