RSS
A placebo for kids, or adults
Can a new company replace hugs and kisses with a chewable, cherry-flavored placebo? 
W

hat happened
Jennifer Buettner and her husband Dennis have founded Efficacy Brands, a company that produces placebo pills for children. Branded as Obecalp (placebo spelled backwards), the pills are chewable, cherry-flavored dextrose tablets intended to induce the placebo effect in children—the phenomenon of a patient's healing when given a perceived treatment, even if the treatment is proven ineffective. The pills, sold as a nutritional supplement and not a drug, go on the market June 1. (The New York Times)

What the commentators said
Obecalp is a "deceptive solution to a question which can be answered in other ways," said the Integrative Psychiatry blog. Using this method to mollify children simply teaches them that whenever they have a physical problem, "they should pop a pill."

All parents use placebos already, said Stacey on the motherhood blog MotherTalkers. Parents give hugs and kisses to fix bumps and bruises, and I myself use a Band-aid to calm my son down, "even when he really doesn't need one." Isn't "an unneeded Band-aid" the same thing as "an unneeded pill?"

This isn't really about illness or children, said Paul Kulpinski on his blog Comments & Wellness Tips—it's about parenting. "If a parents' reassurances can’t satisfy a child who doesn’t need medical attention, then is the issue really about the child’s illness or the parent’s inability to parent?" Proper parenting requires attention and hard work, and there are times when a parent can't immediately fix something. Odecalp is just an attempt "to hide from this truth and avoid looking at our own insecurities. It’s not about making the child feel better, it’s about making us, as parents, feel better."

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week