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Half of US Doctors Use Placebo Treatments

Patients given a fake or ineffective treatment often improve anyway, simply because they expected to get better

October 23rd, 2008

 About half, 50% of American doctors in a new survey say they regularly give patients placebo treatments — usually drugs or vitamins that aren’t used to help the condition. And many of these doctors are not honest with their patients about what they are doing, the survey found.

Scientists have long known of the "placebo effect," in which patients given a fake or ineffective treatment often improve anyway, simply because they expected to get better.

Researchers at the NIH sent surveys to a random sample of 1,200 internists and rheumatologists — doctors who treat arthritis and other joint problems. They received 679 responses. Of those doctors, 62 percent believed that using a placebo treatment was ethically acceptable.

Half the doctors reported using placebos several times a month, nearly 70 percent of those described the treatment to their patients as "a potentially beneficial medicine not typically used for your condition." Only 5 percent of doctors explicitly called it a placebo treatment.

Most doctors used actual medicines as a placebo treatment: 41 percent used painkillers, 38 percent used vitamins, 13 percent used antibiotics, 13 percent used sedatives, 3 percent used saline injections, and 2 percent used sugar pills.

In the survey, doctors were asked if they would recommend a sugar pill for patients with chronic pain if it had been shown to be more effective than no treatment. Nearly 60 percent said they would.

Smaller studies done elsewhere, including Britain, Denmark and Sweden, have found similar results.

Some doctors believe placebos are a good treatment in certain situations, as long as patients are told what they are being given. Dr. Walter Brown, a professor of psychiatry, said people with insomnia, depression or high blood pressure often respond well to placebo treatments.

 "You could tell those patients that this is something that doesn't have any medicine in it but has been shown to work in people with your condition," he suggested.

However, experts don't know if the placebo effect would be undermined if patients were explicitly told they were getting a dummy pill.

 Brown said that while he hasn't prescribed sugar pills, he has given people with anxiety problems pills that had extremely low doses of medication. "The dose was so low that whatever effect the patients were getting was probably a placebo effect," he said.

Kirsch, the psychologist, said it might be possible to get the psychological impact without using a fake pill. "If doctors just spent more time with their patients so they felt more reassured, that might help," he said.
Source: MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng, Ap Medical Writer – Thu Oct 23
Dr. Iverson's Comment
YES!!!  This is truly what we are waiting for! For those of you who have heard my presentation on the POWER of the body to create its own medicine then this article wouldn’t be concerning but rather EMPOWERING!!!
Placebos work because the body is creating its OWN PHARMACEUTICAL chemicals to bring about the perfect effect! It is actually the safest, most reliable, exact dose of your own perfect medicine that is completely free of side effects!
So what does this mean… it means that science needs to find ways to accentuate the POWER OF PLACEBOS, not disregard them! Unfortunately, prescribing medication like antibiotics as placebos only accentuates the problem we have with resistance to bacteria like MRSA.
In the teachings of Homeopathy, there is actually a specific medicine that is designated exclusively in situations where placebo is indicated. In this discipline, the benefits of using placebos are more helpful that trying to work against it. Conventional medicine has almost a taboo in accepting that someone can get well by their own intention or belief in a substance. It is as if they are saying that if the drug or chemical didn’t create the effect then nothing can…   I do not agree.
The article underlines the dangers in prescribing drugs as placebos that have potential side effects. Although, if we understand the power of the body to heal via this very effective mechanism, we would put the millions of dollars we regularly put into drug research into understanding how the brain uses placebos to heal the body ….this I feel is more important than trying to disregard this effect!
As humans with bodies that have extraordinary potential to heal themselves, we must be open in the power of mind-body medicine and use it to our advantage!
Mind-over-matter!   Be Well!
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