bxp37970OBELCALP is PLACEBO spelled backwards, and is ‘code’ for a prescription of a sugar pill when submitted to the pharmacist; tricky but transparent, you might say, but it is tricky enough that actually most pharmacists no longer recognize the trick.

The use of placebos is generally discouraged among physicians as it promotes a  skepticism among patients about the truthfulness of their doctor, and can have them wondering if they are being taken for a ride.

With this in mind, a recent article reviewing the behavior or British physicians found that 12% of them had used a pure placebo in the past.   Bold-faced prescribing of sugar pills is a bit of a surprise, but beyond the ‘pure’ placebo prescribing, more interesting is the use of ‘impure’ placebos; medications that are active, but not meant to meaningfully treat a defined condition, rather to act as a treatment to encourage the patient to see the intervention as helpful.  This type of impure placebo use was done by 97% of the British physicians.