Some dummy pills work as well as drugs
Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 5:52 p.m.
Q: My brother was in a research study, and eventually, he found out that he was in the placebo group, but he insists his treatment helped anyway. I think it's all in his mind, don't you?
- F.B. Santa Rosa, Calif.
A: It is, but so what? Placebos are inactive pills/treatments that are tested against "real" medicine to see which works better.
Before you dismiss the concept, consider that two groups of people receive knee surgery. One of the groups gets an authentic operation, while the other group just gets sutures placed while under anesthesia. The benefits are similar. And this is mind-blowing: One group of people receives chemotherapy, and another group receives placebo treatment. Both groups lose their hair.
Patenting drugs makes good business sense for companies who need to recoup their money from research and development. But we are missing the most fascinating aspect of clinical trials. There is a miracle happening with approximately one-third of the patients in many research groups that respond to dummy pills. They are getting better because of their belief in the pill they took, even though that pill is a fake.
How does a drug that hardly works better than a fake get approved by the Food and Drug Administration? I imagine the conversation goes something like this:
Scientist at Drug Company: Our "Tenbuxapill" works slightly better than this sugar pill, so we'd like you to approve it.
FDA: What are the side effects?
Scientist: Vomiting, seizures, depression, hair loss, headaches and Tourette's.
FDA: Can't we just approve the sugar pill with no side effects?
In recent years, more than 150 million annual prescriptions for antidepressants are filled in the United States.
Depending on what literature you read, these drugs barely outperform placebos. Some companies have to conduct numerous trials before getting a positive result worth publishing.
In a recent JAMA study, the researchers poured over 2,100 studies and concluded that the benefits of antidepressants were "minimal or nonexistent" when compared to placebo. I know why, too - it's because medications don't correct underlying nutrient deficiencies, gene defects, low thyroid or adrenal insufficiency.
We have an amazing capacity to heal, and we can absolutely generate our own happy hormones, antibiotics, anti-coagulants and pain-relieving opiates. We must get used to the notion that our bodies are the best pharmacy available, but don't tell anyone that America's pharmacist said so.
Did you know?
Eating oatmeal can help you "grab" and eliminate nasty chemicals that stick to your colon.
For more information, visit www.DearPharmacist.com.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article