Half of US Docs Prescribe Placebos

Many physicians believe in psychological impact of prescriptions
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2008 5:45 AM CDT
Half of US doctors admit having prescribed placebos for their patients.   (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, file)
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(Newser) – Half of US doctors admit prescribing drugs to patients just for the placebo effect—to make them think they are taking something beneficial, reports the Chicago Tribune. As many as 56% prescribed antibiotics, painkillers, vitamins, and sedatives in cases where they didn't expect them to have any benefit physically, but thought the pills might have a positive psychological impact, according to a survey. "Frankly, I was astonished," said a bioethics expert.

A common case is prescribing antibiotics for upper respiratory infections when patients are insistent. "Most of the time, I'll tell patients, 'You really don't need an antibiotic.' But if someone's really nervous or distressed, I'll write a prescription," said one physician. "If they think it will help them it may have a placebo effect."

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