Jon Carroll--friend, columnist, thinker of Deep Thoughts--has a modest proposal: to take full advantage of the well-documented placebo effect (more accurately, the placebo response, but never mind), let's give placebos the full branding treatment:
What if a placebo were given a fake side effect? A doctor gives a patient a sugar pill but says, "In a few cases, this drug has been known to cause the feet to swell." So would some people experience the placebo side effect as well as - or instead of - the placebo effect? ...
My thought is, if we give the placebo a fake side effect, we could also wrap the placebo in informative small-print literature, which would further add to the theatrical presentation. After all, for the placebo effect to work, the patient has to believe that the pill is real. It needs an official-sounding brand name and an official-sounding generic name, probably a logo and definitely an official list of precautions, warnings and disclaimers.
So he e-mailed me. Read all about it.
(More on pharmaceutical naming here.)