On my way home from work, I heard this story on Marketplace explaining a new drug placebo study done recently. From the story:
Participants thought they were testing a new drug for pain relief. In fact, everybody got placebos. Only one difference. Some were told the pills cost $2.50, while others were told they only cost a dime. Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational,” was the lead researcher.
DAN ARIELY: What we found was that the expensive pill reduced pain to a much larger degree than the cheap pills.
This could be significant for the $59 billion generic drug industry. The study helps explain why patients generally prefer brand-name drugs, and why consumers think they are more effective than generic drugs, even though they have the same active ingredients. Glen Melnick is a health economics professor at USC.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, this did not lead to a discussion of how the public should be better educated about how medicines actually work. Instead, and this is probably what made it really stand out to the Marketplace team, the conclusion was this:
Ariely suggests that the FDA reconsider the way it evaluates drugs. Instead of testing medicines blindly. He says the FDA should include factors like price, since such variables may play a part in how well some drugs work.
I’m really not sure what to think about this. There are numerous factors at play here, of course, such as how screwed up our healthcare industry is, how screwed up the drug industry is, and how strange people are in how their minds can influence their bodies, but is trying to get the FDA to count the price of a drug in its healing potential really the right thing to be calling for?
-posted by Dana