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Wednesday 3 May 2017

The Nosebo Effect. The nonsense of medical science?

Pharmaceutical drugs do NOT cause side effects! It's just that patients think they will cause them, so they experience them!

This is the new wisdom from the conventional medical establishment, as reported in the Lancet today (3rd May 2017). Researchers at Imperial College London, undertaking research funded by several pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, found that "patients on statins are more likely to suffer side effects as a result of the ‘expectation of harm’ rather than the drugs themselves". The study follows up a 2014 review that suggested that "very few" of the side effects reported in statin users are down to the drug itself.

This is called the 'nocebo' effect - the expectation of side effects makes patients more likely to report them. The leader of the study, Professor Peter Sever, from the National Heart and Lung Institute, is quoted as saying that the nosebo effect can be very strong.

               "This is not a case of people making up symptoms, or that the symptoms are 'all in their heads'. Patients can experience very real pain as a result of the nocebo effect and the expectation that drugs will cause harm. What our study shows is that it’s precisely the expectation of harm that is likely causing the increase in muscle pain and weakness, rather than the drugs themselves causing them."

As the GP magazine, Pulse, says, this comes after one recent study found that stroke survivors were quitting their statins due to intolerable side effects. THEY ARE, OF COURSE, WRONG! They experienced 'intolerable side effects' only because they expected to experience them! Nothing to do with the drug! More to do with the Patient Information Leaflet that comes with the drug. One doctor has already asked the obvious question:

               "Should patient information inserts be removed for causing increased side effects??"

Indeed, the researchers have said that many people will have died because they stopped taking them. Statin drugs prevent strokes and heart disease by lowering cholesterol, but no mentioned was made of another recent study that has found that when the records of patients dying from strokes and heart disease were examined, it made no difference whether they were on statins or not!

There are several benefits for the conventional medical establishment arising from this research, and the idea of the nosebo effect:

  • Doctors will now be able to tell patients that side effects are not caused by the drug, but by their expectations. It has been estimated that only 10% of drug side effects are reported now! After this study reporting will no doubt fall even lower, resulting in even less evidence that pharmaceutical drugs cause harm to patients.
  • There will be a strong case made not to tell patients the possible side effects of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, because this is likely to cause the reporting of side effects! There will be even less information for patients, and 'informed choice' will take a back seat!
  • The pharmaceutical companies will be able to sell more drugs, and doctors will be able to prescribe more of them because they will know now that they don't cause side effects, it is all part of patient expectation!
Discovering drug side effects is slow enough now. Drugs are tested, approved to be safe by drug regulators, and given to patients for many years before they are round. It will become slower now!

Yet there is another problem. Statin drugs have been found to cause a wide variety of serious side effects. Many other studies have found that they cause not only muscle pain and weakness, but Parkinsons disease, diabetes, liver dysfunction, kidney failure, and cataracts. Were these diseases also caused by the nosebo effect? So are there patients masquerading around out there with Parkinsons because they expected to contract Parkinsons? Is the diabetes epidemic caused by Statin users who just feel they should have diabetes?

In addition, what has been wrong with the many 'scientific' studies that have previously linked Statins with muscle pain over recent decades? Why have they been accepted for so many years? Did they get it wrong? Why can these studies suddenly be overturned by a single (drug company financed) study? If they can be overturned so easily does this conflicting science (yet again) bring into question the validity of medical science, and in particular of randomised controlled testing?

When difficult questions arise within the conventional medical establishment we always need to follow the money! The pharmaceutical companies are in a bad way. Their credibility is at stake, and many of their most profitable drugs failing. 
Indeed, many other pharmaceutical drugs are now being seriously questioned, either for their effectiveness or safety. And few new blockbusting drugs are coming through to replace them. Statins are one of the most profitable pharmaceutical drugs remaining. They could not allow patients to stop taking them because of the nasty side effects. They could not deny the side effects. So pharmaceutical money has paid for the promotion of the 'nosebo effect. It is a useful concept!

So, homeopathy works because of the 'placebo' effect. Patients think they will get better, so they do. And conventional medicine does not cause side effects, it is just the 'nosebo' effect.

We patients seem to be getting everything wrong! We need to listen more carefully to what 'medical science' is telling us, although only when it is funded by the pharmaceutical companies. They know best. We not only know nothing, what we think we know is wrong! 

Just shut up, all of you, and keep taking the tablets.

Post Script November 2020 
The nocebo nonsense continues! This MIMS article says that "Most Statin side effects down to 'nocebo' effect". This means that pharmaceutical medicine wants us to believe that we can develop diabetes, dementia, liver and kidney disease (and all the other 'side effects' known to be caused by these drugs) because we THINK we might get them IF we take Statin drugs!
Post Script January 2022

If we think this, why would we want to take them in the first place?