The last thing Merck or Pfizer want to hear is that their drugs aren't needed anymore. According to Diane Gromala, a Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada) professor, that may just be the case. She bases her belief on the many experiments that consistently show people who suffer serious, chronic pain (which Gromala suffers from herself) often find more relief in virtual reality environments than drug-based treatments.
According to a CanWest News Service article, Gromala is currently working with doctors to learn why subjects who are distracted in virtual reality worlds report less pain than those using drug-based pain therapy. She believes that controlling pain through computerized VR and biofeedback mediation gives people ways to express, control, and keep track of their pain that pills can't. Video games have been shown to help patients in drug addiction therapy, why not pain management as well?
If her studies pan out to be true (we first learned about this story from the folks at FileFront) , it will most certainly help vidicate an industry that has otherwise been villified for everything from mass school shootings to creating a generation of slackers. A little bit of good PR for video games would be a nice change of pace.