A fascinating new study has been published in the respected PLoS One Journal that sheds light on something that many medical professionals had long been suspecting but few had ever accurately articulated. More than 3/4 of British doctors surveyed within a recent study have prescribed treatments at least once a week that they knew probably wouldn’t work.
Oftentimes the low-dose drugs that they prescribe include a vitamin or nutritional supplement. The key reason cited was that they feel under pressure from patients to provide something – anything – to cure a perceived issue.
This is especially troubling to the British medical establishment because the use of placebo’s goes against advice laid out by the British Medical Association. It has taken a stance against placebo’s by declaring them unethical.
The PLoS One study was conducted using a web-based survey that got 783 total responses. Of that 783, it was narrowed down to the 71% of respondents who were licensed by the BMA. The study asked doctors if they had ever actually prescribed a true placebo to a patient – referencing a sugar pill or another kind of non-drug treatment.
Blood tests and X-rays were also cited as non-essential examinations that doctors have used to put patients minds at ease.
Of all the responding doctors, a full 97% reported issuing some kind of placebo treatment at least once during their careers, while 12% reported using a fake pill specifically. Approximately 77% of doctors revealed that they issue some kind of placebo treatment every week.
Interestingly enough, 80% of respondents declared that the use of placebos was ethical depending on the circumstances.
The German Medical Association raised the issue back in 2011 when they recommended that medical practitioners use fake pills and other placebo treatments more often.
While this may seem shocking to some, the evidence is that there that the so-called “placebo treatment” can work. Dummy pills have been known to work even when patients are told that they are getting a placebo.
The American Medical Association’s stance on placebo’s is that physicians may only use them when the patient has been made aware. A U.S.-based study found that about half of American doctors give their patients treatments that probably won’t work but will set the patient’s mind at ease.
Doctor’s in America are not obligated to divulge whether placebo’s are being used, however. Facing a media fall-out after the PLoS One study was released, the chairman of the British Medical Association’s Ethics Committee released a statement declaring that “prescribing something that you know is of no value is not ethical.”
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