Impure Placebos

Out of 783 doctors, 12% said they had used “_pure_” placebo (sugar pills, saline injections) while 97% had used “impure placebos” (prescribing drugs without scientific basis, like antibiotics for viruses). More than three-quarters said they did so at least once a week, and many didn’t have an ethical problem with deceiving patients if treatments were effective.

Ben Schiller

A study of Danish general practitioners found that 48% had prescribed a placebo at least 10 times in the past year. The most frequently prescribed placebos were presented as antibiotics for viral infections, and vitamins for fatigue. Specialists and hospital-based physicians reported much lower rates of placebo use. A 2004 study in the British Medical Journal of physicians in Israel found that 60% used placebos in their medical practice, most commonly to “fend off” requests for unjustified medications or to calm a patient. The accompanying editorial concluded, “We cannot afford to dispense with any treatment that works, even if we are not certain how it does.” Other researchers have argued that open provision of placebos for treating ADHD in children can be effective in maintaining ADHD children on lower stimulant doses in the short term.

(Wikipedia on Placebo)