Friday, June 08, 2007


There are "wonder drugs" on the market that have no harmful ingredients, no known side effects. You can't overdose on them whether you take one pill or the whole bottle. They might cure everything, anything or nothing. They are sold by many market names and drugstores and pharmaceuticals make billions selling millions.

Most second-rate magazines are loaded with ads offering them for sale by mail. The ad copy is cleverly written to skirt the truth while telling no lies, but making claims and using names that abuse and confuse or sometimes amuse the user. Some are touted as "super strength" or "new, improved" or some other gimmicky phrase to grab attention.

If you haven't guessed by now, they're placebos. These "sugar pills" play an important role when used in clinical studies to determine the efficacy and safety of legitimate drugs.

Some patients know what placebo means, but grasping at straws to find a cure or ease the pain of their debilitating illness, turn in desperation to these unproven pills. And therein lies the real danger.

Those who have lost faith in FDA-approved medications go for placebos. Why not? Maybe, just maybe, they'll work. If their belief is strong enough, a miracle of mind over matter might happen. More often than not, they're just out the money for chasing a dream rather than giving medicine time to do its job.

Remember the apricot pit craze of a generation ago? It was hailed as a cancer cure. Those desperate for a cure swore by it until their dying day. Doctors and more rational people swore AT it. Apricot pits proved to be the pits. The fad faded away.


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