Now, there are “fake” pills for kids!

By Terry A. Rondberg

Placebos for kidsIn recent years, researchers have piled up the proof that many of the prescription and OTC pills sold to “treat” colds and flu in kids are ineffective. Even worse, they all have potentially negative side effects. One study, conducted by researchers at Penn State, found that placebos were just as effective as OTC drugs in suppressing coughs due to colds.

“Consumers spend billions of dollars each year on over-the-counter medications for cough,” said Ian Paul, assistant professor of pediatrics, Penn State Children’s Hospital, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “Our study showed that the two ingredients used in most over-the-counter medications were no better than a placebo, non-medicated syrup, in providing nighttime relief for children with cough and sleep difficulty as a result of upper respiratory infection… The desire to ease symptoms is strong for both parents and clinicians. This study, however, questions whether over-the-counter medications have a place in the treatment of these illnesses for children.” (“Effect of Dextromethorphan, Diphenhydramine and Placebo on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents,” July 2004 issue of Pediatrics.

Another study showed a significant percentage of children with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder improved when placebos replaced some of their daily meds.

“In ADHD, you can reduce the dose of the real medicine, substitute placebo pills and get the same effect on ADHD,” Walter Brown, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Brown University and Tufts University School of Medicine, stated.

One theory is that the caring and hopeful attitude of the parents or caregivers has a powerful effect on the child. If the parent and child have a strong belief in the efficacy of the remedy, it will work. In the tests, participants had no more “faith” in one pill over another, so they all worked about the same. That’s the very definition of placebo effect.

You’d think that, given this evidence, parents — and their medical doctors — would be convinced that grabbing the pill bottle isn’t the best response to sniffles and sneezes.

But that’s not the way some people see it. Now, there’s a new pill being marketed to parents for use on their kids: a chewable, cherry-flavored tablet called Obecalp. You guessed it: that’s placebo spelled backwards, and the pill is nothing but sugar.

Giving a child a sugar pill is definitely an improvement to giving them chemical medications. But this still teaches the child that health can be delivered in pill form from outside. Why not skip the pill altogether and try activities such as yoga or meditation, both of which can be presented as a game or healing action? Health comes from INSIDE and the sooner we truly understand that, and share that understanding with our kids, the sooner they’ll take control of their health and wellness.