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back to article Homeopathic remedies contaminated with REAL medicine get recalled

A batch of homeopathic remedies have been recalled in the US after it was discovered that they contained real medicine. Terra-Medica is voluntarily recalling 56 lots of homeopathic drug products in liquid, tablet, capsule, ointment, and suppository forms after it was discovered the alternative treatments potentially contained …

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Surely, according to homeopathic principles, the less penicillin contaminant there is, the greater the allergic reaction?

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Boffin

No, the greater the anti-allergic reaction.

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Boffin

I suggest reading this before commenting further

http://howhomeopathyworks.com/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I suggest reading this before commenting further

Better link:

http://www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com/

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Thumb Up

Re: I suggest reading this before commenting further

That'll be the one I couldn't remember.

Have an upvote from me.

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Re: I suggest reading this before commenting further

Barely better, and only by comparison...

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Mark_Twain#Homeopathy

And hey, what IF fake medicine has real ingredients, eh? Anything to get a rise...

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/MedicationHealthFraud/ucm388436.htm

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homeopathic drug products in liquid, tablet, capsule, ointment, and suppository forms

I always said for all the good they will do you, you might as well shove them up your arse!

The family of an ex of mine were heavily into this garbage, the father had an ingrowing toenail and was "prescribed" homeopathic pills instead of taking his hospital supplied antibiotics after his operation. He nearly ended up hospitalised with a blood infection. The "practitioner" kept flogging them more and more of these tablets, assuring the family they would work. I had to beg them to take him to a real doctor after his toe was about 3x the normal size, weeping stinking puss and he could barely stay conscious.

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Some people are so utterly convinced, against all evidence, that their particular form of woo works that they will die for the cause -- or be killed by an equally-convinced "practitioner".

The worst story I heard was of an Australian woman with bowel cancer. She started off by acting on normal medical advice, but hated the surgery and chemo that she went through. That's understandable, but it caused her to abandon medicine and turn to a homeopath who swore she could be cured by "gentler, natural" means. Sadly her disease progressed and she stuck with the homeopathy even when her abdomen was visibly distended by the mass of tumours. In the final four days before she died (most probably of dehydration), her blocked bowel caused her to vomit faeces.

Of course if she had survived, the homeopath would have claimed it was due to homeopathy rather than to the earlier surgery and chemotherapy.

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Heard of this happening many times. The switch to alternative medicine is always doing wonders for them and they feel much better right up until they drop dead, sometimes from a curable illness. It would be funny if it didn't happen to real people.

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What do we do for those for whom it works?

My mother was in a wheelchair caused by psoriatic arthritis. She was told after 20 years of failed treatments that she would never walk again, and she was literally left to waste away in a wheelchair and die. She turned to homeopathy, and now 10 years later, and double the weight she was in the wheelchair, walks several miles per day and is quite energetic and well known on the car-boot scene.

I was diagnosed at 13 with an undefined skin disease. From 13 to 21 I was passed from doctor to specialist to doctor. Was filled to the brim with antibiotics and the most expensive and powerful drugs I could be prescribed on the NHS. I even went private which cost my parents a fortune. At 22 I was told that there was nothing more that could be done. I turned to Homeopathy. I'm now 40, and the only sign of a skin disease left on my body is a 1 inch square spot of psoriasis on my thigh, and a white patch of hair, about an inch square on my head.

Now in these instances, I ask non-believers what they think people in my mother's and my case should do. Should we simply accept modern sciences proclamation that there nothing more that can be done, admit defeat and wait to die, or do we go out looking for alternatives. Please provide me with your insight on what your prescription should be. What should we have done?

To me it's simple. I'll start to believe modern science, when they perform alternative medicine research, using subjects for whom all other medical treatments have been exhausted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

Why should 'modern science' do homeopathy's work for it? Any homoeopathic 'cure' that could be clinically proven to work would rake in billions for the team that did the research, yet no homoeopathic group is prepared to do this research, for some reason.

Sometimes dumb luck is the answer, but it has a horrible success rate. Fortunately for it, none of the unlucky majority are around to complain.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

By that reasoning why should modern science expel effort try to disprove it?

Don't get me wrong, I believe in modern science. But what do we do with the people for whom it would and does work? I'm here, and my mother is still alive despite the best doctors telling her she should be dead and they don't know why.

What would you have told me and my mum to do at the time?

Everyone else If you are going to downvote, at least have the guts to explain your reasoning.

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Boffin

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

"Everyone else If you are going to downvote, at least have the guts to explain your reasoning."

I didn't downvote, but here's the (very simple) argument. The "medical" profession *does* do research into alternative medicine - to paraphrase Dara O'Briain, they tested it all and the stuff that works *reliably*, they kept and called "medicine".

They also don't test if it's better than "nothing", they test if it's better than placebo. Placebo is a very powerful treatment in itself. One sugar pill can "cure" all manner of ailments and even stranger, *two* sugar pills are twice as effective.

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Re: Aqua Marina

Glad to hear you and your mother are doing well. But don't mistake mistaken diagnoses as successful treatment. Some diagnoses such as "it will never get better" are wrong, and people pull through with their own strength and hard work (though medicine is also important when prescribed/required).

However, a single instance, is difficult to know the cause. Was it you or your mothers diet? Was the doctor just simply wrong? Was it the new treatment? Is it just drinking more water? It is important to not get these things mixed up, else we suffer harm.

PS, interestingly, things such as stress can have real physical results to our health and immune systems response. We cannot make things better than our body can deliver through less stress, but we can stop it failing completely like when it has a lot of stress. Sometimes the way we are cared for and the way we react to that care can help or hinder us.

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Re: Aqua Marina

Ok, but if some diagnoses of "it will never get better" are wrong, can some diagnoses of "homeopathy never works" be equally wrong?

My opinion of this topic so far, is that science and doctors can do no wrong. But... when they do get it wrong, the response is, "meh everyone is human". But they don't apply the same "meh, shit happens" when casting judgement on anything that goes against the perceived wisdom, that they just decided could be infalliable in another circumstance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Aqua Marina

nobody is claiming that doctors can do no wrong, just that modern medicine needs proof beyond the anecdotal.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

Do you know what "alternative medicine" that works and is proven to work is called?

a: medicine.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

I see your anecdotal evidence and raise you a full clinical blinded trial.

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Holmes

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

Well, be happy that for them it did work.

Ever heard of the Placebo Effect? Think that's the case here, also just having someone listening and willing to help is all the therapy needed in some cases (psychology 101).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Aqua Marina

This reminds me of the observation that if you have lower back pain and go to a chiropractor, you will be cured in a month. But if you just rest your back and take paracetamol, it will eventually clear up of its own accord in four weeks.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

To Aqua Marina:

I do not discount that some homeopathy works. And I believe people are too pill-happy. However, homeopathy is no substitute for a doctor.

Let me give you a true example. Last January my grandmother had a major heart attack. The last sensible thing she was able to do was call for an ambulance. Her mind was never the same after that. She spent almost the rest of her life in a hospital. My cousin, who was her favorite grandchild, is a hippie who is big into these organic and non-genetically modified foods. He kept claiming that the doctors were killing my grandmother. 4 months after the heart attack, doctors determined my grandmother was well enough for supervised care at home. The day my grandmother came back home, my hippie cousin gave her a homeopathic drink of dandelion leaves and some other things. Two hours later, my grandmother was extremely sick. But my hippie cousin kept fighting the family not wanting to call an ambulance. Eventually an ambulance was called. 5 days later my grandmother was dead.

I will forever associate homeopathic medicine with seeing my grandmother moaning and unable to communicate with her the last days she was alive. Her condition was so bad that I could not bear to see her like that. I saw her on a Saturday and a Sunday. She died on Monday. I just couldn't bring myself to see her one last time, that is how bad it was.

You keep your homeopathy if you want. But never ever think it can replace a real doctor and real medicine.

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Re: Aqua Marina

Homeopathy, to any rational person, is just silly. Diluting herbs to the point where there is none of the original material left simply leaves you with water. That's it. Pure and simple. Water.

Water cannot have "memory" - it consists of pairs of very simple molecules, each made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. I'll be happy to compare some ordinary clean water with any "homeopathic" water in whatever scientific instrument a "homeopath" chooses to demonstrate the magical difference. There will be no difference whatsoever.

As a rational scientist, it's fun to laugh at the clueless who're gulled by these charlatans, but I do feel very slightly sorry for the people who have suffered so grossly at their hands. Anyone who declares that they are a "homeopath" should be locked up, just like any other fraudster.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?- @Wade Burchette

It's a distressing story but the only person to blame is your cousin. If it had been homoeopathic medicine, it would have consisted of nothing but water.

Incidentally, was there an inquest? Because if a relative administers a suspicious substance to an elderly person who dies a few days later, normally the plod would be asking questions.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

I had an "incurable" skin condition when I was a kid too. Modern medicine offered some cortisone for the days when it was real bad, but nothing to really cure it. Not believing in unproven "medicine", I didn't turn to anything else - I simply lived with it. Now guess what - I'm 33 and it's nearly disappeared, only occasionally flaring up a little but even then perfectly manageable without treatment. At this rate I'm pretty sure it'll be gone by the time I'm 40.

Of course, if I had taken to homeopathy, I'd have had the exact same result, which are exactly the same results you've had (down to the white patch of hair, which I've had since I was 20!), with the only difference that I'd be mistakenly attributing them to homeopathy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

> I was diagnosed at 13 with an undefined skin disease. From 13 to 21 I was passed from doctor to specialist to doctor.

I was diagnosed at 11 with asthma. From 11 to 18 I had to put up with having a salbutamol inhaler permanently on hand. My Doctors told me it would be with me for life.

Then at 18 I started smoking. By the age 21 I had suffered my last asthma attack. For 30 years I smoked and remained clear of asthma, then 4 years ago I stopped smoking. My asthma is back.

Smoking cures asthma.

/sarc

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Re: Aqua Marina

The best treatment comes with kind treatment. No one has said that doctors can do no wrong. It's about finding out what causes what and what effects what. :)

Think about your examples. Is it a fair comparison for all of medicine with all of homoeopathy? What about specific examples, what areas compare?

I say "doctors sometimes get things wrong", and "sometimes we get better, for a reason we do not yet know" (but hope to find out soon).

Both of those things are not common, they only happen on few occasions. That is, everyone makes more right decisions than wrong ones (hopefully).

So if we apply that to homoeopathy or medicine, we get one side or the other being wrong. The only way to find out is to keep to pure facts. The facts will speak for only one side of the argument, which one do you see being supported?

Beyond that it is opinion, and that is fine but we must realise it is only that and nothing more. :)

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Some people are so utterly convinced, against all evidence, that their particular form of woo works that they will die for the cause

Steve Jobs.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

Thing is "good" homeopaths will recommend dietary and lifestyle changes, it is usually these and the placebo effect that actually cure whatever the patient is suffering from when homeopathy works

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

But what if the recipient doesn't know about a placebo effect? Homeopathy has merits but it is not a solution for everything. Just like modern science has its limits as well.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

>>To me it's simple. I'll start to believe modern science, when they perform alternative medicine research, using subjects for whom all other medical treatments have been exhausted.

Sometimes, things (what we say in the industry) "get better on their own", the body is an amazing thing, we also use (slightly annoying) phrases like "grow out of it", unfortunately we don't know all the triggers for things, psoriatic arthritis for example - you don't "have" it in the same way as you "have" a broken leg, symptoms can come and go, flareups with exposure to certain triggers are possible (although there appears to be a genetic factor, which may explain your condition), in other words it's perfect for the woo of homoeopathy, the condition doesn't get better with X so you try Y and it gets better, therefore (the pattern forming animal) says Y fixed it, it's irrelevant (to you) if it "just went away", or you body learnt how to cope with certain triggers, or the triggers ceased being there (and this is of course before we get into the realm of placebo effect).

If for example (as another poster says) Y always fixes "psoriatic arthritis", consistently don't you think that it would be trivial to do a study? This is the problem with homoeopathy - the effect is not consistent, and, at best no better than placebo, in fact the best independent meta study (Cochrane) finds this exact result - in other words, the thing you're asking for has been done.

All that said, I'm in two minds, the NHS funds a homoeopathic hospital in London, actually that isn't true, "The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine" as it has been renamed attempts to align "complementary" medicine with "traditional" medicine and homoeopathy is one of the "complements", my personal view is that it's a costly (but sometime effective) placebo for hypochondriacs, but as they say YMMV, if it makes you happy to throw spilt salt over your shoulder you do it, hell, I won't even get all bent out of shape just because some of my tax money is paying for it there's worse things in this world than someone who needs a placebo to get by (although I was a bit disappointed by "Loud like love", "Meds" was so much better - see what I did there?)

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

> I was diagnosed at 13 with an undefined skin disease

swhen I was 13 I was 4 feet tall - in today's society this has many disadvantages - short people tend to earn less, hae greater difficulties meeting partners, and on average report less satisfaction with life. Then I looked at a cow. Now, decades later, i am 5'11".

Looking at cows makes you taller.

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Facepalm

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

It might work for some people, but since it's not consistently replicable it means it's not known WHY it works, and clearly it doesn't work for the reasons stated by the practitioner.

It's quite possible that homeopathic and other alternatives have a strong placebo effect (which should not be discounted, it's a real and strong effect) that work where 'real' medicine does not. (Got to keep in mind that 'real' medicine is nowhere near 100% effective either, AND can have some pretty nasty side effects)

But for heaven's sake, if you can see that whatever your homeopathic practitioner is giving you is not working, you got to call them out on it and move to something that does.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

There is a distressing tendency amongst rationalists to confuse modern medicine with the scientific method. Dara O'Briain's line about testing alternative medicine, finding the stuff that works, and calling it "medicine" is a great bit of stand-up comedy, but, in the interests of snappiness, misses out the real-world stages where doctors whose pet theories are challenged put their fingers in their ears, dig their heels in, and denounce anyone they outrank. I'm a migraine sufferer, and have spoken to plenty of doctors over the years who either prescribe the drug known as "eat less cheese" or simply refuse to believe the condition even exists.

To paraphrase another great man: Evidence-based medicine sounds like a superb idea. When it's available, please sign me up. Meanwhile, while doctors continue to pedal their peculiar mixture of science, guesswork, received wisdom, old wives' tales, condescension, and prejudice, I'll reserve the right to shop around a bit without being accused of being anti-science, thanks.

That being said, homeopathy is bollocks.

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

Filippo - Well put.

I suppose if he wanted to prove it he could stop taking his water/sugar pills and show the symptoms coming back...

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

"Looking at cows makes you taller."

This explains a lot!

Im 6'1" and lived in the countryside surrounded by cows from the ages of 13-16, my friend on the other hand lived there all his life and is 6'4"... It must be the cows!

In fact, his WHOLE FAMILY are taller than average, its the bloody cows! Why didn't I see it before?!?!

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Re: work would rake in billions for the team that did the research

No it wouldn't. It would rake in billions for the industry, not necessarily the research team. This is the essential problem of alternative medicines: because they are not patent-centric there's no incentive to spend the large amounts of cash to prove the work because everyone else will benefit more than you will.

There is a sense in which homeopathy is based on the same thing as what we think of as proper medicine: introducing small amounts of the pathogen induce immune responses that fight the disease. This is the basis of most of Pasteur's work. The difference being that he was able to do the work to quantify and test to isolate known good cures.

This doesn't mean I advocate homeopathy. It is untested and therefore highly risky.

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Re: raise you a full clinical blinded trial.

Fine, but you have to pay for it.

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Boffin

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

"I suppose if he wanted to prove it he could stop taking his water/sugar pills and show the symptoms coming back..."

That wouldn't prove much though - even if it were attributable to placebo, it would probably stop "working". A (not very) scientific version would be to have a family member hold the drugs, and give decide at random whether to hand over the "real" homeopathic remedy vs a dummy one and record the level of symptoms.

This would be a single blind trial without a control though, and be open to the experimenter (the family member) knowing which remedy is in effect that week, and change their behaviour either consciously or unconsciously

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Stop

Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

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My mother was in a wheelchair caused by psoriatic arthritis. She was told after 20 years of failed treatments that she would never walk again, and she was literally left to waste away in a wheelchair and die. She turned to homeopathy, and now 10 years later, and double the weight she was in the wheelchair, walks several miles per day and is quite energetic and well known on the car-boot scene.

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Speaking as someone who has PSA (and it's not much fun) it varies immensely depending on your mental state. Since the placebo effect is a mental effect, it's entirely possible that her belief that the medication works did leave to an improvement - not because the homeopathy worked, but because she believed it would.

Me - I'll stick to my sulphasalazine and leflunomide - they have proper tested double-blind clinical trials that show they work. But then I'm the offspring of an industrial pharmacist and a nurse so (as far as the homeopaths are concerned) I'm already in the camp of evil (or science, as I'd prefer to call it).

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Re: What do we do for those for whom it works?

>day my grandmother came back home, my hippie cousin gave her a homeopathic drink of dandelion >leaves and some other things. Two hours later,

Don't confuse herbalism with homeopathy... a large proportion of our pharmacopea is derived from compounds found in plants (asprin being a good example - it's a safer form of the compound found in willow bark).

Of course, the problems with herbalism are:

1. You don't have to be licensed to practice

2. The dosage in the mix will vary according to several factors (freshness, time in the lifecycle the plant was picked, how it was processed, the particular strain of the plant used etc etc)

And the combination of the two means it's pretty dangerous. Add in interactions between the drugs in the herbs and the drugs in the medicine and you have a recipe for bad things to happen

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WTF?

Ironic...

I always used to taunt a homeophile [is that the correct term for a devotee of homeopathy?] by asking her what the homeopathic treatment for multiple gunshot-wounds would be.

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FAIL

@Tanuki

Epic Fail.

You don't go to a DDS for a broken arm and you don't go to an MD for a toothache.

You use whatever method works best in the circumstances.

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Re: @Tanuki

Multiple gunshot wounds would be several massive blunt force traumas, so the "natural" equivalent producing the same symptoms would be something like a bull, moose or an angry billy goat.

I reckon some 80/20 chuck, boiled and then diluted to more than 1 part in 1,000,000 would be a relevant homeopathic medicine to take (orally). Potentially Bisto or other beef stock would do at a pinch.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Ironic...

Icon says it all have an upvote

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Re: Ironic...

The word you are looking for is "homoeopath"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Tanuki

You don't go to a DDS for a broken arm and you don't go to an MD for a toothache.

just curious, what do you go to a homeopath for? dehydration?

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Re: @Tanuki

Which means you go to Homeopathy when you're dehydrated?

Homeopathy: In case of overdose, consult a lifeguard.

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Suppositories

Learning that people use homeopathic suppositories has amused me more than anything else today.

That's just brilliant.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Suppositories

I suspect the reason is that they may seem more effective than the pills, generally the placebo effect is more pronounced the more invasive it appears to the user, fake injections and suppositories often see better results than ingested placebos.

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