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Jenna's picture

Placebo

I found the debate about placebo treatment very interesting.  On one hand I believe that if a treatment works for some people than it should be available to the public.  If that treatment happens to be a sugar pill than that isn’t much different than a traditional treatment.  In fact, if the sugar pill is tricking the mind into activating an endogenous response which causes the therapeutic effect than the sugar pill’s therapeutic effect is physiological just as the traditional therapies would are.  Since all pharmaceuticals manipulate the body’s endogenous functions to produce a therapeutic effect this provides a theoretical reason to believe that many illnesses could be treated by a placebo pill if it could trick the body into producing the same response as the active drug.  However in practice, I think the placebo would only be effective for certain problems which have an emotional component mostly because they could be more susceptible to being effected by the change in mental state which would occur when one believes he or she is receiving treatment.   I agree with the idea someone else mentioned that this process seems similar to cognitive behavioral therapy and could be a better treatment to try first because there are less likely to be side effects when there is no foreign substance entering the body. 

 

The issue of cost for the placebo was brought up and while I do believe that there are some problems with charging a higher price for a drug than what it actually costs to make I think there are strong arguments for why this is necessary.  If the therapeutic effect only occurs when paying more money for the drug I think it is okay to charge more because the person is not only paying for the pill but also for the therapeutic effect.  If research shows that a sugar pill is most effective when someone pays $100 for the drug I think that is similar to a study which says a certain dose of the drug is most effective.  The person is paying to get well and if paying $100 to do that helps than I think it is ultimately ok.  

 

One final interesting topic which the placebo discussion brought up is the question of why our society is so adamantly against believing in the placebo.  I think the news release on Vytorin was interesting because even after the study showed it had no actual effect on reducing heart disease the people who took it believed the study was flawed and it actually did help.  It seems to me that these people are trying hard to prove that they were not “fooled” by a placebo drug.  The question I have is why would it be bad if a placebo helped as long as you improved?  Our society seems much less accepting of psychosomatic illnesses and although I’m not sure why I think it is an interesting question.  

  

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