Prescribing Placebos

I found this entry on the WSJ Health Blog and all the comments very interesting.  At the core, the issue is that if a physician prescribes a placebo (sugar pill, vitamin, OTC, antibiotic) to make the patient feel better even though it medically won’t (but may mentally)…is there something wrong with that.

Obviously, if it drives a financial burden for the patient, that would be wrong, but I don’t see physicians doing that.

If it prescribed a medication that had serious side effects, that would be wrong, but I don’t see physicians doing that.

If it was a simple remedy (e.g., take B12), that doesn’t seem harmful.  There have been plenty of arguements about medications like antidepressants and whether they work, but they still get prescribed quite a bit.

One Response to “Prescribing Placebos”

  1. As a practicing physician I initially was quite defensive about this study, but with some further thought it did give me some pause. In particular using active medications for clearly viral infections while relatively safe does carry risk of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, as well as untoward side effects such as diarrhea and secondary yeast infections. Would love to hear your opinion on my post at

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