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PsychologyOur news, events & seminars

Harnessing Placebo Effects in Routine Primary Care: GPs’ and Patients’ Perspectives Seminar

15:00 - 16:00
8 February 2016
Building 44 (Shackleton), Room 2103 L/T C

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Sue McNally on 02380 595150 or email .

Event details

Placebos are an essential tool in randomised clinical trials, where they are used to control for bias and contextual healing effects. More controversially, researchers are developing ways of harnessing placebo effects for patient benefit in routine medical practice. In this seminar, I will present the results of our web-based survey of 783 UK GPs. The survey showed that 97% of UK GPs have used placebos in clinical practice, and that so-called “pure” placebos (e.g. sugar pills) are used rarely but “impure” placebos (e.g. homeopathy) are used frequently. Qualitative analysis of GPs’ comments revealed that they perceived a broad array of perceived harms and benefits of placebo-prescribing, reflecting fundamental bioethical principles at the level of the individual, the doctor-patient relationship, the NHS, and society. While some GPs were adamant that there was no place for placebos in clinical practice, others saw placebo effects as ubiquitous and potentially beneficial in primary care. Our focus group and survey research with patients demonstrates similarly strongly-held and diverse views about harnessing placebo effects in routine primary care. If placebo effects are to be better harnessed to benefit patients, then patients and GPs would benefit from educational interventions to dispel myths, challenge misconceptions, and increase knowledge. I will finish by describing our current work to develop such interventions.

Speaker information

Dr Felicity Bishop,Chartered Psychologist and Health Psychologist

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