Questionnaire Survey on Use of Placebo
BMJ: British Medical Journal 2004 October 23; 329(7472): 944- 946
OBJECTIVES: To gauge the frequency and circumstances of use of placebo in clinical practice and the attitudes towards its use among those who administer it. DESIGN: Retrospective questionnaire. SETTING: Two large hospitals and various community clinics in the Jerusalem area. PARTICIPANTS: 31 physicians working in hospital inpatient and outpatient departments, 31 head nurses working in hospital inpatient departments, and 27 family physicians working in community clinics. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Self report of frequency and circumstances of, and attitudes towards, use of placebo. RESULTS: Among the 89 respondents, 53 (60%) used placebos (95% confidence interval 49% to 70%). Among users, 33 (62%) prescribed a placebo as often as once a month or more; 36 (68%) told patients they were receiving actual medication; 15 (28%) considered that placebos were a diagnostic tool; and 48/51 (94%) reported that they found placebos generally or occasionally effective. CONCLUSION: Most practitioners questioned in this study continue to use placebos. Used wisely, placebos might have a legitimate place in therapeutics. Wider recognition of the practice and debate about its implications are imperative.
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