Angry Doctor

Monday, September 18, 2006

Confidence Goods 3

angry doc has seen several of his patients wearing bracelets that look like the one below:

He wasn't aware (until he read this entry from Dr Wes' blog) that they are called Q-Ray bracelets, or that they are touted to have pain-relieving properties.

Or at least they were, until a US federal district court ruled that the claim was false and that the manufacturer had to refund its more than 100,000 buyers.

The judge cited this
Mayo Clinic study in his ruling, which showed that subjects who wore the bracelet *did* report significant pain relief, but no more than subjects who wore placebo bracelets. Interestingly, the percentage of subjects who experienced pain relief was similar to the percentage of subjects who believed (before the trial started) that the bracelet worked.

The attorney acting for the manufacturer argued that the "mechanism is not an issue" as long as users experienced relief from the bracelets.

I suppose whether it is an issue depends on whether you are looking at it from the point of view of those who did experience relief, or those who forked out between US$60 to US$250 for a bracelet but experienced no relief.

They do look nice though, don't you think?

Anyone knows where angry doc can get one of those (presumably cheaper) placebo bracelets?



  • Wally-World.

    Or I could send you the two we wasted our money on in our quest for a miracle for hubby.

    By Blogger Surgeon In My Dreams, At September 19, 2006 4:44 am  

  • Hey angrydoc, business opportunity here, eh? Should start up a line of placebo jewelry (eg. placebo necklace for neck & shoulder ache, placebo bracelet for carpal tunnel syndrome, placebo anklet for arthritic knees, etc etc)...GRIN...
    I wonder if the placebo effects will still be there if people KNOW that they are placebos???

    By Blogger aliendoc, At September 19, 2006 11:32 am  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger angry doc, At September 19, 2006 4:55 pm  

  • well this isn't really anything new now is it? opportunistic idiots have been selling placebos to gullible idiots since the beginning of time. good luck charms, lucky fact some ppl say the entire art of feng shui is nothing more than a huge capitalisation on the placebo effect (NOT my view, don't flame me, Lillian Too). still, it's the first I've heard of a court actually taking action against it. good for them. about time these conmen-turned-businessmen got their just desserts.

    By Blogger The Angry Medic, At September 19, 2006 8:36 pm  

  • In this case the case came under the purview of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

    I've seen some rather 'quacky' things in my practice - most notably some 'scans' which tell patients they have serious conditions which conventional medicine had not picked up - but I didn't know the bracelet was anything more than a fashion statement.

    I should find out if we have a FTC equivalent locally...

    By Blogger angry doc, At September 19, 2006 9:19 pm  

  • (reposted due to error in previous comment)

    The placebo effect seems to offer real relief for many people.

    Not sure if they would work if people knew they were placebo, but if you look at the study on acupuncture in my post yesterday, they found that people who believed acupuncture worked actually experienced *less* relief from it than people who didn't know if it would help.

    Whether people should be allowed to profit from selling placebo treatment/devices is actually another topic all in itself though.

    By Blogger angry doc, At September 19, 2006 10:41 pm  

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