German doctors 'prescribing placebos to treat depression'

A high number of German doctors are prescribing placebos to help treat depression, it has been found.

According to a study for the German Medical Association, around half of the country's doctors are using the method to combat the condition and other ailments, such as stomach complaints, the Guardian reports.

The report noted placebos - which can range from vitamin tablets to homeopathic remedies - have proven very effective in a number of treatments.

Christoph Fuchs, managing director at the German Medical Association, commented: "Placebos have a stronger impact and are more complex than we realised. They are hugely important in medicine today."

The investigation claimed that doctors and students should be educated on placebos and taught about their uses.

Dr Roderick Orner, Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, said: "Although controversial, the honesty by our continental colleagues in respect of placebos is commendable."

"Greater willingness to bring matters into the public domain that are poorly understood, rarely researched and sometimes mystifying should improve quality of care in medicine [and] psychological therapies."

"Professional carers stand challenged to account for how 'unexplained physical symptoms' arise as well as the many 'non specific' variables involved in healing processes."

"While this empowers patients to be more active in overcoming their problems, the emergent approach stands to ruffle the feathers of interest groups who reduce change to biological agents or administration of specific psychological techniques."

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