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Michael Torres

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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?


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    Jan 28 2012: No, actually it is medicine that leads to a mistrust in medicine.
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      Jan 28 2012: How?
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        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:)

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