WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Many American doctors give their patients a placebo, usually a relatively innocuous drug such as a pain reliever, in the guise of medical treatment and view the practice as ethical, researchers said on Thursday.
Among 679 primary-care doctors and rheumatologists, who treat arthritis patients, about half reported prescribing placebos at least two to three times a month and most said they did not explicitly tell patients they were getting a placebo.
The idea may be to trigger the "" -- a genuine improvement in health driven by psychological expectations of a benefit and not due to the physiological effect of a given treatment -- in cases in which normal treatment might not be warranted, the researchers said.
More than 60 percent of the doctors who answered the survey published in the British Medical Journal said that prescribing a placebo is ethically permissible.
But such actions run afoul of standards set by the, which asserts it is unethical to use placebo therapy on patients without clearly telling them.