Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Half of American Doctors Often Prescribe Placebos

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the first-do-no-nothin' dept.

Medicine 238

damn_registrars writes "'Half of all American doctors responding to a nationwide survey say they regularly prescribe placebos to patients. The results trouble medical ethicists, who say more research is needed to determine whether doctors must deceive patients in order for placebos to work.' The study just quoted goes on to say that the drugs most often used as placebo are headache pills, vitamins, and antibiotics. Studies on doctors in Europe and New Zealand have found similar results."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

FRIST PSOT!! (-1, Offtopic)

johanatan (1159309) | about 6 years ago | (#25513605)

Frist PSOT!!

Re:FRIST PSOT!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513623)

Forget to post AC and look up how spell "First" or "Post" again?

Re:FRIST PSOT!! (-1, Offtopic)

johanatan (1159309) | about 6 years ago | (#25513711)

No.

Re:FRIST PSOT!! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514549)

You also can't spell your name!

First Post! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513607)

I'm a Jew and I love money. Oy Vey!

Re:First Post! (1, Offtopic)

Lord Kano (13027) | about 6 years ago | (#25513673)

I'm not and I'm still rather fond of mine. What's your point?

LK

teh vicod1n? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513627)

teh vicod1n?

Many surgical provedures are placebos. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513647)

There's very little if any peer review of surgical procedures. And many times, when there is, the procedure is found to be ineffective at best: sometimes they cause more problems.

Re:Many surgical provedures are placebos. (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | about 6 years ago | (#25513811)

Cite! I know plenty of people who have received useless drugs. I cannot think of a single person I know who have had surgery that did not immediately have a dramatic positive effect on their condition.

Re:Many surgical provedures are placebos. (4, Funny)

Aphoxema (1088507) | about 6 years ago | (#25514047)

Vasectomies don't really make your little guys stop running around, they just make you think they're not supposed to anymore.

Re:Many surgical provedures are placebos. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514183)

[Citation Needed]

Re:Many surgical provedures are placebos. (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | about 6 years ago | (#25514509)

I got your citation right here, AC.

Unfortunately, they have to. (5, Insightful)

Lord Kano (13027) | about 6 years ago | (#25513649)

I have friends and relatives who get the Flu and run off to the doctor to get a prescription. I try to explain, that antibiotics won't help a viral infection but people just want to take a pill. It doesn't cost me any money for my time when I'm talking about it with them, but for a doctor time is money. He can lose money and potentially go out of business because every asshole who walks through the door wants or needs pills to feel better or he can just give them placebo and get on with his day.

LK

Re:Unfortunately, they have to. (1)

fbjon (692006) | about 6 years ago | (#25513919)

Care can smooth recovery though, and it doesn't work without the visit and/or placebo. It's not a useless service, at least sometimes.

Re:Unfortunately, they have to. (1)

philspear (1142299) | about 6 years ago | (#25514081)

They DO NOT have to prescribe antibiotics. There is NO excuse for that. Increasing the risk of creating superbugs that endanger everyone just to stay in buisness and get idiots out of your office is criminal, to say nothing of violating the hippocratic oath on a massive scale.

Re:Unfortunately, they have to. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514251)

Reading comprehension is your friend.

Re:Unfortunately, they have to. (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | about 6 years ago | (#25514283)

Reading is your friend. Next time try to stick it out through the summary.

The study just quoted goes on to say that the drugs most often used as placebo are headache pills, vitamins, and antibiotics.

is this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513651)

further proof that laughter is the best medicine?

this pisses me off (2, Interesting)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | about 6 years ago | (#25513657)

How can doctors get away with this? With the cost of medicine, how dare they make people go out and buy something they don't need. How about honesty and good bedside manner? Is that too difficult to provide outside of looking over a patient, writing out a prescription and charging 75 bucks for the visit?

Re:this pisses me off (5, Insightful)

schon (31600) | about 6 years ago | (#25513813)

How can doctors get away with this?

They're "getting away" with it because frequently it's in the best interest of their patients.

With the cost of medicine, how dare they make people go out and buy something they don't need.

They don't *make* people go out and do anything.

Most likely, people go to the doctor and expect to walk away with a prescription. The doctor has two choices:

1. give them a placebo, and tell them what to do to really fix the problem (bed rest or more exercise, as applicable to the situation.)

2. explain to them that a pill won't fix anything, and what they need to do to fix the problem.

If the doctor tells them 1, the patient walks away happy.

If the doctor tells them 2, the patient resents the doctor and ignores the advice about what to do to really get healthy.

How about honesty and good bedside manner?

Honesty and good bedside manner don't go very far when people are told by big pharmaceutical companies that there is a pill to cure everything.

Re:this pisses me off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514427)

I suspect half the time my doctor prescribes a blood test as a pseudeo-placebo on the grounds that he's at least doing something! :)

(Plus, he's often on me to watch my cholesterol levels, which are increasing.)

Of course, I'm actually aware enough to cope with a doc straight up telling me 'drugs won't do any good'. But so often I have to tell friends of mine that 'colds are viruses. Antibiotics don't help.'

Placebo should be the preferred treatment. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514685)

Most likely, people go to the doctor and expect to walk away with a prescription. The doctor has two choices:

1. give them a placebo, and tell them what to do to really fix the problem (bed rest or more exercise, as applicable to the situation.)

But the trouble is they are not giving them a placebo at all, they giving drugs. Most often they are giving anti-biotics to cure a flu. While the effect might be a placebo, the actual drug has a high level of toxicity.

What should be allowed if for doctors to prescribe sugar-pills marketed under a fancy name, or perhaps homeopathic remedies (ie water). Yes it might be deceptive, but the very best cure is a placebo cure effected with a non active agent. The patient both gets cured and their exposure to toxicity is minimized.

Re:Placebo should be the preferred treatment. (1)

niw (996534) | about 6 years ago | (#25515033)

What should be allowed if for doctors to prescribe sugar-pills marketed under a fancy name, or perhaps homeopathic remedies (ie water). Yes it might be deceptive, but the very best cure is a placebo cure effected with a non active agent. The patient both gets cured and their exposure to toxicity is minimized.

Yep I think would be a good idea, but as mentioned in the article:

But, Dr. Brody said, doctors should resist using placebos, because they reinforce the deleterious notion that âoewhen something is the matter with you, you will not get better unless you swallow pills.â

This is the real reason that we are having this discussion at all.

That said, a lot of the "health" problems are psychological, like one of my aunts.

Re:this pisses me off (5, Insightful)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about 6 years ago | (#25513821)

If placebos didn't work, then doctors wouldn't prescribe them. I guess the better question is how can we give people placebos without them realizing it's a placebo? I don't personally agree with giving out antibiotics as placebos. The trick is, with the internet, deceiving your patients is getting pretty hard.

Re:this pisses me off (1)

Jamie Lokier (104820) | about 6 years ago | (#25514275)

It is not clear that you have to deceive anyone. Some research shows the placebo effect (reduced but existing) even when people know it's a placebo. IMHO, that's ethical.

Re:this pisses me off (2, Informative)

Artifakt (700173) | about 6 years ago | (#25514669)

There is some real evidence the placebo effect doesn't work the way everyone believes it does.
Tests were done with giving people an injectable opiate for pain or giving them a placebo injection. This had pretty much the effect most people would expect, that is many people got pain relief from the placebo. This went on for about a week to establish a regular pattern. Then an opiate blocker was added to block the injection's effects, and surprise surprise, it also turned out to block the placebo's pain killing effects. This is one of those oddities medicine really has no good explanation for. It does seem to fit somehow with what you mention as well.
        Various experiments where the persons giving medication were aware or not aware it was a placebo seem to give odd results as well, where people administering the drugs seem to give away indicators to the patients that they themselves presumably don't know. This has been a good area for designing double-blind tests, where researchers have come up with elaborate methods to deprive people of information, i.e. giving the nurses written instructions in advance, and having them enter an area to find the doses pre-laid out but no doctor present, so there was no human contact that would seem to be capable of passing on any non-verbal or body language clues from somebody who knew which ones were placebos and which real. Unfortunately, it is not considered good practice of late to leave opiates just laying around, so it would be very difficult to introduce these methods to a new round of the original opiate experiments that led to this line of research,

Re:this pisses me off (1)

piojo (995934) | about 6 years ago | (#25514815)

That's very interesting--I would not have known that.

I would have liked to see a link to the published study, but searching for "opiate blocker pain relief placebo" reveals that this is commonly accepted as true.

Re:this pisses me off (1)

plover (150551) | about 6 years ago | (#25514927)

In those experiments did the opiate blocker truly block only the opiates, or does it work on the dopamine level? A study [nih.gov] has shown that a dopamine receptor antagonist can interfere with the function of the opiates, so unless the opiate blocker was known to only match the opiates being given, it's possible the blockage agent also blocked the dopamines generated by the placebo effect.

Re:this pisses me off (1)

budgenator (254554) | about 6 years ago | (#25514937)

  Then an opiate blocker was added to block the injection's effects, and surprise surprise, it also turned out to block the placebo's pain killing effects. This is one of those oddities medicine really has no good explanation for. It does seem to fit somehow with what you mention as well.

Adding a narcotic blocker to a placebo injection would also block the bodies natural endorphins and thereby blocking the natural pain relief mechanism. Opiates are not as good a pain reliever as people think, especially for some types of pain, for a good old fashioned everyday tension headache a couple tylenol or aspirin works wonders, but a vicoden wouldn't touch it. Motrin is the best pain reliever bar none for dental pain.

Re: "Strong Placebo" (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25514923)

Science has tricked itself into a tradition that is only just starting to change. We don't like to "accept" any procedure that "doesn't work". So tons of subtle practices that can't hurt and very likely help tap into body defenses are discarded as junk.

The patient has been conditioned that "since we got rid of the quacks back in 1925, every pill at least sorta does something". So patients come to want an *edible* placebo.

If the doctor doesn't have a classical cure, I would prefer to be advised to try an "action based placebo" such as meditation. Then the additional benefits over placebo such as conceptual structural clarity, etc. can provide the additional benefit.

Re:this pisses me off (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 6 years ago | (#25514513)

One word: Homeopathy.

There's a whole wealth of potent-sounding mostly harmless compounds that can be prepared in pill form.. and already are.

Agreed on the antibiotics. A good placebo shouldn't actually do anything at all.

Re:this pisses me off (2, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 6 years ago | (#25515107)

Yeah,using antibiotics is a really bad idea,as the last thing we need is more superbugs. That is why I thought my family doc was brilliant with what he does.

My sis is "one of those people" that if she doesn't get something,preferably in a nice pill form,she is convinced she won't get better. So the doc tells her(and later chatting up one of his nurses I found out this is a pretty standard routine with him) that the reason most folks get run down and sick is because they aren't getting the right kind of sleep. They aren't getting enough,or not enough deep sleep,etc. So he gives her a note to take to the health food store down the street and the give her Valerian root pills [wikipedia.org] which,wouldn't you know,made her feel a whole lot better. The brilliant part is the fact that he is telling the truth. The simple fact is most folks would feel better if they would quit stressing and get a good night's sleep,so I don't even know if you would call it a placebo effect or not.

Re:this pisses me off (0, Troll)

plover (150551) | about 6 years ago | (#25514867)

What's funnier is the Faux News spin on the dispensing of placebos [foxnews.com] . "About half of American doctors in a new study regularly give their patients placebo pills without telling them."

Wow. You've sure demonstrated a firm grasp of the 'placebo effect', Faux news! What's next, "Half of all bank robbers aren't told the police will respond when the alarms are tripped?" Freakin' geniuses over there.

re:this pisses me off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513849)

1) Patients come for help. If whatever doctor does works, his/her job is done. You (usually) get paid for work.

2) Get a freaking health care system or move to a country with one.

3) Every (almost) time someone brings up ethics God kills a kitten. Pleas people, don't make Baby Jesus cry.

Re:this pisses me off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514179)

My brother was taking medicine for a condition and swore it worked. He then found out that it may have been a placebo. His response? "I don't really care if it was a placebo or not; it worked.".

It has been shown over and over that placebos can be effective for certain conditions; especially if it require some sort of perception/feelings. eg pain, anxiety..

A doctor looks at the side effects / risks of a placebo vs a traditional medication; placebos usually have low to almost no side effects while the traditional medication may have higher risks/addiction potential. They may also look at the cost of the traditional medication (can be very expensive vs the placebo).

A good doctor will consider a placebo in certain conditions. You pay $75 expecting positive results and if a placebo gets you there with minium risk then $75 well spent.

I should note I do not think doctors should be prescribing antibiotics as a placebo for know resistance reasons.

Re:this pisses me off (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514191)

How can doctors get away with this?

Posting anonymously because this is kinda embarrassing, but I have suffered a bout of hypochondria recently. I'm not the type of person who runs to the doctor with every illness, and I have, in fact, gone for 5-6 years without doctor's visits (I'm in my mid-20's and in pretty good health, so I feel I can skip the check-ups).

Well, this all changed when I got some abdominal pains. Went to the doctor, he ran tests for the dangerous stuff, nothing was found. Then he ran tests for the more common stuff, nothing was found. He sent me home with instructions to wait a week to see if it got better, or to return earlier if it got worse. Naturally I got pissed off, because I was still in pain, and felt like I needed to do some research to see what it could be. I hit webmd.com

Fucking bad idea. As I found symptoms that matched mind, and read about the additional symptoms that came with the diseases, I actually started feeling the new symptoms. So I went back to the doctor with them. More tests were made, nothing was found, I would do more 'net research, start getting worse with new symptoms again, go back to the doctor run more tests, find nothing again. Eventually I realized what was happening, and calmed the fuck down. All the symptoms disappeared within a week, but not before I spent a few thousand dollars in deductibles and went through the literal pain in the ass of a colonoscopy as a 20-something year-old for no reason whatsoever.

This type of hypochondria is something medical students [wikipedia.org] go through, and is something you can expect more of the general population to go through now that we all have access to things like webmd.

So when you show up at a doctor's office, and the doctor eliminated the possibility that you need urgent medical attention, and can't find anything wrong with you...there's some value to the patient in just prescribing a cheap placebo and calming him down.

Re:this pisses me off (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 6 years ago | (#25514949)

+1 Interesting and well said. Your story is one that I have observed in a number of other people, but is not one I have ever heard anyone ever admitting with regard to themselves.

Re:this pisses me off (3, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | about 6 years ago | (#25514195)

Placebo(TM): the name trusted by half of America's doctors! Ask your doctor if Placebo(TM) is right for you.

Re:this pisses me off (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514901)

Can this Miracle drug Placebo cure my Hypochondria?
I have no idea what it is but my doctor said I have it and now I'm worried.

Re:this pisses me off (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 6 years ago | (#25514267)

It depends. The problem is human, not only is the physician human, the patient is too.

I think it can be a good way to diffuse a potentially tense situation. There is a recognized problem where sometimes parents bring their children in for sniffles and demanding antibiotics. Parents, being overzealous, ignorant or just plain adamant, don't think their children are getting proper attention if they aren't getting antibiotics, but giving out antibiotics when it isn't merited, or cause more problems. Excessive antibiotic use is what has given rise to antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotics aren't even effective against a virus, which is what a cold is. If the case is where the patient or guardian is unwilling to listen, then I have no problem with the physician relenting in the form of prescribing a placebo.

Re: SuperPlacebo? (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25514951)

Wow.

Last I knew, the classical placebo was for the *patient* to feel better. You just described a scary variant, the placebo to make the *mother* of the patient feel better!

Re:this pisses me off (1)

niw (996534) | about 6 years ago | (#25515069)

If the case is where the patient or guardian is unwilling to listen, then I have no problem with the physician relenting in the form of prescribing a placebo.

That would be a good use for it, as long as the placebo is really harmless in the real definition of placebo, not real drugs but useless for the symptoms (some with rather severe side affects) as is used in the the summary/article.

Re:this pisses me off (3, Interesting)

nick_davison (217681) | about 6 years ago | (#25514277)

How about honesty and good bedside manner?

When drug manufacturers stop spending millions on advertising campaigns to convince patients that the latest and greatest drug (which is really exactly the same as the generic but with added ibuprofen or whatever) is essential, doctors might start getting honest information from their patients about what they really need.

About fifteen years ago, looking at med school as an option, I did work experience with a doctor. It was cold season. 95% of his patients were there because they had little more than a cold and a desire to stay home from work. He told me to watch. For the first five minutes he would do everything in his power to just give them the treatment they really needed. After that, if not satisfied, he'd write them a prescription for exactly the same thing but with a more impressive name, that they'd have to buy over the counter, that would cost them twice as much as the off the shelf for exactly the same thing.

The first five minutes they were pissed. What did he mean, he didn't think they needed a prescription?! That off the shelf drug couldn't possibly help someone as sick as them. They were angry. They were outraged.

Then he agreed with them, admitted he was wrong, that he'd underestimated and was going to write them a prescription for a new drug that's just come on to the market. With an impressive new name, essentially a reformulation of what he'd been trying to give them, they left happy.

Honesty and a good bedside manner are worth slightly less than zero when people are bombarded by dozens of commercials a day telling them how only the drug with the obviously happier people, with the cool smiling bumble bee, and the blisteringly fast side-effects in 0.001 point text can really make everything OK.

Re: "Honesty less than worthless" (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25514971)

Enter Robin Cook.

That's already a complicated definition of "medical truth". Then add some human failing and the story writes itself.

Re:this pisses me off (1)

sjames (1099) | about 6 years ago | (#25514793)

It really depends on what they prescribe for the placebo effet. They shound NOT prescribe antibiotics that way, nor should the prescription be expensive.

On the other hand, if they prescribe aspirin, the prescription costs about what OTC aspirin costs, and the patient feels better because it's "prescription strength", what's the harm?

If you want the extended sympathy for the flu, it would cost a lot more than aspirin.

At one time, people didn't even consider seeing the doctor for colds and flu (or sprains, etc). They reserved that for when they were getting sicker or didn't seem to be getting better.

These days, people will actually browbeat a doctor for prescription something even when all they have is a mild flu and nothing will actually make it go away any faster.

The interesting thing in those cases is that unlike an active drug, the placebo might ACTUALLY make the patient feel better. Isn't that what they wanted?

but the patients really do need pills (1)

r00t (33219) | about 6 years ago | (#25514899)

My guess would be anti-psychotic medication.

In any case, some sort of psychiatric medication
is appropriate. Lots of people are borderline nuts,
and a good number are more than that.

Ethical Challenges Remain (4, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 6 years ago | (#25513663)

So sayeth the article. But I ask you, do the ethical challenges concern doctors fobbing patients off with placebos, or the existence of an environment where a doctor is afraid or unable to legitimately tell hypochondriacs that they are not sick and send them home?

Re:Ethical Challenges Remain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513963)

That's only part of the issue.
It might be hard for the generally science-minded Slashdot commenter to fathom, but Placebos actually work. For example in a recent slashdot post on unpublished medical trials [nytimes.com] , it turned out that in one trial Prozac was less effective than the placebo.

Re:Ethical Challenges Remain (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | about 6 years ago | (#25514129)

Note that placebos have been shown to have significant effects on non-faked problems. There are cases where a person will actually improve when given a fake drug and told it is real when they would not if they were told to "stop faking".

Re:Ethical Challenges Remain (2, Insightful)

eht (8912) | about 6 years ago | (#25514199)

Part of the problem is that hypochondriacs will simply find another doctor who will give them what they "need".

Re:Ethical Challenges Remain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514281)

Maybe the doctors should refer patients with symptoms they do not see a cause for to a specialist? My mom's MS went undiagnosed for over a decade because doctors told her it was "stress". I've seen doctors disregard what I tell them too, though I don't always call them on it. Just because a doctor doesn't know what is going on doesn't mean it is all in the mind--and if it were in the mind, find a shrink for the person. When I doctor "handles" me I don't stop hurting, I just stop getting medical help.

Re:Ethical Challenges Remain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514693)

the existence of an environment where a doctor is afraid or unable to legitimately tell hypochondriacs that they are not sick and send them home?

Dude, you don't really understand hypochondria. They're not faking their symptoms, they really are in misery, like this poster [slashdot.org] . Telling them they're not sick and sending them home is only going to make them worse.

If you're so troubled about something that you're manifesting physical symptoms, they're not going to go away until you can calm down and you can only do that if you believe that you're doing something to fix your health problem.

this pisses me off (5, Insightful)

MadUndergrad (950779) | about 6 years ago | (#25513677)

Antibiotics shouldn't be prescribed all willy-nilly. It just helps in the creation of super bugs.

Re:this pisses me off (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 6 years ago | (#25514423)

Antibiotics shouldn't be prescribed all willy-nilly. It just helps in the creation of super bugs.

Depending on age, 14% to 30% of patients either skip doses or do not finish their regimen of antibiotics.

That is much more worrisome than the over prescription of antibiotics, because when someone sick doesn't finish their meds, you know that whatever is leftover gets stronger.

Antibiotics?!? (4, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | about 6 years ago | (#25513697)

For the love of non-antibiotic resistant tuberculosis, WHO are these doctors STILL giving out antibiotics when they don't need to? Is it not illegal for a doctor to prescribe medicine when it's not needed, and WHY AREN'T WE PUTTING THEM IN JAIL when they give out antibiotics for the cold etc? I know it must get annoying to deal with idiots asking for drugs they don't need, but that's your damn job, it's even more annoying if you get infected with superbugs you're making. Tell your patients that a spoonfull of sugar will cure them in aproximately 1 week if you absolutely need to give them something.

Seriously, it should be a felony to be giving out antibiotics when they're not needed.

Jail is geting off easy... (0, Flamebait)

ztcamper (1051960) | about 6 years ago | (#25513905)

I say line em up in a file. I'll go get a rail gun.

Re:Jail is geting off easy... (4, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | about 6 years ago | (#25513969)

It occurs to me that killing half of all doctors might have unpleasant consequences for society.

Re:Jail is geting off easy... (1)

chrispycreeme (550607) | about 6 years ago | (#25514141)

That's crazy talk! What are you? A terrorist?

>It occurs to me that killing half of all doctors might have unpleasant consequences for society.

Re:Jail is geting off easy... (1)

steelmaverick (936668) | about 6 years ago | (#25514795)

What a great find, sherlock.

Re:Antibiotics?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514119)

Problem is:

There is no test for 'a cold' (I assume you mean a viral infection). Yes, there is a probability involved. If for instance, there is a 5% chance the infection is bacterial - Do you give an antibiotic or does it have to be 25 or 50%? There is no consensus. So here's the kicker - If you are wrong and said pateint now has a bad outcome and you did NOT give an antibiotic - guess what - now YOU are at fault. Get rid of baseless lawsuits and doctors will not have to practice defensive medicine.

Re:Antibiotics?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514383)

One, I don't think it is really "illegal" but who knows, many silly things can get you arrested.

Second, yeah, lets put them in jail and make medicine even more expensive, bring more lawsuits and more insurances for doctors.

Now, how about if we kill the problem from the root, lets make illegal to advertise antibiotics as the cure-all pill, then your doctor may just let joe-sixpack go with some acetaminofen and he'll be happy.

How about better antibiotic use education for doctors?, but no, this is America, everything is solvable with lawsuits and jail.

Re:Antibiotics?!? (2, Informative)

nzg1983 (1394049) | about 6 years ago | (#25514431)

Placebos and Antibiotics are not the same thing. You say, " Tell your patients that a spoonfull of sugar will cure them in aproximately 1 week if you absolutely need to give them something." - that is essentially what a placebo is! There are tons of articles out there about how patients are becoming more resistant to medical advice because they are constantly on the internet looking for a cure and they come to their doctors with things that won't work but refuse to listen to the doctor, who spent years in medical school, because they feel they learned everything by doing some research on the internet for a little bit. I can understand why some doctors feel they have no choice but to prescribe a placebo. This article also highlights the power of the mind in healing oneself, albeit in a roundabout way. If a patient feels they have gotten a new drug, they can heal themself just by thinking they are getting better from the new "drug". Anyway, I went off on a tangent a bit, but I just think you should have read the article more closely. Placebos are not antibiotics.

Re:Antibiotics?!? (1)

budgenator (254554) | about 6 years ago | (#25515007)

People frequently get bacterial secondary infections along with common viral primary infections and dealing with the secondary infection allows the body to dedicate more immunological resources to fighting the primary infection.

Not placebo (4, Informative)

pls2917 (97490) | about 6 years ago | (#25513703)

As the article points out, prescribing e.g. antibiotics is not truly placebo (something totally inert). Rather, they are looking for the placebo effect by prescribing something that's a real drug but not expected to help with the ailment in question.

Re:Not placebo (4, Interesting)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25513977)

I was going to post exactly that. Good job.

Although, they do give sugar pills sometimes at the hospital. Also, people, don't forget that this placebo effect actually HELPS the patient to recover more quickly.

Everyone does it. Even the medics sometimes use little tricks. They have 3 or 4 to save lives. I know of one: If you are extremely nervous and are almost hyperventilating, they give you a mask and tell you to breath the oxygen... yet they never open their bottle. The patients immediately calm down after that...

The medics never wanted to tell me the other tricks since they might eventually use them on me to save my life.

Re:Not placebo (1)

philspear (1142299) | about 6 years ago | (#25514107)

The reverse placebo effect works, right? Clearly what we need to do is spread the myth that antibiotics make you fat. Then there will be zero demand to take them when it's not needed.

Re:Not placebo (1)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25514145)

You're thinking about the nocebo effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nocebo [wikipedia.org]

You're idea is interesting but people might actually become obese when they truly need the pills :P

Re:Not placebo (1)

philspear (1142299) | about 6 years ago | (#25514269)

You're idea is interesting but people might actually become obese when they truly need the pills :P

Obvious solution: sell them sugar pills and tell them THOSE pills will help them lose antibiotics-related weight.

Oh crap, I've started thinking like a doctor!

Re:Not placebo (1)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25514343)

Hahaha, yes you did. Not a bad idea. But if you sell these, there WILL be a demand for antibiotics AND for these sugar pills.

We're back at square 1.

Re:Not placebo (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 6 years ago | (#25514559)

Why wouldn't they open the bottle? O2 fills are cheap, especially compared to pretty much everything else they could do, and a few minutes of oxygen therapy isn't going to hurt anyone.

Re:Not placebo (1)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25514613)

Oh, they could I guess. But, why waste O2 since it's not necessary?

Re: Sugar Pills (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25515017)

I have occasionally used a modified variant of this I call "Chaining". Hot Tamales stuffed inside something like a Licorice twizzler are a good example. Classical placebos are tasteless. If you had a placebo with a real kick in the taste department it would "feel like doing the duty of following doctor's orders".

Sam E is a legitimate medicine in its own right. But does it ever have the nastiest kickback of any part of my supplement repetoire. I kinda like that. "This is Medicine, Capital M, so don't mess with it".

Re:Not placebo (1)

Kandenshi (832555) | about 6 years ago | (#25514715)

not truly placebo (something totally inert)

Actually, something totally inert isn't an ideal placebo for most purposes. What you want is a psychoactive placebo like niacin(vitamin B3). Something that gives a mild side effect(eg: dry mouth, increased thirst, etc...).
The presence of some side effect helps convince the patient that the Magic Wonder Drug must really be powerful and doing a great job! After all, see how it's making me feel all weird?

Re:Not placebo (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25515045)

You found the other half of my post above. This time the "chain element" is actually a medical event, rather than subjective.

I still think all of these topics are fragmented weaker versions of the much deeper problem of science's history of reductionism. We worked so hard culturally to reduce debris & distractions in medicine, which got us a long way.

But at the very end, in emergent chaotic systems, there is a holistic level that vanishes when you break up the parts. You could simply combine "all four forms" of the exterior-meta-treatments and then choose not to obsess why the synergy works.
(Doctor care - classical placebo
(subjective taste etc for mind to fix on
(secondary medical event, again for the mind to fix on
(conceptual activity like relaxation exercise
))))

This is just beginning to be explored in recent literature in the last decade.

...Antibiotics?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513719)

Headache medicine and vitamins I can understand, they won't cause any harm to the patient. But prescribing antibiotics when someone doesn't actually have an infection is a really bad idea.

Overprescribing antibiotics is part of what leads to drug-resistant infections. It can also kill off beneficial bacteria, leaving your body open to infection (thrush and yeast infections are two common examples of this). They're also much more likely to have side effects or cause allergic reactions.

It just seems to me like you would want to use something that's essentially inert if you're going to prescribe placebos. I can't think of any good reason to use an antibiotic for that.

Re:...Antibiotics?? (1)

fi1th (1090847) | about 6 years ago | (#25514177)

Try homeopathy as a medication. It can, when prescribed correctly by a well practised homeopath, do wonders for the human body.

The strength of my body's immune system is strong as a result of being given homeopathic remedies as a child.

mod up I'm no troll

Age old practice (1)

mschuyler (197441) | about 6 years ago | (#25513819)

My grandfather was a company doctor for a mining company on the western slope in Colorado (near Gunnison & Crested Butte). He mixed sugar water with food dye in the kitchen for those who insisted they were sick, but for which he could find nothing wrong. Perhaps they needed a day off. In any case, the placebos worked.

drug company sponsored? (1)

JeffSh (71237) | about 6 years ago | (#25513901)

I would like to know the funding behind this study, as I have seen this all over of late. It seems as though the goal is to "get the word out" to people that there is a chance their doctor is prescribing them a placebo, which is entirely possible of course because it is an accepted medical fact that placebo's work on 33% of all medical complaints.

It seems to me that the party most interested in reversing or minimizing this would be drug companies who are sick of the placebo effect working and are wanting Doctor's to prescribe whatever the latest brand name drug is. Consumer and patient (often the same person, mind you) is a huge factor, and if people stop trusting their Doctor's and start trusting these sorts of studies or even advertisement, then the effectiveness of placebo treatment will inevitably decline.. In it's place, a placebo effect caused by ineffective brand name medications.

If it works, what is the big deal? Doctor's should be prescribing placebo medications (excepting, of course, antibiotics)

-Jeff

Re:drug company sponsored? (1)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25514011)

Also, it's the same thing with all the alternative medicines. Crystals, magnets and all that create the placebo effect too.

Though, scary voodoo magic and dark rituals bring the nocebo effect...

Psychology can be a remedy, and a weapon...

Re:drug company sponsored? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514451)

I would like to know the funding behind this study, as I have seen this all over of late. It seems as though the goal is to "get the word out" to people that there is a chance their doctor is prescribing them a placebo ... .

It seems to me that the party most interested in reversing or minimizing this would be drug companies who are sick of the placebo effect working and are wanting Doctor's to prescribe whatever the latest brand name drug is.

-Jeff

As for me, I don't see the appeal of many of the latest greatest drugs except those intended for treatment of genuinely life-threatening ailments.

For the drugs intended for non-life-threatening ailments the long lists of possible side-effects are certainly off-putting.

Reading all of the possible side-effects of some of them leads me to conclude that just manning up and living with the ailment would be better than some of the side-effects.

Well, yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25513937)

The interesting thing is that from various studies, the well-being of people is shown to be increased when they've been told whatever they've been given is the cure to their ailments.

What do you want from your doctor? Satisfaction and a feeling of well-being, or an actual cure from your ailment? Sounds like a simple thing, but usually one is easy to provide (placebo and well-being) and one is difficult!

And the worst part is... (2, Funny)

elgol (1257936) | about 6 years ago | (#25514031)

...they don't even tell the patients that they are getting a placebo!!!

So? (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | about 6 years ago | (#25514037)

I really don't see the problem with this. It's undeniable that the human mind is a finicky thing and what we believe strongly effects what we actually feel. It hasn't been absolutely proven that placebos do any good, but I can believe that if you make a person believe they're better than they really can be.

Antibiotics are a risky thing to bomb someone with all the time, but a z-pack every couple years might do a person some incidental good, like if they have gastroenteritis and think it's just what they're eating making things difficult.

It really is just in your head sometimes.

Re:So? (1)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25514073)

It hasn't been absolutely proven that placebos do any good

What? And why would studies of new cures be tested against control groups that are taking a PLACEBO then?

FAIL

Re:So? (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | about 6 years ago | (#25514161)

Wait, what?

Re:So? (2, Insightful)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25514321)

Placebos have been proven to do good for a long time. So much that they must take the placebo effect into account when pharmaceutical companies want to test new products in order to make sure their new medicine is NOT simply a placebo.

What they do is that they compare the new drug being developped to a fake drug that has no effects. So, one group of testers take the real pills, the other group takes the fake pills. Of course, nobody knows if their own pill is real.

So if the new drug is having better health benefits than a placebo, the new drug is accepted and made into an official medicine.

If the placebo effect wasn't known to be effective, they would simply compare the effect of their new drug to a group that wouldn't be taking anything.

Re:So? (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | about 6 years ago | (#25514499)

I mean using the placebo as a replacement for actual medication, not for control study. I believe it would be useful for many people, but I don't know of any studies proving it's practical to hand out antibiotics to make a patient better from their own foolishness.

Re:So? (1)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25514539)

Taking a placebo would help more than not taking anything, but it would help less than taking a known cure. That placebo could be a sugar pill, or an antibiotic, it's irrelevant since the only important thing is what the patient believes.

So what I was saying is that we already proved that a placebo is effective. If you give out antibiotics as a placebo, we know that it works since it IS a placebo. The only important thing for the patient is that they swallowed something.

Re:So? (1)

Jamie Lokier (104820) | about 6 years ago | (#25514289)

And sometimes it's not in your head, but your head can fix it anyway.

Re:So? (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | about 6 years ago | (#25514505)

Everything's in my head, so are you.

Re:So? (1)

Jamie Lokier (104820) | about 6 years ago | (#25514575)

For some definitions of head.

Re:So? (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 6 years ago | (#25514903)

For some definitions of head.

Or rather... for very large definitions of head.

Antibiotics used non-theraputically all the time.. (1)

lotho brandybuck (720697) | about 6 years ago | (#25514093)

You do know it's legal to put low dose antibiotics in animal feed? Actually, I think it's harder to get processed feed w/o antibiotics than with them! On the human side of things, check out what our local teaching hospital is asking for volunteers [craigslist.org] for. I think this is crazy and should be illegal. But if somebody can make money off of it, who is the government to regulate it in general society's interest?

In other news... (1)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | about 6 years ago | (#25514095)

Half of American patients report their prescriptions are ineffective.

Re:In other news... (1)

Bragador (1036480) | about 6 years ago | (#25514585)

A placebo is effective. Just not as much as a real medicine.

This has been going on for many years (2, Interesting)

grandpa-geek (981017) | about 6 years ago | (#25514151)

It was most effective when prescriptions didn't state what the medicine was. Putting the identity of the medicine on the container has only been done for about 30 or 40 years.

My cousin was a pharmacist, and he had to be careful to charge the patient an amount that would be appropriate for a non-placebo prescription.

Placebos did the job. Some people expect to be given medication for ailments that aren't curable by medication. However, the placebo effect can apparently be powerful.

Ethical issues? (3, Funny)

xstonedogx (814876) | about 6 years ago | (#25514209)

I hear there is a pill for that now.

SNOW OWL! (0, Troll)

Alex Belits (437) | about 6 years ago | (#25514665)

more research is needed to determine whether doctors must deceive patients in order for placebos to work

SNOW OWL! SNOW OWL! SNOW OWL!

(with words "O RLY" overlayed on the photo)

WebMD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25514747)

I recommend checking out webmd.com when a doctor gives you a drug that you don't recognise. I was introduced to this site via a psychology lecturer, who had been given some pills that had a half-life substantially longer than the time period between taking the pills — the end result of which meant she was bouncing off the walls after a few days.

I've found it useful for looking at potential side-effects and things it's a really bad idea to take the drug with.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?