Placebo – is a cheap and useful option for doctors and patients

Alan J Bennett writing in a letter to The Times 25th April says:

In tests of a new migraine drug around half the control-group guineapigs fared better with the placebo

Sir, The results achieved by the two migraine drugs you report (Apr 23) will be welcomed by sufferers. You do not comment on the results achieved by the control groups, who were given placebo treatments.

In the first study the migraines were reduced by 52 per cent; in the second control group migraines were reduced by 42 per cent over 12 weeks. Had these placebo treatments been the main subject of the researches, the results would have been trumpeted from the rooftops.

Any medications developed from these researches will, as you say, need extensive testing, and are unlikely to be available on the NHS for several years. The placebo treatments, however, are available now.

Is it not time the NHS put the placebo effect to work? Pain clinics would seem to be one obvious setting. The extra costs would be virtually nil. The implication of “deceit”, a possible moral hazard for staff, must surely be confronted: the benefits for patients demand it.

Alan J Bennett

Bexhill-on-Sea, E Sussex

I agree. Placebo is a cheap and useful option for doctors and patients

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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