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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shame On You, CNN

So I am in Orlando, Florida for a fun weekend of theme park rides and I flip through the channels to find something to amuse until we leave for the parks again. I stop on CNN hoping to get some of "The Most Trusted Name In News" and see a lady (I don't remember her name) talking about how medical doctors are notorious for prescribing placebos when they don't know what is wrong with a patient.

Here is her list of "placebos":

*sugar pills

This is the definition of placebo:

pla⋅ce⋅bo   /pləˈsiboʊ for 1; plɑˈtʃeɪboʊ for 2/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [pluh-see-boh for 1; plah-chey-boh for 2]

–noun, plural -bos, -boes. 1. Medicine/Medical, Pharmacology. a. a substance having no pharmacological effect but given merely to satisfy a patient who supposes it to be a medicine.
b. a substance having no pharmacological effect but administered as a control in testing experimentally or clinically the efficacy of a biologically active preparation.

2. Roman Catholic Church. the vespers of the office for the dead: so called from the initial word of the first antiphon, taken from Psalm 114:9 of the Vulgate.
1175–1225 for def. 2; 1775–85 for def. 1; ME < L placēbō I shall be pleasing, acceptable

To set this lady on the right path anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and vitamins cannot be placebos because they actually are chemicals that perform a specific function in the body. The case can also be argued for saline. It performs as a tear replacement in eye drops and a fluid replacement intravenously for volume deficiency (ie dehydration) and as a vehicle for medication delivery. So technically saline does have activity in the body so it is not technically a placebo.

Should I go as far as to say that sugar pills can be argued to not be a placebo.... For diabetic patients on insulin therapy drops in blood sugar can be dangerous to the point of being deadly. These people take sugar pills to help in the regulation of blood sugar so in specific cases sugar pills do not count as a placebo unless they are being used as a "control" in an experimental evaluation.

The lady further went on to breed mistrust between patients and physicians when the "interviewer" asked if this was "legal" and she replied that the practice of giving placebos is "..legal but unethical." How do you like them apples...now the "most trusted name in news" wants you to revolt against your primary care physician. Is this how the government plants seeds to discourage "socialized" medicine or is this lady just another ill-informed media puppet?

This post just proves two things: CNN should not be the self-proclaimed "most trusted name in news" and I am an opinionated, angry c*nt.


Anonymous said...

The doctor doesn't usually tell the patient that the drug is a placebo, as far as I can tell. Therefore, I figure that the patient's belief that they are given 'something' either produces the desired effect (of relieving the patient's anxiety of the issue) or does not. In the case that the patient obtains no relief, then they go back to the doctor and tell them so, and the therapy continues on, perhaps with another drug. I felt no ethical qualm about filling scripts for lactose capsules at all, knowing that the issue was sometimes psychosomatic, and other than giving the sign of cross, and a sincere blessing, sometimes the physician couldn't prescribe anything for the patient other than 'positive thinking'.
Cathy Lane RPh

Anonymous said...

That lady was also on NBC. I have not filled a rx for a placebo in 20 years. Don't believe I get many if any rx's for vitamins that are being used for a "pacebo effect".

Anonymous said...

CNN didn't 'get it' mainly by not talking with a prescriber or pharmacist. Placeboes have their place in psychosomatic illnesses. Usually the effectiveness of the placebo lies in the fact that patient doesn't know that they've received a placebo. If they do, then someone in the healthcare system screwed up. None of the drugs the woman listed would fulfill the definition of a placeboes. Now, if CNN wanted to bring out something really interesting, they could've pointed out any new research that there is no such thing as a placebo effect. But, in fact, I doubt that is the case as much of the FDA bases drug trials on use of placeboes.

The little tech that does... said...

Again, another "scandal" exposed in the health industry. Wonder what her definition of a plecebo is, as most of the items listed aren't placebos last time I checked. No wonder the general public is suspicious of the healthcare system when you have alleged experts spinning tales on CNN. Ugh!