What is a placebo and why you need to know.

November 5, 2010

Yes, in school we learned that placebos are controlled groups which do not have any altering impact to anything – a bit wordy, but then again wait until you learn about scientific placebos.

Some of you have heard of the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and know that pharmaceutical drugs need to be approved by this organization before being brought to market (in the USA) where consumers can purchase them (usually with a prescription). The approval requires clinical trials with two groups of people – one group taking the drug which the pharmaceutical company wants to be approved by the FDA and the other group taking a placebo.

The issue is that the FDA does not inquire as to what the placebo in such clinical trials is composed of – the placebo simply needs to be inert? What is inert anyway? Nothing is inert when it comes to a placebo – if the placebo is a soft gel, then the soft gel itself is made of something, correct? A rather drastic inert placebo would perhaps contain cyanide, and I guarantee that no matter what drug the pharmaceutical company was trying to get approval for would be passed because the placebo group taking the cyanide pill would all be dead and the ones taking the drug in question would survive. A more realistic but yet highly contradictory placebo group could be taking a placebo which contains some form of LDL cholesterol level inducing placebo and the experimental drug could be a statin drug – the outcome would be that the statin drug clinical population had lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Other examples could include just about anything to make the placebo group have more adverse results than the clinical test group taking the drug in question. The FDA needs to inquire about the contents (ingredients) of every placebo for every clinical drug trial because the way things are now, every drug should be getting approved; after all, the pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in ensuring that the placebo group has worse results than the test group and since most all clinical tests where placebos are part of the decision-making process the pharmaceutical company is paying for the clinical study and yes, supplying the placebos. No wonder drugs get passed. What I would like is for new tests to be performed and not with ‘out of the hat’ placebos but alternative placebos; for example, a cardiovascular disease prevention clinical experiment where a test of statin drugs against a placebo of the HRT product which contains policosanol, oyster mushroom, taurine, selenium, l-carnitine, folate and coenzyme q10 and see after a month or two which group had lower overall cholesterol levels and which group had adverse health effects – the result would show that the HRT product clearly demonstrates cardiovascular disease prevention whereas the statin drugs display adverse health effects and lower LDL cholesterol levels and provide some cardiovascular disease prevention (note that the HRT product also contains coenzyme q10 which statins deplete and policosanol not only lowers LDL cholesterol levels but increases HDL cholesterol levels as well). More real tests for the FDA to consider soon. In the United States there was somewhat of a shift in power in the government following the November 2nd 2010 elections – perhaps its also time that the FDA be overhauled leading to other drug approving organizations using legitimate placebos or at least having the pharmaceutical companies list all the ingredients of the ‘inert’ placebos in question.

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