The sugar dummy pill to soothe children's aches and pains which replaces a mummy's hug
By Rebecca Camber
Last updated at 8:28 PM on 16th June 2008
It is the latest idea in medicine aimed at soothing children's minor aches and pains. A sugary, chewable pill which has no effect whatsoever.
Manufacturers of Obecalp - placebo spelled backwards - claim that it works by convincing youngsters that they have taken real medicine so they must be feeling better. They say it offers comfort without the need to resort to drugs with potentially harmful side-effects.
Parents say the sugar dummy pill is a poor substitute for the time-honoured answer to children's tears - a kiss to make it better
But doctors and childcare experts have reacted with anger to the plans to launch the pills in the UK. It is feared that the tablets will encourage youngsters to rely on medication and could prevent parents from seeking medical help for real ailments when necessary.
Critics also point out that regular use of the chewable pills made out of dextrose - a form of sugar - could be bad for children's teeth. And there is widespread concern that the pills can be distributed without any clinical trials.
Obecalp is classified as a dietary supplement and contains no drug, so manufacturers are not required to carry out their own clinical trials before putting it on the market. They can merely rely on results from previous trials where a placebo has been used.
On a more down-to-earth level, parents point out that the pills are merely a substitute for that time-honoured answer to child's tears - a hug and a kiss.
The placebo product was developed in the U.S. by mother-of-three Jennifer Buettner, 40, who claims that it can stimulate 'the body's ability to repair itself and the miracle power of the brain'. Her company, Efficacy Brands, put the cherry-flavoured pills on sale in the U.S. on June 1 and hopes to bring them across the Atlantic as soon as possible. They would cost £3 for a bottle of 50 at supermarkets and pharmacies, with a prescription obviously not necessary.
Mrs Buettner said: 'I invented Obecalp when I realised that children might need a little more than a kiss to make it go away.