Welcome to the Placebo Store.

The advert begins…

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 big hug, the magic happens immediately. This is the power of placebo.

Yes, ‘regular strength’ Obecalp, from placebostore.com, is the new wonder pill for stressed parents to give to their kids when they want them to stop screaming.

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.

The reaction has been predictable. The New York Times says,

Some experts question whether an alternative should involve deception. “I don’t like the idea of parents lying to their kids,” said Dr. Steven Joffe, a pediatrician and bioethicist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “It makes me squeamish.”
Dr. Geller, the bioethicist, agrees that parents should not deceive their children.

I’m not so sure. Parents lie to their kids all the time. Tooth Faeries, Father Christmas, White men with beards in the clouds. Kids grow up and learn that adults can tell fibs – sometimes for fun – othertimes, for darker reasons. It pays to not take everything at face value that people in authority claim.

Could these pills help kids realise that not all treatments are what they say they are? Could they learn that our perceptions of health can be manipulated through beliefs alone? Would it help them question the claims of homeopaths and acupuncturists a little more who are doing exactly the same thing, but to adults?

Or, would it just instill the idea in them that there is a pill for every ill? Is it just good training to swallow the pills for a future of adult pharmacological consumption?


17 Comments on Welcome to the Placebo Store.

  1. This looks as if it’s trying to exploit the gullibility of parents, because you could use a much cheaper packet of sweets in exactly the same way.

  2. Here is an anecdote (ouch).

    When my son was 14 or 15 he became obsessed with the idea that he couldn’t sleep. He kept demanding phenergan (promethazine) syrup. He didn’t notice the difference when we got a friendly pharmacist to keep topping up the bottle with syrup. The (eventually) homeopathic promethazine was a good placebo, but then he wasn’t really ill.

    I see no problem wih that, though it does place responsibility on the parents’ ability to spot problems for which placebos would be dangerous.

  3. My child minder had a box of biscuits for this very purpose. I think they incentivised a well faked knee injury more than anything else though.

  4. When our kids complained of injuries etc hurting more than was real we simply told them that if it was that bad we would have to amputate. Worked like a charm.

    But then we were the sort of parents that if a sprog fell over we would laugh, to forestall the reaction cry purely because they had fallen over.

    This way when a kid claimed hurt we knew they meant it.

    I am not sure getting kids habituated to getting a pill every time they have some sort of malady is a good idea. GPs in the future will certainly not thank you for it.

  5. My parents were/are exactly the same as you, Peter. With my brother and younger sister, we had the same treatment over minor bumps and knocks.

    We did, however, have something else called “magic cream”, an elaborate pantomime of an invisible tube of ointment to fix whatever was hurt. This smoke-and-mirrors tactic is remarkably effective with small children, and I have since (as an adult) seen my mother use it so effectively that by the time the cream was “ready for use” a small cousin had forgotten which bit was supposed to be hurting…

  6. “The (eventually) homeopathic promethazine was a good placebo…”

    The bat signal can’t be working. It’s hard to believe that no outraged homeopath has been along to say, “How very dare you. You omitted the succussion”. Call yourself a scientist.

    Some ethical queasiness however, if the parents are going to administer something, I’d rather it was a placebo where appropriate rather than unnecessary aspirin or paracetamol.

    If parents were troubled about the ethics, would they need age-appropriate variations on the Covi and Park script?

  7. I think this is a crock and some well thought up scam. Give me a break already. Giving children pills of any sort is no joking matter. If they believe they need a pill for every little thing in their life, later on, your going to have a pill popping problem that will last forever.
    Remember, the earliest years of child are the most impressionable and this my friends is nothing more than brain-washing them at an earlier age.
    These people should be put out of business ASAP!

  8. Why would any parent offer to medicate their child when there are so many other alternatives in life?

    Who’s in charge, the child or the parent?

    My honest opinion is that this product is absolute non-sense.

  9. If you ask me, I think Jen should be taking the pills.

    What kind of IDIOT is this woman?

    Go get a real job before you mess with more innocent children.


  10. I like the idea of the invisible cream because it takes away the “every single time” element of medicating. The parent won’t wish to go through the rigamarole constantly, thus dosing only when appropriate. If you can call it that.

    My Mother gave me Harvey’s. 🙂
    I was soon self-medicating.

  11. @DC
    Just wait till your son, as ours recently did, confesses his deceptions regarding staying home from school. Nudge nudge. omg it was an absolute hoot.

  12. What irks me about this is the ‘invented by a mommy’ tag on the website. Can (opportunistic) commercialisation of a known phenomenon really be classed as an invention?

  13. Hum. The URL is registered to an address that is also the address of the USBDT. That is, the United States Beer Drinking Team. I sense a drunken wager.

  14. This women probably sits around and watches Soaps all day long and her hubby probably has to watch the kids…it’s almost a guarantee that this so called mommy,Jen, has probably never had any other responsibility in her life and now that she has kids she can’t deal with it. So what does she do? Creates a pill to deal with her disorder and the poors kids are lied to and shoved aside when all they need is a simple hug.
    The majority of children who cry wolf only want their parent’s attention and typically those who do cry wolf have parents that are either extreme control freaks or who are work-a-holics.
    You should feel sorry for those children who have both type parents.

    Melissa, PHD
    Childrens Psychology

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