Michael Torres

This conversation is closed.

Do unfairly marketed placebos, such as homeopathic remedies, lead to a distrust in actual medicine?

I'm less interested in the ethics of those who rely on the placebo effect to show scientific results and more interested in how the placebo effect can lead people to rely more heavily on anecdotal evidence when choosing treatment.

Two lines of inquiry occurred to me. First is the relationship between the average person and medical knowledge. Does the fact that most people have no idea how drugs that are prescribed to them actually work, so that when they suffer some awful side affect or the drug doesn't seem to be working, it leads them to the subconscious conclusion that they were duped somehow.

This ties in with the idea that upon switching over to unproven medicine that one will either experience the placebo effect and feel better or they feel worse but in a way that coincides predictably with whatever ailment they were trying to alleviate in the first place. As well, the extended human contact that one doesn't often get in a medical setting can do nothing but boost the sense of mental well being when dealing with alternative medicine.

Lastly, does the fact that feeling one 'understands' the pseudoscience because, frankly, it seems easier to understand, contribute to mental well being as well?

  • thumb
    Feb 2 2012: Yes. But, marketed placebo's, do far less damage than childrens psychiatric medication. Drug companies marketing drugs to children has done more to destroy the medical establishment than anything else... Why? Because we don't understand child development yet... but we're still selling drugs.
  • thumb
    Jan 31 2012: placebos are out performing several types of drugs like antidepressents so....
  • thumb
    Jan 28 2012: I don't think this little revelation helped:
    "The vast majority of drugs - more than 90 per cent - only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people," Dr Roses said. "I wouldn't say that most drugs don't work. I would say that most drugs work in 30 to 50 per cent of people. Drugs out there on the market work, but they don't work in everybody."
    -- Dr. Allen Roses, former worldwide vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
    • thumb
      Jan 28 2012: Okay, so I guess my response would be to wonder how to get people to trust the drugs before they embrace chakras and the like. Planes crash of course. But how do you get people that drive the much less safe automobile to approach the flying situation rationally? Statistically safer, irrationally much scarier. Think MMR vaccine.
      • thumb
        Jan 28 2012: Well my question is: if the situation is not critical, why don't we start with the placebo and see who we can eliminate from the pharmacy pool first, since those are more likely to have side-effects? Seriously, if even only 10% of people find that they can improve the condition without meds, isn't that good?

        As for the vaccine thing, that's kinda their own fault. People aren't in that 1960s "everything my doctor says is perfect" mode anymore and mainstream med doesn't want to evolve.

        Not sure what they can do to make up for the perception (when I was a kid, it seemed like every second person I knew was either having their tonsils or adenoids removed - most of which turned out to be pointless).

        Disclosure: I run naturalhealthcare.ca (among other things). Our focus is on prevention though, and then integrative medicine. Our editor in chief was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago and give two years, tops. She used chemo and radiation (far more aggressive than her oncologist wanted her to go), then rebuilt her system using what you would probably deem "flakotherapy"(supplements, fitness, bodywork - did her research, made her plan).

        She's also NEDI (no evidence of disease), not buried for four years.
      • thumb
        Jan 28 2012: Also, if planes crashed at the rate of effectiveness cited, there'd be a lot of airlines out of business.
  • thumb
    Jan 28 2012: No, actually it is medicine that leads to a mistrust in medicine.
    • thumb
      Jan 28 2012: How?
      • thumb
        Jan 28 2012: Medications don't work consistently on everyone. There is a new sub-science coming out called ethnopharmacology. Most medication trials in the past have been done on males, and mostly caucasian males. What they are finding is not all meds react the same across ethnic groups, gender, and populations. People could have told them that if they would have listened.

        In the push for profits (and occasionally because a new med works so well) clinical trials have been truncated so meds get to market before being fully studied. That causes the recall of many medications, some of which have been widely prescribed. This causes fear in many people lawsuits, a whole industry surrounds this phenomena. Watch some commercials some time.

        Black Box Warnings are all the rage now. In the fevered attempt to pre-empt lawsuits, Companies are now labeling the heck outta all meds. Every possible adverse effect is listed somewhere on that microfont package insert that comes with medications. Some people utilize the pharmacist to interpret but many take it home and read it, do a little risk-benefit analysis in their head and say forget it. There are alternatives.

        In some areas of the country it takes 3 months to get in to see a doctor. People learn quickly how to self medicate most ailments. They can usually do a pretty good job with a little research into alternatives.

        Used to be you would go to the MD with a cold or pain and get some medicine. Interestingly enough, that seems to be changing. To avoid the over use of antibiotics, unless there is a Mic report docs are not as quick to prescribe an antibiotic. They can give you a script but usually tell you that you can get the same relief from OTC meeds.

        Now you have people with a whole memory of this stuff. And when they really get sick, renal failure or cancer, they know alternatives work. And you get people like Steve Jobs...

        (And I didn't even touch the whole cost issue:)