In honor of the “Green our Vaccines” rally: facts from the Omnibus Autism hearing

4 Jun

The lawyers for the parents in the Omnibus Autism hearing (thimerosal portion) have been claiming that one cause of “clearly regressive” autism is thimerosal at vaccine doses, even the dose of thimerosal in one vaccine. One of their supports for this odd claim is that whatever DAN! docs do to help their patients deal with “mercury toxicity” makes the kids less autistic or healthier or something. It’s all pretty vague. Dr. Mumper spoke confidently of what chelation had done for autistic kids and the boys under discussion in this portion of the trial were chelated multiple times in spite of never having shown any elevated mercury levels in their urine tests (even their chelated urine mercury levels were what would be expected for a typical person being chelated).

So what about this claim? If you do any old treatment and you think it makes the patient better in some perhaps very vague, undefined way, is this evidence of anything? Eric Fombonne, expert in autism epidemiology and clinician who works with autistic children and adults says, “Mais non.” Well, actually he said the following

Ms. Ricciardella (?): Are there standards that are used by the medical and scientific community before a treatment is recommended?

Dr. Fombonne: Yes, there are different kinds of standards to evaluate the efficacy of interventions the rule is to rely on the evidence that is the most robust that stems from a randomized clinical trial which are usually double blind placebo controlled for this method there is no study which has been relying on this method for the practices and treatment that have been discussed this morning [by Dr. Mumper]

Ms. Ricciardella: Do you have experience with randomized clinical trials?

Dr. Fombonne: Yes actually, I do. I started my research career and did my thesis my first two publications, I think, have to with randomized clinical trials.
And I am currently, we have tested the efficacy in a randomized clinical trial of a treatment which is not which is not biomedical which is a language based intervention to improve communication skills in young children with autism.
And we did a randomized clinical trial. It’s a 12 weeks treatment and we allocated at random parents and their children to a group where they were immediately treated with this intervention and there was a waiting list for the control group and 36 families in each group so it’s quite powerful in terms of it’s statistical power.
I just wanted to share with you my, my, our findings that it’s an intervention that everybody likes, eh and when we did the trial we had all the impression that it was actually achieving some positive results. The parents were happy and were convinced that the methods were showing some efficacy, and we did too.
But as we did the study well we didn’t analyze the data before the data were finally collected and when we broke the blind and looked at the results and there is no difference between the two groups–which is breaking my heart, in some ways–but this also shows that our experience as clinicians and as parents can be misleading.
And I think the field of autism has been replete over the last 30, 40 years of treatments and interventions that practitioners engage in when the parents apply to their children. And the story has been that when you take these practices and put them to rigorous empirical test, that of a randomized clinical trial, usually the story is much more disappointing. And a case in point is the secretin trial.

I don’t know if it was Ms. Ricciardella asking the questions, but that’s my guess. After this portion he explained about how many parents and clinicians from all over the world had been so excited about secretin when it became popular, and how for about 5 years clinicians used it and had some great stories to support it’s use. But when the double blind, placebo controlled studies were completed it turned out to be no more effective than placebo. And if someone tells you that there were “responders” you can tell them that there were “responders” to the sterile-saline injections, too, so why not just go with those, since they are cheaper than secretin? Besides which there’s no reason to expect that secretin (much like sterile saline) ever would do anything for the symptoms of autism. Further, the Mead boy got one or two injections of it but the family didn’t continue with them, apparently they weren’t so great for that child. Perhaps they decided to go with worm eggs, maternal fecal implantation enemas or even Eskimo oil (possibly purchased from Dr. Green’s office) instead.

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7 Responses to “In honor of the “Green our Vaccines” rally: facts from the Omnibus Autism hearing”

  1. Sullivan June 4, 2008 at 22:25 #

    OK, someone has to point out that Eskimo Oil is a brand name for an omega-3 rich fish oil. No eskimos are squeezed to make that oil.

  2. Patrick June 4, 2008 at 22:57 #

    I am severely glad that Dr Fombonne had to be disappointed. (Don’t start throwing the vegies yet.) Because they just completed the clinical trial that many on the hub have been claiming for years … very many Autistic people get better with nothing more than time, or Age!!!!!

    Hurrah!

  3. Ms. Clark June 5, 2008 at 00:50 #

    Oh yeah, Dr. Fombonne’s experience with that trial of the language based intervention was fantastic. The kids on the waiting list, apparently did as well as the kids getting the therapy. I would guess that the parents of the kids on the waiting list were doing parenting things with them, perhaps they were in pre-schools or something, but it seems that being on a waiting list is a pretty good thing. Either that or both groups similarly stagnated, but I’m guessing that’s not it since the parents doing the intervention and the scientists observing were very pleased with it.

    Sullivan, I am relieved to hear that no Eskimos were harmed in producing Eskimo oil, but I wonder how often the batches are tested for mercury levels? I understand that fish oil can contain significant amounts of Hg. :-/

  4. Sullivan June 5, 2008 at 00:59 #

    Just so long as there is no mercury in my Eskimo Pie! (however, being made on the planet earth, they have to contain some).

  5. Ms. Clark June 5, 2008 at 02:11 #

    Considering how much fish and whale meat the indigenous people of Alaska eat, I can’t imagine that eskimo pie is that low in mercury. Though Mr. Williams (lawyer for the parents) did point out that fish is good for brains which probably is why the Seychelloise were so unaffected by all the mercury in their brains…. hmmmm….

  6. Joseph June 5, 2008 at 02:35 #

    The fact that Dr. Fombonne was disappointed but nevertheless admitted he was deluding himself kind of tells you that he’s a scientist. When was the last time you heard a bio-meddler admit they were disappointed by the pre-trials of GFCF, Me-B12 and chelation? It won’t happen. As a general rule, you’ll just be met with denialism.

  7. Ms. Clark June 5, 2008 at 03:42 #

    Yes, he admitted that he was a little emotionally invested in the idea that this intervention would work, but because there were controls in place that could override the personal bias of those involved, the bias ended up being exposed and the intervention showed up for what it was, most likely, as good as whatever the kids on the waiting list got… which again, I assume was good parenting and time to learn and mature.

    Dr. Laura Schreibman was also disappointed in the results of a trial where they compared her form of ABA with PECS. She said that the kids who did PECS actually ended up with a larger vocabulary than the kids who did her form of ABA (which must have included some kind of emphasis on language, but I can’t remember how her system approached language aquistion). She’s on a video that is on the MIND Inst.’s website.

    As much as I dislike ABA, I have to say that it was very professional and appropriate for Schreibman to admit that her hypothesis was wrong.

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