Prescribing the Placebo Effect
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If a placebo is a viable treatment, physicians should present it as an option along with any other treatments being considered. The physician should detail the advantages of a placebo treatment, ideally in person, and clarify the word ‘inert’ as it inaccurately defines the placebo as a fake treatment whose effects are ‘all in the head’. Patients should also be informed of the difference between not knowing they are taking a placebo and knowing that they are, and physicians who use placebos should respect a patient’s decision if they would or would not like to be told if they are being given a placebo.
This will help avoid patients being given contradictory information by different physicians, pharmacists, or nurses and keep them up to date with the latest research on the efficacy of placebos so that they can incorporate details of optimal conditions into their practice. This training can be implemented as part of their license renewal.
The standardized protocol should include guidelines on how to treat consent for placebo treatments. Physicians can choose not to disclose that the medication they are given is a placebo; however, if asked about the drug specifically by a patient, the physician must disclose that the medication is a placebo. Physicians must honor a patient’s decision to choose not to be treated with a placebo after presenting them with that option.
Further research into placebos, especially into the potential negative effects, is needed to determine the conditions and subset of patients under which it is most effective. The method through which a placebo is administered is important to its outcome, so even factors such as the prescribed dosage and color of the pill can impact the results. This information can also be used to make non-placebo medication more effective, similar to how dosage curves are established in clinical drug trials. Research is also needed into the mechanisms behind which placebos work, which can provide valuable insight towards several diseases.
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Sachdeva, S. (2016). Prescribing the Placebo Effect. The Neuroethics Blog. Retrieved on , from http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2016/10/prescribing-placebo-effect.html