I just read a story about doctors prescribing pills that mat really aren’t medication, and I don’t know how or where to start. This is crazy. Not the fact that they do this, doctors are people and some people are liars and deceivers, but this is just mind boggling.
There is a term in the medical community called the placebo effect. Basically it means that if you believe something will help you feel better when you take it, you will feel better, whether or not the medication was real. In traditional lab tests the placebo is a sugar pill, but the patient is told that it is a medicine that could help their condition. Okay, I’m all for helping people feel better, and if they can do so without real medication and chemicals pumping through their system, that’s just fine by me.
But the thing is, the doctors are misleading their patients into thinking that they need medicine. Or that this medication, which really could just be vitamins, could help them. They don’t go so far as to say that it will help them, cause THAT would be unethical, but they say it could. It’s a true statement because it is true that people sometimes have a positive reaction to placebo medicine, which attests to the power of the mind over the body.
What I wonder, though, and you’ll notice the article doesn’t mention this, is how do the patients get this “medicine?” Do they have to go to the pharmacy to get it filled? Do the doctors give them some “free” samples to see if it works, and if it does, what then? Do they tell them that it was just a fake pill, and that they don’t need medicine? Do they then give them more free samples? What?
Americans spend millions of dollars on prescription drugs every year, and now I am forced to wonder how much of that money is spent on fake medicine. I would like to think none, but it happens (Airborne anyone?) and I wonder how many doctors and pharmacists are making a pretty dollar off of these placebos. If there is not money being made (aside from the enormous cost of a doctor’s visit) then my problem with this practice lessens. It doesn’t go away entirely (patients are supposed to be able to trust their doctors, and this practice of deception–if not outright lying–is a clear violation of that trust) but at least there is no additional money being made off of it.
Still, the whole idea of this scenario sends my head spinning and makes me hope that there will be a serious investigation into this pracitce. I’m not usually one to call for more litigation, but if these folks are ripping people off with fake medicine, then something needs to happen. The American Medical board, the FDA, somebody needs to look into this, and maybe set some guidelines/rules for the appropriateness of deceiving your patient because you think that is what’s best for them.
The first rule of doctoring is do no harm. And these are placebos, so they aren’t physically harmful, sure. But just imagine if you were a patient and thought you had a condition for which you were receiving medication as treatment. That medicine made you feel better. Then you move, or your doctor dies, or your insurance policy changes so you no longer have the same primary care physician who has been prescribing this placebo. You go to another doctor, they look at your chart–does the chart say that you’ve been given fake medicine? does the new doctor continue the fake treatment? do they tell you? what happens?
This is insanity, and it makes my head hurt and my eyes water from disbelief and rage.