Friday, October 16, 2015

Belief, the placebo of outcomes.

There is an old saw about the hummingbird, or bumble bee, take your pick. It is said that aerodynamically there is no reason that either of these two creatures should be able to fly. However the engineers forgot to tell that to the bumble bee and the humingbird. They can both fly. They can fly very, very well.

I spent 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry. I was not a scientist however, I had to take the products that the scientists gave us and convince physicians to use them. If I was not successful then the scientist and a whole lot of other people could not cash a pay check. In other words I had to believe in the product and I had to convince others to believe in it.

One of the important avenues that a medication has to travel is the FDA's, very strict approval regimen. An analogue has to progress through several phases to become an approved agent. There are animal studies and ultimately there are human trials. One method for studying an agent is a double blind study in humans pitting the effectiveness of the agent within a population of patients who have been diagnosed with a particular illness. Half of the patients are given the active medication, the other half are given a placebo, a sugar pill. The results are then studied head to head and contrasts are drawn between the two groups. Sample size is very important. You cannot expect very definitive results between two people, one on the active modality and one on the placebo. You must have thousands of people in each group. It is then that the bio-statisticians draw conclusions as to the efficacy of the product. More importantly there is an exploration of the medication's side effects. You would presume that there would be few side effects in the placebo group. You would presume incorrectly. There are tons of pronounced side effects in the placebo group. Because the participants are sick they are susceptible to side effects real and imagined. Those on placebo do not know they are on placebo and they have the side effects. Many are quite impressive. This is called the placebo effect. They ellicit side effects because they believe they are on the active med.

Belief is a powerful thing. I listened to a motivational speaker by the name of Lou Tice. He was quite the effective speaker and used to speak to audiences all over the country. I had several of his tapes. He touched on this subject. A few impressions that he made on me were as follows:

It is interesting the effect that a "WHO SAID" has on us all. What is a Who Said? A Who Said is the person that is authorized by society by virtue of their credentials to perform a certain task. There are those that marry people. The Who Said stands at the front of an audience and pronounces people to be married. " By the authority granted by the state of confusion I now pronounce you man and wife". One minute you believe that you are single and the next minute you believe that you are married. The who said has spoken. That belief is now firmly implanted within two people. Nowadays it is a fleeting awareness and covers a broader spectrum of us humans, or none at all.

You develop an illness you go to see the physician and maybe the surgeon. In this person's history is a "Who Said". One minute he was a medical student with extreme limitation on what he did. The next minute by virtue of the "who said" and whatever, license or certification comes along with the process he/she believes that they can diagnose your illness and actually slice you open and cure you. Not only do they believe it. You also believe it and willingly submit yourself to them with sincere belief.

Belief, is a very powerful thing. Lou Tice tells of a time that he took his little grand daughter to one of his presentations. It was a sold out event and there were many hundreds of people in his audience. He sat the little girl on the stage so she could watch the crowd. He spoke to them and they gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion. He expains what his intent was. He wanted this little child to remember her grand father on that stage. He wanted her to be able to recall that event for the following reason. When a big kid told the little girl that she was ugly, clumsy, dimwitted he wanted her to come and discuss it with him. He would bring to her memory the experience with the audience. " Do you remember all those people who came to listen to me?" Now let me tell you something. You are immensely talented, beautiful, graceful, gifted, etc. You can tell them your grandfather says so your own personal " Who Said." Is it any wonder then that parents have such an immense effect on the way that their little ones turn out?  We, as parents, must plant the belief in them that they are special. If we don't then someone is going to come along that will influence them to believe that they are just the opposite.

Lewis Grizzard, a wonderful columnist and humorist wrote a book entitled, " Elvis is dead and I ain't feelin so good myself." It was a popular book and looked at lots of funny scenarios involving our beliefs or lack of them. Such is the fodder of the hypochondriac.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: " What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." That something that must lie with in us is a belief in ourselves. If we have it then we are unconquerable.