Blog | Friday, October 24, 2008

Physicians using antibiotics, sedatives as placebos

Internists and rheumatologists are using antibiotics and sedatives for their placebo effect, researchers reported.

Before 1960, sugar pills were common and ethical. Then advances in pharmaceuticals and in informed consent cast placebos in a negative light. But internists are using them, so researchers looked at internists and rheumatologists use of placebos, figuring they dealt with "debilitating chronic clinical conditions that are notoriously difficult to manage."

Researchers collected 679 responses split nearly evenly bewteen internist and rheumatologists. About half prescribe placebos, using saline (3%), sugar pills (2%), over the counter analgesics (41%), vitamins (38%) antibiotics (13%) and sedatives (13%). Nearly half said they use placebos monthly.

The researchers concluded, "Recommending relatively innocuous treatments such as vitamins or over the counter analgesics to promote positive expectations might not raise serious concerns about detrimental effects to patients' welfare. Prescribing antibiotics and sedatives when they are not medically indicated, however, could have potentially important adverse consequences for both patients and public health."

How are you using placebos in your practice?