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Should doctors ever prescribe 'fake' medicine?
Given the incredible healing power of placebos — often as effective as prescription drugs — this question is getting harder to ignore, says Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow in the Boston Globe
Should doctors use placebo drugs in standard practice?
Should doctors use placebo drugs in standard practice?
Corbis
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he remarkable healing power of placebo treatments is little studied, and even less understood. Despite consistently producing results comparable to some FDA-approved therapies, "fake" treatments—including "sugar pills, saline injections, or sham surgery"—are rarely utilized by doctors. Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow at the Boston Globe suggests perhaps it's time to make better use of them:

"Any attempt to harness the placebo effect immediately runs into thorny ethical and practical dilemmas. To present a dummy pill as real medicine would be, by most standards, to lie. To prescribe one openly, however, would risk undermining the effect. And even if these issues were resolved, the whole idea still might sound a little shady—offering bogus pills or procedures could seem, from the patient’s perspective, hard to distinguish from skimping on care...

But according to advocates, there’s enough data for doctors to start thinking of the placebo effect not as the opposite of medicine, but as a tool they can use in an evidence-based, conscientious manner. Broadly speaking, it seems sensible to make every effort to enlist the body’s own ability to heal itself—which is what, at bottom, placebos seem to do."

Read the entire article at The Boston Globe.

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