Gulf War Vet Alleges V.A. Used Medical Deception


Is the Veteran’s Administration using our soldiers as Guinea pigs?
by Wayne Havrelly

That’s the question our state’s senior senator is asking, after we uncovered the outrageous medical deception of a Gulf War veteran seeking treatment.

The men and women of the armed forces that we send into harm’s way have a right to expect the full support of the American people, including the best medical care possible.

But we’ve found that isn’t always the case.

Like many soldiers returning from battle, Army veteran Mike Woods says he’ still feeling the physical effects of serving in the first Gulf war.

“Blackouts, chest pain, numbness in the extremities,” Woods said.

So Woods turned to the Veterans Administration, where his doctor prescribed a new drug he’d never heard of, called…



“She told me there was this new drug out that would really help me with all my physical conditions and my pain, and she really wanted me to try it,” he said.

But when the drug didn’t relieve his pain, Woods did some research. He discovered he’d not been given a therapeutic drug at all, but a simple sugar pill.

That’s when he looked more closely at the label on the prescription bottle and suddenly it dawned on him: “Obecalp” is “placebo” spelled backward.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that they’re giving Gulf War veterans a sugar pill to cure pain. It’s like giving a cancer patient a sugar pill to cure cancer.”

Now, veteran’s advocates like Steve Robinson wonder how widespread the practice of giving placebos to injured vets might be.

The American Medical Association says placebos should be used only as part of a clinical trial and that those taking part in the study must be clearly informed that the drug they’re taking may not be real.

Woods insists he was never told he was part of any study.

“No, never. I never signed up for a study in my life, much less one with the VA.”

Woods has even testified in Congress, as members investigate complaints about how the government is caring for patients with Gulf War illnesses.

“The first step to fixing any problem is to recognize the problem exists,” said Woods.

“Our soldiers shouldn’t be guinea pigs,” said Senator Patty Murray.

Our state’s senior senator, Murray has long fought to improve health care for veterans. Last year she blocked a Bush administration plan to close the three major V.A. hospitals here in Washington State.

“Too many veterans are coming to the system, being turned away, aren’t getting the support they need and to me, that’s just wrong,” Murray said.

Gary Pearson of Seattle agrees Woods was wrongly treated. The Vietnam War vet is president of the Northwest chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

“Put him on a placebo right away is not a fair thing to do,” Pearson said. “You want to try to get him on his medication so he can begin to get his life under control again.”

Doctors say placebos sometimes do work as many as a third of patients say they feel better after taking a fake pill.

But those patients are usually taking part in controlled studies, not those, like Mike Woods, who suffer serious chronic pain.

“That’s how they treat Gulf War illnesses: give you a placebo and send you down the road and hope that your mind will cure itself.”

We’ve found this may not be a problem just for veterans. There are reports of doctors admitting they give sugar pills to other patients without their knowledge.

You might want to check with your own physician to make sure the drugs you’re taking are real.

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