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Prescribing the Placebo Effect

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Alfalfa Bill, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. Alfalfa Bill

    Alfalfa Bill 5+ Year Member

    I saw this article a couple weeks back in the New York Times and meant to start a thread about it then. Better late than never. Thought everyone would be interested.

    This woman is creating a sugar pill than can be bought OTC to trick their kids into thinking that they are giving them medication. A bunch of physicians weigh the positives and (mostly) negatives of having something like this at parents' disposal.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2008
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  3. chessknt87

    chessknt87 Physician 10+ Year Member

    Oct 10, 2007
    Seems like it would be useful in only a handful of isolated situations and unnecessary if not immoral in most others. Thanks for the article!
  4. p30doc

    p30doc Ever true and unwavering 10+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    Shave M's off of M&M's and put them in a pill bottle to trick your kids, much cheaper!
  5. Alfalfa Bill

    Alfalfa Bill 5+ Year Member

    When I was a kid I actually learned to swallow pills using M&M's. I was comforted by knowing I couldn't choke, "melts in your mouth..."
  6. durty

    durty Lif is too short 5+ Year Member

    Jun 15, 2008
    the first thing I thought of when i read the idea was that it would get kids used to taking pills for everything, not a good idea. make your kid suck it up. they'll be fine I promise.

    it's kinda like the parents who want to disinfect EVERYTHING 99.9% so then their kid's immune system doesn't develop, people just need to get used to dealing w/stuff. Whether it be minor boo-boos and other cries for attention or dirt and germs.

    just my opinion,
  7. LikeClockWork

    LikeClockWork Guest

    Jul 23, 2007
    The M&M mini's have a color that's almost the exact color of an advil (that dark pink/maroon kinda color). I used to separate them out and freak out teachers in middle school by making them think I just downed a whole bottle in front of them. :laugh:
  8. Alfalfa Bill

    Alfalfa Bill 5+ Year Member

    Wow, thats pretty sinister. I was upset they got rid of the brown/tan color when they introduced blue. It was the best color.
  9. itsallthesame

    itsallthesame 2+ Year Member

    Jun 14, 2008
    a med student who worked in a pharmacy part time told me a story. several doctors wrote prescriptions for "Obecalp." Several patients swore by it.

    while you may disagree on the ethicallity, i am of the opinion that as long as a doctor doesn't say he's providing one drug and replace it with something else, it's perfectly acceptable, and often beneficial to use placebo. few if any drugs have no negative side effects. placebo treatments have been statistically shown to be better than no treatment in many studies.

    if someone has a non-serious condition, as an alternative to potentially harmful medication, saying, "I can prescribe something that I think will help with your pain," and giving a sugar pill. so long as the patient is monitered, i don't think this is any less ethical, and in many cases more ethical than other options.
  10. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    This post reminds me of the classic news story a few years back in the Onion:

    Funny thing, it has been copied into newsletters and blogs as if it were a real news story.
  11. Alfalfa Bill

    Alfalfa Bill 5+ Year Member

    I think the whole point is that it is unethical. You cross the line when you purposely deceive a patient. Thats the way I feel right now, I don't know if I'll get more cynical as I'll get older. Of course you want to do the best for a patient, but I really feel its lying if you give them an inert pill, even though it may help.

    The other issue is not whether it may be beneficial for the symptom, but that giving to sugar pill to children for every little bang or scrape will give them a reliance on medicine and a false sense that all your answers come in pill form. This sugar pill will be sold OTC, and many parents will abuse this power.
  12. ManualEvac

    ManualEvac 5+ Year Member

    May 16, 2008
    I agree Alfalfa, especially since there is no need to deceive a patient to realize the placebo effect. It plays into ANY therapy that the patient believes is working, including proven drug therapies. Rather than limit such interventions to sugar pills, why not play to each patient's prejudice and also arrange spiritual care, acupuncture, or music therapy, if they feel there is a healing benefit to it. These are harmless, if not proven practices, and allow patients to receive the benefits of placebo without deception. This also builds trust and relationship and may get key historical info from the patient leading to improved Dx and Tx.
  13. Alfalfa Bill

    Alfalfa Bill 5+ Year Member

    I hadn't even thought of these therapies before. Thinking about what you said, it makes a lot of sense. Spirituality has ben indicated in improving medical outcomes, and I've read the claims of positive thinking improving health. I feel the mind-body relationship is more powerful than people recognize. The "Placebo effect," which is really just a mental exercise in believing that you are being treated, can be harnessed in many different ways.

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