Friday, June 20, 2008

Placebo this!

…In the Spring 2008 issue of Univ of Chicago Medicine on the Midway is a story on how some doctors are passing the sugar pills to patients in the hopes that their belief in this “cure” will help.

…231 docs were surveyed—half had prescribed placebos.

…Now this part is really wacky, if it is to be believed. Supposedly, a third of those recommending fake medicine said, “This is substance that may help and will not hurt.” Nine percent said it’s “medicine with no specific effect.”

…They justify this because the human mind is so strong it can sometimes talk people into feeling or being better.

…HA also read about some placebos for kids some parents have concocted and are selling. The theory seems to be that small children demand medicine and need to be satisfied with bogus elixirs.

…HA has enough reservations about the doctor-patient relationship in this, the first decade of the 21st century. Thinking of these people trying to fake her out and pharmacies stocking M&Ms or whatever as medicine…well, don’t ask.

...Or maybe we should. Ask, that is. "What is this stuff, doctor? Fake or fabulous?"

...Get a name. Look it up. Ask the pharmacist. Something!


Jennifer said...

Hi Star,
I really enjoy your blog. The placebo issue is a tough one. Obviously it is scandalous for doctors to dupe their patients with placebos, and even more scandalous that pharmacies actually sell them (and they can't be too cheap either, or the patients might get suspicious).

On the other hand, there are people that might actually benefit from placebos, for example, older people who are generally healthy but who insist on having their pill each day. If a sugar tablet will help them sleep better at night, isn't that better than having them addicted to sleeping pills?

My husband's grandmother (93) was one such case. She insisted on having her pill before bed every night. For years she was taking tylenol and sleeping pills every night, even though she didn't need either. When we tried to talk to her about it, she would pretend she didn't understand us (she was hard of hearing). In her case, I think a placebo would have been the best alternative.

I think raising kids to believe they need some sort of medicine is a bad idea. But is it any worse than homeopathy?

Star Lawrence said...

You raise some good points--but on principle, I am against being manipulated and tricked by doctors and greedy pharmacists. Yes, we are just the stupid little patients...I can't stand that attitude. I don't think kids give a flip if they have a pill or not. I see a lot of those Mystery ER shows...people go to DOZENS of docs and get sent home with head pats or referrals to shrinks. No one has yet mentioned fake medicine--but I suppose it has happened. But still--you raise some interesting points. We constantly take Mom to the doctor--if I ever thought he was working us by giving us placebos for her, I would fire him, though.