Selling placebos
January 1, 2010 1:16 AM   Subscribe

Placebo pills for sale. You've seen some of the many spoofs, and they've been discussed before, but now you can pay real money for real pills. So multi-powerful, they're the go-to pill of choice when conducting double blind studies for medicines treating every disease and disorder. It's SCIENCE!
posted by birdsquared (40 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, and Happy New Year (Metafilter time). With these pills, it's sure to be a healthy year for all.
posted by birdsquared at 1:18 AM on January 1, 2010


I prefer the "obecalp" pills.
posted by telstar at 1:20 AM on January 1, 2010


But placebo tablets - small, inert, side-effect-free sugar pills - are actually very hard to find, and that's one reason we're offering them here.

On the point that they're "hard to find," I beg to differ.
posted by disillusioned at 1:47 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh hey! I know the people that founded this, and have a bottle of this at home somewhere. Makes for a good light snack once in a while. Small world.
posted by divabat at 2:00 AM on January 1, 2010


I had never encountered the term "pilule" as a pharmacist, either in school or in real-world practice. But a quick check of the OED shows it to indeed be a real word.

Today, the term "pill" is for most people a catch-all term for "either tablet or capsule". But the fact is that "pill" at one time had a very well defined meaning. Before mechanization, solid oral dosage forms had to be made by hand. Usually the drug or herb would be ground to a powder then mixed with various binders, like gum arabic. Mixed thoroughly, the mass would be rolled out into specialized plates called "pill tiles". From there the cylinders would be evenly divided, then the little disks rolled by hand into spheres.

THAT is a pill.

You won't find "pills" in any modern, industrialized pharmacy. Everything is now a tablet or a capsule. The placebos this outfit are selling appear to be spherical tablets. I suspect that they are calling them "pilules" simply for the sake of hype.

Back in days before selective phosphodiesterase inhibitor drugs like Viagra, you could find ads in the back of magazines like Penthouse for things like "spurious Spanish Fly". Obviously they were betting that some of their potential customers didn't know or care what "spurious" meant...

If you study the history of medicine, you will find that some doctors would indeed prescribe placebos for some of their patients. Usually these were compounded in the pharmacy by filling empty yellow capsules with lactose. I think this practice was pretty much gone by the 1960's, but I do recall learning about it in pharmacy school in the 1980's.

I left pharmacy in 2002, but AFIK, placebos were still legal to prescribe and dispense, at least in the state of Washington. I never filled a prescription for a placebo.
posted by Tube at 2:45 AM on January 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


I sometimes take tic-tacs as a placebo for hayfever or headaches.

You might say that the placebo effect only works work if you don't know you're taking a placebo. But I know that the placebo effect is real, so why wouldn't I expect them to work?
posted by Lorc at 2:57 AM on January 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


I bought mine with play money.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:00 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


What a bad idea....

I'm picturing these being discovered by kids, purchased, sold to other kids as a real drug... so many ways this could go wrong.
posted by HuronBob at 3:29 AM on January 1, 2010


It's all fun and games, until SCIENCE! shows up.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:30 AM on January 1, 2010


Just take gingko biloba. According to a major study in the new JAMA it does the same thing.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:15 AM on January 1, 2010


What would convince you to use a placebo? If you are curious you could try this simple procedure to evoke the positive qualities of Acceptance, Gratitude, Faith, Trust and Action.


Pseudo-Buddhist pharmaceuticals?
posted by quietalittlewild at 4:25 AM on January 1, 2010


I'll have ten dollars of your finest science please!
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:59 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This stuff isn't funny at all. I'm addicted to placebos.

Or so I believe.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:32 AM on January 1, 2010


I have some of these and they are excellent. The best part is that the cops can't figure it out. they're like totally safe too. THE WAR ON DRUGS IS A WAR ON PEOPLE, MAN!!!
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:35 AM on January 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


sold to other kids as a real drug... so many ways this could go wrong

Wait, I saw this. This is when the kids that are sold the placebo tie the kid who sold it to them in the bathroom and dismember him with a chainsaw, right?

Or it this the one where they give the placebo-pusher some sugar lumps of their own? Yeah, that rough.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:55 AM on January 1, 2010


I'm pretty sure selling fake drugs is a crime (at least where I live).
posted by ryanrs at 6:28 AM on January 1, 2010


I'm addicted to placebos.
Here, try these. They can help.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:40 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure (knowing the people that made this) that this is largely tongue-in-cheek - one of the main people runs well-known business workshops, and this was more of an example of "you can find business ideas anywhere". I don't think they're seriously expecting to cure cancer with this. It's just a bit of humour.
posted by divabat at 7:40 AM on January 1, 2010


Includia.
posted by The Deej at 8:04 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Science, bitches!
posted by vibrotronica at 8:18 AM on January 1, 2010


one of the main people runs well-known business workshops, and this was more of an example of "you can find business ideas anywhere". I don't think they're seriously expecting to cure cancer with this.

Since when do business people EVER care if they will cure cancer? They are making money, which is "why businesses exist" (according to business people).
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on January 1, 2010


Also, the fundamental concept of this site is hilarious: You need real placebo pills to get the placebo effect.
posted by DU at 8:28 AM on January 1, 2010


Reminds me of the ads for fake Spanish Fly they used to have in the back of sketchy magazines at the newsstand where I once worked. Stuff wasn't real, and couldn't be advertised as such, so the ads described it as "spurious." Initially, this would be in tiny type in parentheses beneath the big, colorful SPANISH FLY!

But eventually I guess it dawned on them that the very reason they were using "spurious," instead of say, "fake," was because none of their customers was going to have the first clue what it meant. In fact their only exposure to the word was likely in these very same fake Spanish Fly ads. So some clever person decided, hey, why not use it to our advantage. And by the time that job wound down, I was seeing ads for Spanish Fly that proudly proclaimed itself in big, colorful letters to be "Super Spurious" or "Extra Spurious." I was amused.

Hell, for all I know, the stuff really would have worked. Apparently it doesn't matter if it's real or not.
posted by Naberius at 8:28 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since when do business people EVER care if they will cure cancer? They are making money, which is "why businesses exist" (according to business people).

His workshops are geared towards creative and social enterprises - the event where this product was introduced (mid-2008) was a conference based around the motto "Have fun. Make money. Change the world."
posted by divabat at 8:31 AM on January 1, 2010


Do they come in different doses?
posted by Balisong at 8:32 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


These prices are outrageous! I'll wait for the generic version, thank you very much.
posted by chairface at 9:56 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


You spelled placebo wrong, it's spelled h-o-m-e-o-p-a-t-h-y.
posted by HTuttle at 11:01 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait, I saw this. This is when the kids that are sold the placebo tie the kid who sold it to them in the bathroom and dismember him with a chainsaw, right?

You're just remembering an episode of Degrassi Junior High. Joey sold some kids "New Zealand Zappers" that were really vitamins. Melanie and Kathleen took them, freaked out and killed Wheels in some sort of sexy vampire ritual.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:56 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the post.

I feel better already.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:58 PM on January 1, 2010


Tube: "I never filled a prescription for a placebo."

It would of course, ruin the double blind if you had filled one and known it.
posted by pwnguin at 4:15 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surprised no one's mentioned the old Steve Martin bit from SNL. "I am high as a KITE!... If you EVER get a chance to take these drugs, DO IT! They're called... Placebos!
posted by TheDailyRhyme at 7:08 PM on January 1, 2010


While is this is a good joke, the site also makes a very valid point: that we would be well-served to promote the dispensing of placebos. People who (believe they) are sick go to the doctor to get treatment, and under our current system, we either have to deny them treatment if no treatment is appropriate - or alternatively prescribe them actual medicine which probably won't help them. The pharmaceutical industry frequently pays hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements after being caught for advertising off-label use, but continues to do so. We get left with side-effects (mmm Vioxx), superbugs, and a huge smorgasboard of antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics that actually underperform placebos in blind studies!!

If we gave everyone who came to a clinic with a cold a placebo, we would all be better off. Instead we have alternative medicine practitioners which are, for the most part, just as guilty of being hucksters and profiteers as big pharma. As usual it's win-win for capitalism and lose for us.
posted by mek at 10:40 PM on January 1, 2010


Don't forget this spoof.
posted by cleancut at 10:43 PM on January 1, 2010


Don't forget PenisReductionPills.com who print their company logo on all 6 sides of the shipping box.
posted by w0mbat at 8:51 AM on January 2, 2010


Telstar: "I prefer the "obecalp" pills."

OMG - you don't want to swallow them: they're suppositories...
posted by genesta at 11:43 AM on January 2, 2010


what is really hilarious is how ignorant the vast majority of consumers of medicine are when it comes to how small difference between placebo and pharmacologically active substances often are. And this is not a reason to dismiss the efficacy of medication.
posted by dougiedd at 3:43 PM on January 2, 2010


Kids love'em!
posted by usonian at 9:57 PM on January 2, 2010


The problem with handing out placebos to patients: it requires your doctor or pharmacist to lie to you. That's bad policy.
posted by Arturus at 2:02 AM on January 3, 2010


You spelled placebo wrong, it's spelled h-o-m-e-o-p-a-t-h-y.

So what is Tylenol, genius?
posted by Zambrano at 9:28 AM on January 3, 2010


But... some r'yleh do help... right?

This has to be the work of cultists.
posted by LD Feral at 9:10 AM on January 4, 2010


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