Several lessons can be learned on the uncertainties of medicalising
relationship problems from Donizetti's opera, L'Elisir d'Amore, as Nigel
Hawkes suggests. (1)
The recipient of the nostrum, Nemorino, derives great benefit from
the placebo effect: he not only falls in love, as intended, but goes on to
sing one of the most beautiful arias in all opera, Una furtiva lagrima.
[The only encore I have ever seen allowed at the Vienna State Opera was
when the aria was sung by Rolando Vilazon when pining for a smouldering
Anna Netrebko, who had declined the offered elixir. (2)]
The opera is one of the very few where everyone lives happily ever
after - the purveyor of the nostrum, Dr Dulcamara (rhymes with Big
Pharma), is not slow in claiming full credit for this felicitous outcome.
In the final scene we hear the townspeople singing the praises of Dr
Dulcamara who can "correct every defect of nature".
Of course it's possible that Donizetti was really on to something and
the love potion actually works, but it would need a trial of more than N=1
to convince NICE of its effectivenss and efficiency.
1) BMJ 2010; 341:c5532
Competing interests: No competing interests