Will future GPs prescribe placebo pills?

They seem to work, even when used open label

It’s 2028 and the patient in front of you is back again about their irritable bowel syndrome. Nothing has helped, so it’s time to prescribe the pink pills. You’ve explained that there’s nothing in these pills known to act on IBS — in fact, they are physiologically inert but they seem to help some people. You write out the script, prescribing placebo, open-label.

This scenario could become reality if current results from small trials are validated by larger studies, write two Harvard professors in the BMJ.

One of them, Professor Ted Kaptchuk, has been an investigator on four trials, studying placebo with a difference — the patients know they are on a substance that should have no physiological effect.

The conditions treated in the trials are all different: IBS, cancer-related fatigue, chronic low back pain and episodic migraine.

Admittedly, they are