Pharmacy benefit brainstorm: Ultragenerics


The financial meltdown, recession, and growth in health care costs
are a triple whammy, even for those with good insurance. As recently
reported, mainstream patients are seeking out
pharmaceutical company Patient Assistance Programs intended for the
poor. Even generic drugs can be pricey if you have a lot of them.

But I think I have a solution: the Ultrageneric formulary. This plan
would feature efficacious products with very favorable side effect
profiles and ultra-low costs. There should be strong acceptance from
physicians because they are already happily prescribing these products.

What’s the secret? My formulary would consist entirely of placebos. As the New York Times reports (Half of Doctors Routinely Prescribe Placebos):

Half of all American doctors responding to a nationwide survey say they regularly prescribe placebos to patients…

In response to three questions included as part of the larger
survey, about half reported recommending placebos regularly. Surveys in
Denmark, Israel, Britain, Sweden and New Zealand have found similar

The most common placebos the American doctors reported using were
headache pills and vitamins, but a significant number also reported
prescribing antibiotics and sedatives. Although these drugs, contrary
to the usual definition of placebos, are not inert, doctors reported
using them for their effect on patients’ psyches, not their bodies.

In most cases, doctors who recommended placebos described them to
patients as “a medicine not typically used for your condition but might
benefit you,” the survey found. Only 5 percent described the treatment
to patients as “a placebo.”

I expect this new plan to be a smashing success.

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4 replies »

  1. From the original article:
    But, Dr. Brody said, doctors should resist using placebos, because they reinforce the deleterious notion that “when something is the matter with you, you will not get better unless you swallow pills.”
    That is exactly the problem. I lived and worked in 3 countries, of which the USA seems most faithful in drug treatment for anything, followed by France, and Germany being most skeptical re. drug use. One probably needs a concerted effort to change this attitude. Not sure whether the pharma lobby would allow this to happen.

  2. Notwithstanding the documentation of the placebo effect, I had to check after reading this post to make sure I wasn’t reading The Onion and/or that the date was not April 1.

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