June 01, 2008

A spoonful of Obecalp

At first, it started off as a joke. I mean, it's easy to ask the question. In a clinical trial, if a placebo actually improves a patient's health almost as much as a regular drug, shouldn't we be selling placebo pills? It's certainly a funnier (and more marketable) idea than ditching the drug undergoing clinical trials... especially after the drug company forked over $100 million for research and development up until that point.

Graham at OverMyMedBody! brought the idea of Obecalp to the blogging scene earlier this year.

45% of doctors who responded to a survey said they’ve given placebos to
. That number certainly seems high, but sometimes patients don’t
want to hear what you’re saying–namely, that no drug will help them. ...
I’ve certainly wanted to write for “Obecalp 1 tab PO BID” (’placebo’
backwards) but I find it totally unethical and undermining of the doctor-patient trusting relationship. (emphasis mine.)

So now what?

According to the NY Times, Obecalp will now be for sale as a dietary supplement. The example cited? A child with "a nagging case of hypochondria." I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Would you have to deceive Obecalp recipients in order for it to be "effectual?" I mean, I up my Vitamin C content and drink chicken long rice soup (with lots of ginger) whenever I get sick... that's placebo and I know it! Regardless, I feel better knowing that I did something.
Why limit the marketing to harried adults with whiny kids? This drug will fit in perfectly alongside Airborne and herbal remedies. In many ways, I'd prefer something that tells you up front: "I'm completely useless!"

via The Happy Hospitalist: Ma! Ma! I Need Another Fix
image by Djenan (creative commons license)

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