Health Controversy: Your Doc May Be Prescribing You Fake Pills

When your doctor writes you a prescription, you get it filled, take the medicine and hope to feel better, right? Well, a surprising new survey dropped a big bomb recently: Half of all American doctors regularly prescribe placebo medications to patients. That's right--fake pills. More on the brouhaha after the jump ...

According to this recent New York Times article, which highlights a study of 679 randomly selected physicians, doctors are, well, kind of placebo-happy. Half of American doctors, the researchers report, routinely prescribe placebos to patients. The most common? Placebos for "headache pills," vitamins--even sedatives and antibiotics.

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The study says that doctors described the placebo medication to patients like this: "a medicine not typically used for your condition but might benefit you." And, just 5 percent let on that the treatment was actually a placebo and not the real thing. The research was published in the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal.

Some believe placebos are actually a healthy way to help patients get well. Others go so far as to call placebos "patient deception." While I can definitely see the benefit of placebo medication in some (rare) cases, it's troubling that 50 percent of US docs are so quick to mislead their patients--even when they believe it's in their best interests.

What do you think? Are placebo prescriptions alright with you or not?

Related: Everything you wish you could ask your doctor.