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Table 2 Summary of findings on the frequency of placebo use.

From: Frequency and circumstances of placebo use in clinical practice - a systematic review of empirical studies

Author year Setting Type Placebo use Definition of use Frequency or other additional information
Questionnaire- based quantitative surveys      
Physicians      
Goodwin 1979 [19] Hospital (house officers) Pure* 78% Ever use for pain relief  
Gray 1981 [20] Hospital Pure 80% Ever use  
Classen 1985 [23] Unclear Pure 60% Use 'sometimes' About 30% less than once a month
Classen 1985 [23] Unclear Impure 54% Use 'sometimes'  
Lynöe 1993 [26] Unclear Both 99% Ever use None very often, 1% often, 4% rather often, 26% quite rarely, 68% rarely/very rarely
Hrobjartsson 2003 [30] General practice Both 86% During the last year 38% 1-10 times/year, 48% > 10 times/year
Hrobjartsson 2003 [30] Hospital Both 54% During the last year 44% 1-10 times/year, 10% > 10 times/year
Hrobjartsson 2003 [30] Specialist practice Both 41% During the last year 31% 1-10 times/year, 10% > 10 times/year
Nitzan 2004 [31] Hospital/family practice Pure* 53% Use with a minimum frequency of once a year 37% once a month or more often†
Sherman 2007 [33] Medical school faculty Both 45% Ever use 15% 1-10×, 8% > 10×, 22% not at all during last year
Tilburt 2008 [34] Specialist practice Both 80% Ever use 34% = once a month, 28% 2-3 times/month, 18% = once a week
Bernateck 2009 [35] Hospital Pure 52% Use with a minimum frequency of once a year 40% 1-2 times/year, 9% 1-2 times/month, 4% more often
Fässler 2009 [37] Primary care Pure 17% Ever use 93% once a month or less often
Fässler 2009 [37] Primary care Impure 57% Ever use  
Nurses      
Goldberg 1979 [18] Hospital Pure 51% Ever use 44% with current use or use in the last 6 months
Goodwin 1979 [19] Hospital Pure* 82% Ever use for pain relief  
Gray 1981 (sample 1) [20] Hospital Pure 80% Ever use  
Gray 1981 (sample 2) [20] Hospital Pure 89% At least once during the last 5 years 63% during the last year
Saupe 1985 [24] Hospital Pure 100% Ever use 79% once or less per month, 21% more often
Ernst 1997 [27] Unclear Pure 57% Ever use  
Ernst 1997 [27] Unclear Both 68% Ever use 12% during the last year
Nitzan 2004 [31] Hospital Pure* 71% Use with a minimum frequency of once a year 37% once a month or more often†
Bernateck 2009 [35] Hospital Pure 87% Use with a minimum frequency of once a year 45% 1-2 times/year, 33% 1-2 times/month, 9% more often
Interns      
Berger 1999 [28] Hospital Pure 16% Ever witnessed use Only 2% (1/47) had actually given a placebo
Substudies with prospective screening of medical records of hospital patients      
Goodwin 1979 [19] Hospital Pure* 0.3% During 6 months (prospective)  
Lange 1981 [21] Psychiatric hospital Pure 5.1% During 12 months (prospective) 6.1% in women, 3.9% in men
  1. * Limitation to pure placebo not explicitly stated but questions/report with clear focus on pure placebo use.
  2. † Numbers related to both physicians and nurses.