TED Conversations

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • 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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.