Friday, October 24, 2008

When Doctors Prescribe Sham Medicines

If you believe that a doctor's prescription has real pharmaceutical drugs written on it, think again, because recent studies have pointed to the fact that doctors frequently prescribe placebo pills to achieve a psychological effect.

The findings supporting the practice were reported in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). But at the same time the "placebos" that doctors sampled in the survey used were not completely inactive like the substances used in clinical trials. Rather, these were substances that may have some effects, but not any direct effect on the patient's condition other than what can be termed as a placebo effect. Generally, people think of a placebo as something similar to a sugar pill.

Placebo effect is any benefit experienced by patients when they are by assured that whatever is being prescribed to them will benefit them, irrespective of the problem. It's like cashing in on optimism and confidence to help someone.

You may be wondering why do doctors need to prescribe placebos rather than real prescription drugs to combat the symptoms a patient reports.

Well the reason lies in the fact that a lot of sensations such as pain we feel are also governed by how we think about our sickness. Further, over the years the effectiveness of "The placebo effect" has been validated in a number of studies.

Experts believe that prescribing placebos is a common in the practice of medicine. And the study revealed that only 3 percent doctors doled out sugar pills, 13 percent prescribed antibiotics, 41 percent used over-the-counter painkillers, 38 percent used vitamins, and 13 percent used sedatives as placebos.

So the next time your doctor prescribes you may be compelled to think more about the prescription, somewhat.

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