From today’s National Post:
The practice is discouraged by major medical groups, considered unethical by many doctors and with uncertain benefit, but one in five Canadian physicians prescribes or hands out some kind of placebo to their often-unknowing patients, a new study suggests.
The article references a paper in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry which does not appear to be online.
McGill’s Prof. Raz and his team conducted a survey of specialists throughout Canada, receiving responses from 606 doctors, 257 of them psychiatrists. About 20% of both psychiatrists and non-psychiatrists said they had used placebos in treating patients. The specific treatments they confirmed using included actual placebo tablets, sugar pills and saline injections. Some — including 35% of psychiatrists — said they also used “sub-therapeutic” doses of real drugs, amounts too small to have any chemical effect on the patient.
Interesting. I’ve been a pharmacist for almost 20 years (gulp) and have never seen a prescription for a “placebo” – nor have I ever seen a bottle of “placebo” tablets waiting for such a prescription. An informal poll with a few colleagues revealed the same thing: No-one has ever seen a “placebo” dispensed. Perhaps my sample isn’t representative. Or it could be these prescriptions are being dispensed by the physician directly from the office.
So my question is to the pharmacists out there: Have you ever seen a prescription for a placebo? Did you fill it? And what did you fill it with? What are your thoughts about filling prescriptions for placebos? Would you do it? And what would you tell your patient?