Thursday, October 30, 2008

What's the problem?

People have some pretty strong thoughts on placebos; CNN implies this morning that the action of knowingly prescribing a placebo is "awful" and "deceptive."

But is it really that bad? You have to consider the following situation: Let's consider all previous ailments you had in the past that no longer afflict you (so as not to change the placebo mindset and possible effectiveness of any current medication you are taking) in which you were prescribed medication. If you were told today that every single medication you were prescribed was a placebo, how could you be upset, strictly concerning the medication's efficacy towards your condition? I suppose if you felt that the medicine didn't do anything to help your condition you could have an issue-- but the usual response is not to sit and complain about the ineffective medicine, it's to go back to the doctor and get something else that works. And if that was placebo #2 instead of placebo #1...again, can you really have a complaint?

FDA regulations require that new medicines, in general, outperform a placebo. So, if medicine X has a 10% success rate, yet a placebo also has a 10% success rate, that medicine can not go to market. Obviously, why prevent a medicine with a positive success rate from going to market, but in addition-- if a placebo has a 10% success rate, why not sell the placebo!?

In an unregulated medicine market, those companies and those medicines that rely on placebo effects will be weeded out should that effect wane.

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