Placebos Are Regularly Prescribed
Half of U.S. doctors prescribe placebos—including antibiotics and sedatives—at least a few times a month, according to a new study. The Associated Press reports that the study, published online in the medical journal BMJ, is based on a survey sent by researchers at the National Institutes of Health to 1,200 U.S. internists, of which 679 responded. Most doctors surveyed said placebos, defined by the study as any treatment that wouldn't usually help patients, were ethically acceptable. The types of medicines prescribed included painkillers, vitamins, sedatives, antibiotics, saline injections, and sugar pills.
Several years ago, Nancy Shute wrote about a study questioning the effectiveness of placebos. Earlier this year, January Payne listed four ways to avoid dangerous drug errors. U.S. News has also covered why some patients are reluctant to take their medications.
Warm Drink, Warm Feelings
You're more likely to get the warm fuzzies about a companion if you are drinking a warm drink rather than an icy one, HealthDay reports. A study published in the journal Science finds that if you're holding warm coffee rather than cold, not only will you feel as if your companion is more generous, you'll feel more generous toward him or her, too. Study authors said the findings suggest that environmental cues can shape our perceptions and feelings far more than we give them credit for. (Recently a separate study found when people feel socially isolated, they feel chilly.)
Lung Cancer Gene Discovery Points to Cancer's Future
Researchers reported this week that they've identified 26 key genes linked to lung cancer, one of a stream of discoveries about cancer that is suggesting a future of much more finely honed and personalized treatments. Katherine Hobson writes about how scientists say they are optimistic new discoveries will lead to better treatment and early detection options. Bernadine Healy writes about how these and other epiphanies mean cancer circa 2040 will be a curable or much more manageable disease.
Expectant Mothers' Depression and Preterm Birth
Depression in pregnancy not only causes mom to suffer; it can also pose health risks to the baby, writes Sarah Baldauf. Research published this week found that women with symptoms of depression were more likely to experience a preterm birth. The greater the severity of depression symptoms, the greater the likelihood of early delivery. A woman's overall risk of depression peaks during childbearing years, and as many as 14 percent of women will experience depression during pregnancy, with the biggest risk factor being a previous bout with depression. Baldauf also offers a test to gauge depression during pregnancy.