Tuesday Morning Quarterback has long been on the placebo case. In 2004, I noted studies showing that placebos are efficacious and said it was unfair that only those who participate in clinical trials enjoy the benefits of placebos. I asked, “If sugar pills actually work, why aren’t placebos a standard treatment given by doctors and hospitals? The answer is that placebos aren’t expensive enough!” At the risk of quoting myself, let me quote what followed: “Therefore I plan to make my fortune by marketing the incredible new drug Placebon. A patented, proprietary formula consisting entirely of sugar, Placebon will revolutionize medicine. Elaborately packaged in individual foil doses, Placebon will be obtained only with a doctor’s prescription. Placebon will be the subject of a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign consisting of costly television advertising and full-page magazine ads with hundreds of words in disclaimers. In the TV ads, smiling multicultural people will run through fields of wild flowers laughing and embracing, but the announcer will never give the slightest hint what the drug is for.”
Here was the rest of my plan: “Placebon will be extremely expensive, thus increasing demand. Pharmaceutical companies will treat doctors to lavish dinners, send them on all-expense-paid cruises and hand out handsome ‘consulting’ fees to get them to prescribe Placebon. Controlled clinical studies will fail to show that Placebon is any more effective than breathing, but the manufacturer will lobby the Food and Drug Administration not to report this. Celebrities will be hired to have public breakdowns, then make spectacular recoveries by taking Placebon. A saccharine version, Diet Placebon, will be marketed. Initially, many insurers will refuse to pay for Placebon. But as senior citizens stream across the Canadian border to buy low-cost government-subsidized Placebon, politicians will demand that insurers pay, and the health care share of the GDP will rise again. Eventually a generic will be available at discount, while the patent holder makes a tiny molecular change in order to maintain proprietary pricing of advanced Placebon 24″, a longer-lasting version. By converting the placebo from cheap to extremely expensive, Placebon will expand the benefits of the placebo effect from a tiny few who participate in clinical trials to millions of Americans.”
Warning: Do not take Placebon if you are pregnant or not pregnant. Product not suitable for anyone who is tall or short or not tall or not short. Side effects may include pneumonia, cancer, bubonic plague and amputation. If you had trouble getting dates in high school, Placebon may not be right for you. Do not operate tunnel-boring machinery or artillery after taking Placebon. Never take Placebon or any prescription drug without first paying a large sum to a doctor.
– Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN.com