Aug 19, 2010

Obecalp Placebo

A listener recently sent us an email alerting us to a new dietary supplement released in June called Obecalp. Obecalp, which is Placebo spelled backwards, is a cherry-flavored chewable dextrose pill meant to trick children into believing they are getting a medicine that will make them feel better.

Jennifer Buettner, the creator of the pill, has this to say on her website:

Hi. I'm Jen. I am a mommy. It's what I love. It's my job to make owies go away. Whether it's a kiss or a Band-aid, the magic happens immediately. This is the power of placebo. I have a baby girl and two sons. One of them always needs my comfort and the knowledge that I will make them feel better. I invented Obecalp when I realized that children might need a little more than a kiss to make it go away. Obecalp fills the gap when medicine is not needed but my children need something more to make them feel better. You'll know when Obecalp is necessary.

At first glance, the idea of it seemed absurd and possibly irresponsible. But searching the topic turned up a New York Times article on Obecalp that brought up an interesting point. Despite the fact that most medical professionals interviewed scoffed at the idea of Obecalp or even protested that it might be dangerous, the reality is that many doctors have admitted to prescribing antibiotics under pressure to patients whom they are nearly certain are suffering from a viral illness that antibiotics won't cure. Few would argue that this is a good practice, but it's certainly common enough that doctors sometimes find it easier to send patients home with an actual drug just to make them feel better psychologically.

What do you think about this? Would you give an upset child a sugar pill and tell them it would make them feel better?

And if you haven't heard our Placebo show, check it out.

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