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Ask Your VA Doctor About Sucrosa
March 4, 2006 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Are you a Gulf War veteran still suffering from mysterious symptoms or post-combat trauma? The Veteran's Administration has just the prescription for you: "Obecalp," otherwise known as placebo. (p.s. -- They'd better start working on an Extra-Strength version for Iraq War vets.)
posted by digaman (55 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, c'mon. Obecalp treats our suffering veterans at least as well as the yellow ribbon magnet on the back of your car supports our troops.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:47 AM on March 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


You know, as evil as I think the administration has been towards our vets... I just can't believe this. Obecalp? It's like something out of a bad comic book. I mean, that's like a textbook definition of "wanting to be caught." It's too absurd.

Does anyone have a second source?
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:29 AM on March 4, 2006


Have a friend who is a doctor in Maine. Told me he had just seen a patient, a discharged amry guy who was blown out his hummer. The machine gun landed on his chest. The poor guy has all the symptoms of stress disorder and was told by the army doctors to take Motrin for it.
posted by Postroad at 11:29 AM on March 4, 2006


A Google search turned up this mention of the clinical use of Obecalp (in 4 different strengths, no less) at LA County Hospital, as well as this article answering a nurse's ethical concerns over the use of Obecalp to treat chest pain.
posted by the jam at 11:39 AM on March 4, 2006


Just a spoonful of sugar makes the negligence go down... in a most delightful way!!!
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:40 AM on March 4, 2006


Support the troops, because the government refuses to.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:45 AM on March 4, 2006


digaman's title rang a bell.
posted by hangashore at 12:12 PM on March 4, 2006


Have you ever read a list of symptoms? They range from as vague as "headaches" to ridiculous shit like spooge that burns their wives/girlfriends. I think the only way to treat mass hysteria is with placebos. Or poison, but I know a lot of people who support our troops* will get upset if I suggest that we give people who complain of Gulf War Syndrome cyanide capsules to alleviate their symptoms. So I won't do that.

*by constantly reminding me that despite being liberals, they love our troops to fucking death unlike their terrible, awful counterparts from the Vietnam era.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:32 PM on March 4, 2006


That's right, Mayor Curley, you tell 'em. Just like those A-bomb test survivors whining about "back pain" and "cancer." Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly should head over to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and tell these guys they're a bunch of goddamned pussies and hypochondriacs.
posted by digaman at 12:45 PM on March 4, 2006


Interesting point Mayor.

The truth is that GWS is pretty challenging to treat, there isnt really a magic bullet for it because it encompasses a wide range of symptoms with no clear etiology.

But giving placebo is brings up some thorny ethical issus. And it's puzzling that they named it Obecalp... how transparent. If they really sought to help the person by harnessing the placebo effect, they should at least pick another name.
posted by mert at 12:47 PM on March 4, 2006


What unimaginative lacky thought up Obecalp? If I had to make up a fake name for a medicine, and didn't have to be subtle I would make our solders take Ifukayowifa or InaMinaMoeatril or something fun.
posted by Suparnova at 12:51 PM on March 4, 2006


>I think the only way to treat mass hysteria is with placebos.

Really? There's no other way you can think of to address psychosomatic illness? There's actually a well-established body of medical literature of how to address illness that is thought to be non-organic in origin, and placebos are at best a very small part of the approach.
posted by kevinsp8 at 1:02 PM on March 4, 2006


Algia agrees that prescribing placebo to patients who haven't provided their consent is unethical. Although, he said research shows placebos are often effective in making a patient think he's getting better.

"Thirty-five percent of the time placebo will work," he said.


Holy shit batman, it means 65 percent of times it doesn't ! So if we infer that they are batshit insane 35 percent of times, then 65 per of times they are REALLY physically sick !

If anything that proves there is a serious problem ongoing that is being described as "loonie" concern to people that don't know shit about statistic and math.
posted by elpapacito at 1:20 PM on March 4, 2006


Imagine. You take a bunch of suburban teenagers, give 'em 6 to 8 weeks of basic training (and yes, that's how long it takes -- I spent a week at Fort Sill in Oklahoma last year interviewing a bunch of kids headed to Iraq), ship 'em over to a country where it's 110 degrees in the shade and they're hated by the people they're supposed to be "liberating," bombard them with everything from insurgent IEDs to super-infectious campylobacter to flaming oil wells to US depleted-uranium shells, introduce them to the concept of death by having civilian women and children and their own battle-buddies die all around them while screaming for their mothers, keep their reason for being there vague because their Commander-in-Chief keeps changing the story... and they come back with symptoms that are hard to pin down. A visit or two to the VA counselor might not do the trick.
posted by digaman at 1:25 PM on March 4, 2006


"He was shocked to learn the word "obecalp" is placebo spelled backward"

Really? Shocked?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:42 PM on March 4, 2006


Apparently "Obecalp" is just used as code for Cebocap, a lactose capsule.
posted by hermitosis at 1:50 PM on March 4, 2006


Unless milk sugar suddenly cures depleted-uranium exposure and PTSD, we're still talking about good old placebo.
posted by digaman at 1:56 PM on March 4, 2006


Don't be too derisive of placebos. If a patient believes in them they do actually have an effect.
posted by srboisvert at 2:01 PM on March 4, 2006


Believe me, sr, I know. I've studied the placebo effect. By prescribing placebo for a syndrome that has been the subject of a massive government coverup is a little like prescribing placebo for lung cancer because the tobacco companies deny there's any such disease.
posted by digaman at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2006


*But, not by
posted by digaman at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2006


See CNN on that.
posted by digaman at 2:09 PM on March 4, 2006


I'm also stunned that they would use "Obecalp" as the name. If it's true, it's a telling detail about exactly how much respect they have for their patients' intelligence. I'd like to see a second source, too, though, just because the name seems like such a colossal blunder.

(Sadly, this will lead to more drug problems for our nation's vets)
posted by whir at 2:16 PM on March 4, 2006


Lactose? What about lactose intolerance vets?

As for 6 - 8 weeks for basic. Wow. I always thought it was longer. Bus drivers here have 6 - 8 weeks of training before they're allowed to shuttle people around in busses.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:22 PM on March 4, 2006


They shoulda called it Uoykcuf. If they are going to be blatant about not treating the soldiers, why hide it?
Even Cheney said that a little "fuck off" made him feel better.
posted by Balisong at 2:25 PM on March 4, 2006


Maybe they could just write them a perscription for STFU 500mg. Of a steady regimen of Don't-be-such-a-whiny-crybaby-and-either-deal-with-it-or-die-already HCL.
posted by Balisong at 2:29 PM on March 4, 2006


"I was at the VA office yesterday," he says, "and it's the same game: stonewalling. It's a really shabby way for the government to treat these guys who were drafted. They couldn't kill me with an atom bomb, so then they sent me to Korea, and that didn't kill me. Now they hope a bus hits me when I walk out the door. They're waiting for us to die."

-- atomic vet Bill Bires to me, 1997.
posted by digaman at 2:57 PM on March 4, 2006


I'm glad you caught that, hangashore.
posted by digaman at 2:59 PM on March 4, 2006


I know it makes the current administration look bad if we just take the complaints at face value, but really, it's a psychosomatic illness. Actually, it's worse than that-- some people are just looking for a payout. You don't end up shooting foreign people for a living because you're particularly ethical or good with money.

*and I'll remind you that people were complaining about "Gulf War Syndrome" during the Clinton administration and he did fuck all as well, which is the best he (or Bush) could do really. I loathe George Bush. But I'd rather he swing for his real shortcomings rather than throwing every thing you can think of to see what sticks.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:12 PM on March 4, 2006


What's interesting to me is that there's a long history of troops coming back from wars with mystery illnesses. From 'soldier's hear' in the great war back to descriptions of 'broken men' after the athens/sparta conflict. The latest name would appear to be 'gulf war syndrome'.

Oh - something interesting. I used to know a bunch of army brats whose fathers were UK special forces. Many of them had mutuations of some sort or another, (hare lips, deafness, fused fingers etc.) There are a range of possibilities here but exposure to noxious substances would be top of my list.

As for the MOD's response to claims that they may have caused damage to these kids? A healthy prescription of Uoykcuf taken twice daily.
posted by fingerbang at 3:38 PM on March 4, 2006


You don't end up shooting foreign people for a living because you're particularly ethical or good with money.

Many of the most successful and well-rounded American's have served in the military at one time, you fucking dipshit.
posted by reflection at 3:39 PM on March 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


This surely can't be real. It reads too much like an Onion article. Then again, it's hard to tell, these days. . .
posted by EarBucket at 3:50 PM on March 4, 2006


Many of the most successful and well-rounded American's have served in the military at one time, you fucking dipshit.

And so have many, many of the bottom-feeders. Touché, you smelly retard.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:54 PM on March 4, 2006


And the irony is delicious when I'm called a dipshit by someone who can't use an apostrophe. You truly are one of the most successful and well-rounded American's, reflection!
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:56 PM on March 4, 2006


Huh. Apparently, this guy has testified before Congress about this.
posted by EarBucket at 3:56 PM on March 4, 2006


Obecalp also makes an appearance several years ago on "E.R."
posted by EarBucket at 4:00 PM on March 4, 2006


"Prescriptions for Obecalp (placebo), once fairly common, are almost unheard of today. As you correctly learned in school, such deception is now widely recognized as unethical."
posted by EarBucket at 4:02 PM on March 4, 2006


At least they're not giving them Enicidemton anymore.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:30 PM on March 4, 2006


Yeah, that Enicidemton stuff is pricey. I always got the generic brand.
posted by EarBucket at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2006


When I got back from the Gulf War, I saw a civilian doctor to complain about debilitating muscle and joint pain. Her response was, "What is the Gulf War?" I left and felt pretty sick and hurt.

A few weeks later at the VA I was told that in order to be seen I had to be a member of the Fleet Reserve. What the fuck that means I don't know, but I wasn't ever in the Navy.

I'm still all kinds of fucked up and can't do many things that normal people do. But ya know what? Fuck it. I'm well enough (now) to raise and support a family. I can eat (usually), I can drive a car (most of the time), and my problems are a constant source of amusement to my friends and family; Walking with the family in the mall and all of a sudden here's snsranch, "Ow, fuck, Jesus Christ, fuck dammit shit!!!!!" while clutching my thigh.

"Oh, don't mind him, he's having a flash back or something." But holy shit, that shit hurts.

Sure I could go cry about it at the VA, and collect a disability check, but eff that. I'm good enough to work, and I'm happy. Everybody knows they can die or whatever while serving thier country. Besides, how do you cure "mysterious symptoms" except with $?
posted by snsranch at 5:25 PM on March 4, 2006


Hmmm, on preview of the original links it seems I might have this. No wonder I feel like I can never get enough sleep. (see common treatments)
posted by snsranch at 5:35 PM on March 4, 2006


Not to toot my own horn, but if my doctor gave me a 'scrip for Obecalp it'd take me about a quarter-second say "thanks for nothing, you fucking dipshit." Why would they make it so blindingly obvious?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:53 PM on March 4, 2006


Heh, we got one of these letters from the department of defense, informing the former resident that he may have been exposed to biotoxins at one of two campaigns in iraq that he was involved in. No forwarding address, but it came with a handy pamphlet about the 2.4% increase of brain cancer in people in those platoons than in the normal population. That's a pretty hefty increase considering that brain cancer is not all that common.
posted by sourbrew at 7:13 PM on March 4, 2006


Mayor Curley: I know it makes the current administration look bad if we just take the complaints at face value, but really, it's a psychosomatic illness.

Anecdotally...I have a friend (USMC, Gulf War) who suffered many of these symptoms (blackouts, sleep disturbances, shooting pains) shortly after returning from the Gulf, before there was even a name for this. He confided in me that he blacked out several times while driving, which scared the bejeezus out of him. I roomed with him for years after he returned and can personally testify that he suffered. I saw it firsthand.

Anecdotes prove nothing, I know...but I also personally know you're talking out your backside, Mayor Curley. There was nothing psychosomatic about him suffering for years, only learning later that other Gulf War vets experienced similar maladies. More like "revelation".

And re: "the current administration", it's hardly unique to them...hell, my Dad (USMC, Vietnam) suffered the effects of Agent Orange and the government wouldn't admit it for decades. Only BushCo's hypocrisy is greater b/c of their lofty rhetoric, because after the Clinton years the services put their faith and trust in Bush that he'd do better by them. Their approach is the same -- feigned ignorance and wholly inadequate treatment of returning veterans, shared by pretty much every administration since Vietnam.
posted by edverb at 7:16 PM on March 4, 2006


but it came with a handy pamphlet about the 2.4% increase of brain cancer in people in those platoons than in the normal population. That's a pretty hefty increase considering that brain cancer is not all that common.

The only Gulf War vet I knew (a cousin's ex-husband) died at 34 of glioma. I don't believe it was treated as service-related, although I wondered about that at the time. I wonder if it would help his kids if that question could be raised now?
posted by dilettante at 8:20 PM on March 4, 2006


If a doctor tried to pawn Obecalp on me, I'd pay his bill with Monopoly money.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:24 PM on March 4, 2006


The poor guy has all the symptoms of stress disorder and was told by the army doctors to take Motrin for it.

The army doctors give you motrin for everything.
Which I guess is why you shouhld go to the VA for that fancy Obecalp shit.
And Army Basic Training is 9 weeks, plus AIT which can range from several more weeks to more than a year.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 11:09 PM on March 4, 2006


There was nothing psychosomatic about him suffering for years

Psychosomatic doesn't mean non-existent or imaginary.
posted by srboisvert at 11:58 PM on March 4, 2006


To write off all veterans with these symptoms as "mass hysteria" because "some are just looking for a handout" is simplistic.

The tie in with blacklite's Neurogenesis FPP seems obvious. In case you haven't read it, constant stress causes physical changes in the formation of new brain neurons, which can manifest severe symptoms from that point on.

Kind of adds a new twist to "psychosomatic illness", doesn't it? (Yes, it really is all in you head.)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:24 AM on March 5, 2006


What unimaginative lacky thought up Obecalp? If I had to make up a fake name for a medicine, and didn't have to be subtle I would make our solders take Ifukayowifa or InaMinaMoeatril or something fun.

How about Fukitol? Damitol? Vituperol?
posted by slogger at 10:09 AM on March 5, 2006


Hal -- are you in the Army now? When I went to Fort Sill, the senior officers there told me the incoming kids could expect to be in Iraq in six to nine weeks. I was writing about a training tool designed to accelerate that process.
posted by digaman at 10:17 AM on March 5, 2006


Wait, I get it!

Faith-based medicine.
posted by digaman at 10:18 AM on March 5, 2006


Obecalp was still on formulary at the L.A. County Hospital when I was a medical student training there. The residents generally thought it was amusing, and the attending physicians I spoke to unanimously noted that they would never use it, whether effective or not, because of concern about reprisals over ethical issues.

It was large, purple, and available in different milligram strengths; the milligrams denoted how much glucose was in the tablet, according to the pharmacist I talked to.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:07 PM on March 5, 2006


Isn't it funny the underlying motive is "fuck cares about grunts, die quietly please ! " and in a similar false logic "who fuck cares if you live " which extends to you as well.

One works a life, risks the life and suffering and we still don't want a social security net to protect us if we fall ? That is sooooo fucking stupid.
posted by elpapacito at 4:44 AM on March 6, 2006


Prescriptions for Obecalp (placebo), once fairly common, are almost unheard of today. As you correctly learned in school, such deception is now widely recognized as unethical.

Really? What about homeopathic prescriptions?

I'm in favor of giving them sugar pills in combination with (not instead of) whatever other various treatments doctors probably are trying on these people. It can't make their ailments worse, it would probably make a lot of them feel better, it might be better for the patients (if it makes patients seek lower doses of standard painkillers), and meanwhile we might discover something about what's bothering them and how to treat it.

For instance, for pain relief offer a combination of two pills, one a chemically active pill that works, if it works, by changing the body's chemistry, and one a chemically inert pill that works, if it works, by suggestion. Let patients experiment with combinations of the two to determine which combination works best for them, but let them know that one pill may have various side effects (including dependence or whatever) while the other has no known side effects (but perhaps obesity if taken in very large doses).
posted by pracowity at 5:43 AM on March 6, 2006


“I think the only way to treat mass hysteria is with placebos.” -Mayor Curley

I personally know people with that “mass hysteria” asshole. But I’ve heard that whole Agent Orange thing was a scam too. Perhaps you would like to try some isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate and get back to us.

“and I'll remind you that people were complaining about "Gulf War Syndrome" during the Clinton administration and he did fuck all as well”

Yeah. ‘Cause it’s about politics. What pisses me off about the Fed in general (Bush & Clinton in particular) is that it’s like pulling molars to get them to admit there is even a problem. Or indeed, even opening an honest investigation into the problem.Even when caught in a lie, it becomes: “well, maybe something is going on, but we really don’t know - and it’s not whatever it was we’re talking about”

The only thing worse than someone who lies constantly or distorts the truth and fucks over thousands of people to avoid embarrassment not to mention avoiding spending money on people willing to kill and die for you -I suppose - are the fuckhead apologists who do it for free.

“The poor guy has all the symptoms of stress disorder and was told by the army doctors to take Motrin for it.”

I tore my rotator cuff - motrin. Head injury - motrin. Broken rib - motrin.
I had to physically threaten a doctor before I got my shoulder even looked at. Even before then I was wideawake for 3 days thinking I’m a pussy because I can’t shrug off a rotator cuff injury. (But pain is only psychosomatic)
The only time I got any real care is when my leg was bleeding profusely and you could see my shinbone - etc. Although I did vaguely wonder if they were going to give me motrin for it.

Perhaps GWS is a result of exposure to nerve agent, perhaps not. I don’t really know. But that’s exactly the problem.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:23 AM on March 6, 2006


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