Pass the Placebo Please

Health Alert 209

The placebo effect happens when people believe they’re taking a real drug but they’re really taking an empty capsule. They’re so convinced it’s helping, they actually experience healing effects. In drug tests, placebos often work as well or better than the drug being tested.

This makes the drug look ineffective. You’d think this would make the company want to improve the drug. But instead they continually try to change the conditions of the tests to make the results look better for their drug and for their bottom line. This bad science ends up costing you. Recently, I learned of a common and growing unfair stacking the deck that surprised even me.

Today, you’ll learn just how far drug companies go to cast their products in the best light. I guarantee, it’ll give you pause before accepting those new TV ads about prescription drugs.

* Big Pharma Secretly Changes the Rules *

At one time, drug companies measured the effectiveness of their products by testing them against a simple sugar pill. This let researchers see how people responded to the drug compared to people who took no medication. But the “sugar” pills drug companies use today, are anything but simple, and the results are anything but objective.

When a drug company wants to test its products, where do you suppose they go to get the placebos? Nowhere. They make the placebos themselves. They have begun the shocking practice of purposely including ingredients that cause side effects. So the “sugar” pill isn’t a neutral comparison anymore. And the drug companies don’t have to tell you they’ve done this. They don’t have to reveal a single ingredient in the placebo.

Drug companies say they changed placebo ingredients because the placebo and the drug groups need to show similar side effects

to have a fair trail. Excuse me? Measuring the difference in side effects between the two has always been a major goal of testing. But now big pharmas designs the side effects to be the same.

Here’s the real reason drug companies manipulate placebos: to make drugs seem safe. Just listen to TV commercials for drugs like Clariton that claim, “side effects occurred about as often as they did with a placebo.” Even though you hear a whole list of side effects associated with that drug, it makes them sound benign. Safe as a sugar pill. But how many sugar pills cause drowsiness, dry mouth, headaches and dizziness?

* Don’t Fall For The Sugar Pill Ruse *

Since this ruse is over money and lots of it, it shouldn’t surprise us that drug companies will go that far. But where is our FDA in all of this? They’re busy storming supplement stores.

The best advice – don’t fall for it. Be skeptical of data from drug sellers. There’s usually no need (my guess is about 90% of the time) for these expensive and possibly toxic pills. Always ask if you can take a natural correlative that will work as well. And always ask about side effects.

Al Sears MD

How the Placebo Effect Works, WebMedical News, February 19, 2004

2,3 Aiming to Please, Health Sciences Institute, July 21, 2003