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Obecalp Placebo

Tuesday, July 08, 2008 - 09:44 AM

A listener recently sent us an email alerting us to a new dietary supplement released in June called Obecalp. Obecalp, which is Placebo spelled backwards, is a cherry-flavored chewable dextrose pill meant to trick children into believing they are getting a medicine that will make them feel better.

Jennifer Buettner, the creator of the pill, has this to say on her website:

Hi. I'm Jen. I am a mommy. It's what I love. It's my job to make owies go away. Whether it's a kiss or a Band-aid, the magic happens immediately. This is the power of placebo. I have a baby girl and two sons. One of them always needs my comfort and the knowledge that I will make them feel better. I invented Obecalp when I realized that children might need a little more than a kiss to make it go away. Obecalp fills the gap when medicine is not needed but my children need something more to make them feel better. You'll know when Obecalp is necessary.

At first glance, the idea of it seemed absurd and possibly irresponsible. But searching the topic turned up a New York Times article on Obecalp that brought up an interesting point. Despite the fact that most medical professionals interviewed scoffed at the idea of Obecalp or even protested that it might be dangerous, the reality is that many doctors have admitted to prescribing antibiotics under pressure to patients whom they are nearly certain are suffering from a viral illness that antibiotics won't cure. Few would argue that this is a good practice, but it's certainly common enough that doctors sometimes find it easier to send patients home with an actual drug just to make them feel better psychologically.

What do you think about this? Would you give an upset child a sugar pill and tell them it would make them feel better?

And if you haven't heard our Placebo show, check it out.


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Comments [7]

X3r0 Tucker from Chicago

While I agree in part with the comments here, I think they oversimplify the situation of the mother popping her kids a magical pill. Life for real is often different than the life from review that commenters use to base their comments.

I imagine (and remember) that in "life for real" there are/may be many of the occasions that the above commenters point toward that get resolved just as they would hope - with the mother urging the child to learn to distinguish pain that truly indicates you need seek help from that which, while uncomfortable, neeeds to just be tolerated.

I further imagine, that there are situations more complicated that arent easily reduced to "mind over matter" teaching opportunities, for instance, what if the child truly is in the pain that needs seek help, but for whatever reason there is a delay or issue in recieving that help? Or what if even doctors' perscribed treatmens are failing, or what if the problem is occuring while the family is preroccupied ogverseeing a funderal for a family member, or in an airplane packed with people and sitting on the tarmac waiting to taxi. . .

While at the end of the day, "pain" is the only unobjective and purely created sense - literally - the fact that it is all mental, doesn't make it any less real because from the conscious viewpoints where we live our lives, reality starts at that line where it becomes mental, not before.

Jul. 17 2015 02:15 AM

I say huzzah for this pill. It would be an excellent teaching tool for kids, the parents can tell the kids after they feel better that they just wolfed down nothing. I agree that we rely an excessive amount on medications, but I don't think this is going to cause some massive upsurge in it, countering it is going to have to take place in education and the like anyway. And like I said: An excellent way to teach people, right from the start, that they don't need pills. Get a kid hooked on his Obecalps for all his ills, then when he's 12 tell him "Oh yeah, by the way... those pills didn't do anything." Also a very excellent way to tell whether a kid is faking the severity of an illness or whether a doctor visit is in order.

But maybe it's also partly because I hate kids...

Jul. 11 2008 06:02 PM

I have two children, boys 4 and 6, who cry all the time. And boy, can they act like nobody's business. I have Oscars lining our mantle in the family room. When my kids cry, I tell there is no need to cry I know it hurts, and they stop. They are still growing out of the infant stage where crying brings some wonder of goodness. Now that they are old enough to use their words, lets hear what they have to say.

I agree, pills bad.

Jul. 09 2008 01:40 PM

I agree with the above commenters. Even though it's not as fast or easy, isn't it smarter to teach your children to feel better on their own, without the aid of medicine or drugs?

Jul. 08 2008 03:24 PM

Hey, this has nothing to do with the above post, but did you guys know you got a shout out last night by the band Fleet Foxes on NPR's All Songs Considered? You can hear them recommending your program toward the end of their set, which is available streaming at the All Songs Considered website.

Jul. 08 2008 02:07 PM

Hurray! Another thing to teach children that problems can be solved with a pill!

While doctors may prescribe placebos to patients, I think the hassle and cost involved is at least some deterrent from getting into the habit of fixing things with pills. This, however, cuts through that completely and brings it into the home, only to reinforce the idea that pills will help you out of anything. Regarding making children "feel better," it really does a child disservice to not teach them that there are things out of our control and all you can do is wait till your body has done what it must.

I really think the hassles of doctor visits encourage prudence regarding medication and helps teach that waiting something out, or making due, is a good lesson learned and often the best medicine.

Jul. 08 2008 11:39 AM
Michael Newton

Sounds like we're preparing children for life in our hyper-medicated society, where every one of our ills is a "syndrome" or "dysfunction" that can fortunately be cured by popping the pharmaceutical industry's latest offering.

Not that I'm a cynic or anything...

Jul. 08 2008 11:36 AM

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