Placebo effects

21 Mar

There was an article in the news today indicating that the majority of General Practitioners (GPs) have prescribed placebos to patients. This does not surprise me at all. In many ways we all benefit from the placebo effect. If you think you don’t just ask yourself why your headache starts to go away almost as soon as you have swallowed 2 paracetamol, even though they take twenty minutes at least to get into your blood supply. A doctor interviewed on the radio also admitted prescribing vitamin tablets to a patient whose declared symptoms were at odds with her actual physical state. There are a lot of hypochondriacs out there, and if the patient thinks it will work, it probably will, with little or no harm from side-effects!

In effect (pun intended), the placebo effect works. This also applies to many if not most food supplements and to homeopathic medicine. There was some moaning that people were paying for a prescription that had no ‘real’ basis. If you want to close down all the homeopathic practitioners and all the Holland and Barratt stores, take it that one step further. Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t go to a homeopathic practitioner if I had a broken leg, but at least I couldn’t take an overdose of homeopathic medicine.

Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer , George Osbourne, delivered his annual financial statement, the Budget. This was a bit of a damp squib. The headline measures were some minor tax cuts (to come in the future) and a hold on increases on fuel duty. Oh, and a penny off a pint of beer. A pint costs £3.20 in my local pub, so I will save 0.032% for every pint I drink. Whoopee!

There was another measure designed to quick-start the property market, allowing a sort of top-up for mortgage deposits for first-time buyers of new-builds. This is also to start sometime in the future. There are some problems with this in that there are very few new houses being built, and even less at the cheap end of the market. There is simply not enough profit in it. Secondly, if houses become available they will be more expensive because the builders will know about the top-up.

Meanwhile, growth figures have been halved, borrowing is increasing and the entire economy is barely moving. We need to invest in new housing and free up mortgages, but not just in the tiny sector mentioned. Infrastructure needs to be put in place and manufacturing industry supported. This government seems to go very easy on the Banks and forget where real wealth is generated.

This was a nothing budget, with only promises of ‘Jam tomorrow’, and, oh yes, that penny off a pint. As a placebo effect, that has fooled nobody. We are, almost all of us, still in pain, with little sign of any pain relief.

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