Search results for 'deth'

Richard Deth – gambling man

27 Apr

Maybe you don’t know, or have forgotten who Richard Deth (pronounced to rhyme with ‘teeth’) is.

He is:

Richard Deth, Ph.D., is a neuropharmacologist, a professor of pharmacology at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and is on the scientific advisory board of the National Autism Association. Deth has published scientific studies on the role of D4 dopamine receptors in psychiatric disorders, as well as the book, Molecular Origins of Human Attention: The Dopamine-Folate Connection. He has also become a prominent voice in the controversies in autism and vaccine controversy, due to his theory that certain children are more at risk than others because they lack the normal ability to excrete neurotoxic metals.

Deth became ‘hot property’ in the anti-vaccine autism groups after publishing a paper (with which there were numerous issues – see Bart Cubbins excellent video for details) that was funded by one of those anti-vaccine groups – Safe Minds. Interestingly, during an exchange with Kathleen documented at neurodiversity.com, it also came to light that Richard Deth was registered as a paid expert witness in the vaccine litigation omnibus proceedings. Professor Deth said:

“I thank you for alerting me to the fact that my name was included on that expert witness list. It was done so without my knowledge or permission. It might be related to a phone call from that law office that was logged to my office while I was away on vacation in February. I never returned the call.”

To which Kathleen replied replied:

“It was quite an oversight for the attorneys to fail to confirm your willingness to serve in that role prior to naming you as a plaintiffs’ expert in the Petitioners’ Initial Disclosure of Experts, and filing that document with the Court of Federal Claims. However, their certainty is understandable, given your indication during our brief telephone conversation that the lawyer with whom you discussed the matter was “Andy” Waters, lead attorney in the thimerosal cases.”

Deth didn’t comment any further. As many have discovered, if you want to go head to head with Kathleen you better make sure your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed.

One of the statements Deth made during their exchange stood out to me at the time.

…I would like to make a virtual wager that within the next 18-24 months scientific evidence will make the thimerosal-autism link a near certainty. If you are willing, I’ll let you name the stakes.

Deth sent his email on March 22 2006. Luckily for him, Kathleen took pity on him and declined his rather gauche offer.

So what does this mean? What does it prove?

Why, nothing. Nothing at all. I just wanted LB/RB readers to be perfectly clear that a strong _belief_ in a scenario doesn’t make one right. In fact, when we look at all the recent evidence for the various beliefs of the various anti-vaccine/autism groups – from the prediction that the Omnibus Autism cases would be a walkover for them, to David Kirby’s certainty that thiomersal causation would be vindicated by CDDS data in 2005, then 2007, to this example of ego from Richard Deth what we see is a clear picture of a set of people who are consistently and unerringly wrong. This is because they simply cannot see the science right in front of them. Even such an august figure as Richard Deth, Ph. D.

The Omnibus Autism hearing: Dr. Deth and the duck brain mystery

11 Jun

In my blog entry about Dr. Johnson’s testimony in the Omnibus Autism hearing I mused that:

I may have to devote a separate post to the issue of Deth taking data from (but not citing) a 1958 paper (pdf) that reported the level of cystathionine in duck brains (besides duck, also, human, cat, rat, guinea pig, horseshoe crab, chicken, cow and monkey).

.

I thought it might be worth blogging the issue of this irregularity in Dr. Deth’s expert testimony. I found where Dr. Deth’s powerpoint slides were made available on a website favorable to his hypothesis. It was very kind of them to do that. Here is that slide of Dr. Deth’s that Dr. Johnson had commented on. It gives comparative levels of cystathionine as found in various animal brains and human brain.

The above lovely graph was apparently created by Dr. Deth for the expert report to the Special Masters of the vaccine court. Dr. Johnson noted that there is no reference on the slide indicating which paper it came from. One would expect to see a citation like, “Stott, 2001,” or “Wakers et al., 1999,” the absence of which made Dr. Johnson wonder if the graph represented some research done by Deth himself. But Dr. Johnson was surprised by the seemingly odd “duck” in the list of animals. So after Deth had given his testimony, Dr. Johnson did a Google search for the words “duck” and “cystathionine” and in no time he had downloaded a pdf of the very paper the duck data had come from. I did the same Google search and likewise in no time had downloaded the same paper. If you click here you can (automatically) download that very paper for free. The title is L-CYSTATHIONINE IN HUMAN BRAIN. The authors are Harris H. Tallan, Stanford Moore and, William H. Stein. It was published in 1958.
And if you do access that paper and read it you will find the following table on page 7 of the pdf.

It looks as if Deth warmed-over this half-a-century-old data and averaged the amount of cystathionine in the 5 human-brain samples and came up with about 45 mg/per 100 g wet weight for his graph and it looks like he decided not to include the data from horseshoe crab brains. The original table reports the cystathionine in “mg. per cent”. Deth faithfully included the cat, cow, rat, guinea pig, chicken, monkey and duck levels, as well as the human liver, kidney and muscle levels.

As I remember, Dr. Johnson pointed out that that data on cystathionine in brain tissue of humans and rats, cats, cows and ducks didn’t make the point that Dr. Deth want to make with it anyway, but one has to wonder why he took the data that was in a 50 year old paper in table form and turned it into a histogram looking all modern and freshly churned-out by Excel and all. And if Deth thought it was necessary to make the point he needed to make, shouldn’t he at least have cited the paper properly?

When I was writing science papers for assignments at the college level a couple of years ago, it was drummed into all the students in strong terms that we should not ever plagiarize anything, or even to take the chance that something might look plagiarized. Professors warned their classes that the Internet was a powerful tool for digging up the true sources of plagiarized quotes (or entire plagiarized papers) and for finding the proper attributions for un-attributed graphics or statements, or creations of any kind. Plagiarism was, and still is, grounds for being tossed out of most colleges and universities, as I understand it, and students don’t get to claim that they didn’t know any better. One would think that professors would be held to an even higher standard.

white duck head photo by law_kevin on flickr.com

Interverbal On California, Bart On Deth

16 Jan

I’m privileged to be visited on this blog by a number of people far, far cleverer than me who can take very careful examinations of provided materials and highlight the problems with them.

Bartholomew Cubbins has taken the time to provide video reviews of (so far) two of the key papers underpinning the autism/thiomersal hypothesis – Burbacher et al and Waly et al. They are very accessible, even to non-scientists, and because they’re video, you can pause to look up new words as you need to.

Interverbal is a blog run by Jonathan Semetko. Jonathan conducts reviews of statements and theories that apply to autism. His latest post touches on the use of California DDS numbers as used by several people to justify the existence of an autism epidemic.

As I’ve discussed previously, whats important in these numbers is intakes of 3 – 5 yo. This is because these are/will be cases post-thiomersal e,g after the vast majority of thiomersal has been removed from vaccines. This point was conceded by David Kirby in an email to blogger Citizen Cain when he admitted:

if the total number of 3-5 year olds in the California DDS system has not declined by 2007, that would deal a severe blow to the autism-thimerosal hypothesis. He also conceded that total cases among 3-5 year olds, not changes in the rate of increase is the right measure.

NB: The date of 2007 is contentious, there seems to be some validity to the claim that Kirby stated that 2005 was the year to watch, not 2007. I hope to clarify this once and for all fairly soon. Rick Rollens has definitely claimed 2005 was the year to watch.

Last week, California DDS published their quarterly figures and as usual people strove to extract meaning from them. Ginger at Adventures In Autism produced a graph showing that the rate of increase was decreasing.

Unfortunately, the data Ginger used to plot her graphs included _all_ age groups, not just 3 – 5 year olds. As we’ve seen, this cohort is the only one that can indicate whether the post-thiomersal generation numbers are decreasing or not. Thiomersal has been very substantially reduced for this age group so a change should be clear.

However, just as Citizen Cain blogged last year in July, Jonathan shows that the rate for this cohort is still increasing.

So now advocates of the thiomersal/autism hypothesis are in a quandary. Their source data is plainly inaccurate, a point admitted by Kirby. If we are therefore to conclude that (as many in the autism/thiomersal camp claim) that the reduction in thiomersal is causing a drop in numbers then they have to abandon the ‘safety net’ position of the remaining thiomersal in flu vaccines being responsible for a maintenance or even increase in autism cases. The reverse, of course, is also true – those who claim that flu in thiomersal means more autistics will be ‘created’ cannot claim that these figures indicate a drop.

Of course, the probability that neither of these cases are true is the ‘best fit’ – autism cases are still rising and these figures only show a reflection on cases that are known to California DSS and cannot reflect one way or the other the state of prevalence in that state.

The Next Vaccine-Autism Newsmaker…5 years later

6 Feb

Years back, much focus in online autism parent community discussions focused on the Omnibus Autism Proceeding (OAP). This was the large “vaccine court” proceeding to explore if people could be compensated for autism as a vaccine injury. Those hearings were held in 2008, and the decisions went against the families.

A year ago I wrote (The Omnibus Autism Proceeding: effectively over), and while, yes, as an “Omnibus” it is effectively over, there is still activity for those who filed claims and were included in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding. Statistics as of today show there were 5,635 claims included in the Omnibus, and 4,564 have been dismissed. 2 claimants have been compensated, with the caveat given that “**HHS has never concluded in any case that autism was caused by vaccination.” This leaves 1,069 cases still pending. A relatively small fraction of the original Omnibus, but a large number nonetheless.

Another way to look at this is the Omnibus proceedings are over, the docket hasn’t been updated for quite some time but there are still individual cases to be decided. Including one case that was rather prominent in the Omnibus: that of A. Krakow. He was intended to be one of the test cases for the thimerosal but was pulled out to pursue another argument: that metabolic dysfunction is involved. David Kirby referred to him as “The Next Vaccine-Autism Newsmaker”, following the supposed game-changer of Hannah Poling.

That was in 2008. As it’s been nearly 5 years, I checked the status of the case. It turns out the first hearing was held in December (a hearing on fact) and a second hearing is set for expert witnesses to testify in April of this year. One way to explore the arguments the family may be taking is to review the experts that are testifying. For example, the family has chosen Richard Deth as an expert. His work has not focused on mitochondria. On the other hand, Yuval Shafir is also listed as an expert and has listed many articles on mitochondria with his report. Richard Frye’s CV was submitted (he also has some work on mitochondria and autism), but I don’t see that an expert report from him has been submitted.

Other experts date from 2008 (from when he was going to be an Omnibus test case) include: Elizabeth A. Mumper, Robert S. Rust, Richard Deth and Sander Greenland.

(edit to add, I see a report in the docket from Marcel Kinsbourne in 2010).

So, is this going ahead as a “mitochondrial autism” case? The “Next Hannah Poling” as David Kirby claimed in Spectrum Magazine? Well, even Hannah Poling wasn’t the game-changer some people predicted. Probably the most we can say is that is 10 years old, with a docket 16 pages long, will finally be heard.

edit to add: For the curious, here is the docket.

By Matt Carey

Generation Rescue: taking another small step away from the brink?

14 Jul

Generation Rescue has over the years been one of the more vocal promoters of the vaccines-cause-autism notion. Like any organization, they have changed over the years and their website reflects that. Their website started out with the title “Autism Mercury Chelation” and a very simple (and wrong) statement:

Generation Rescue believes that childhood neurological disorders such as autism, Asperger’s, ADHD/ADD, speech delay, sensory integration disorder, and many other developmental delays are all misdiagnoses for mercury poisoning.

Of course, later during the early years of Jenny McCarthy, when Generation Rescue became “Jenny McCarthy’s autism organization. By this point, GR had a prominent link on the main page to “vaccines”. This included a page with Generation Rescue recommended vaccine schedules. Their “favorite” being a schedule that offered no protection against many diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, diptheria and tetanus.

They had a page of “science”, including statements claiming that Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 paper linked MMR to autism (a position Mr. Wakefield has tried to distance himself from in the past few years):

“This study demonstrates that the MMR vaccine triggered autistic behaviors and inflammatory bowel disease in autistic children.”

They had a science advisory board, which included S. Jill James, Ph.D., Richard Deth, Ph.D., Woody R. McGinnis, M.D. and Jerry Kartzinel, M.D.. Not exactly heavy hitters, but at least a couple of people who actually publish in journals.

Times have changed again. The website is revamped. And vaccines seem to be much less prominent. For example, in the current version of the Generation Rescue website, I can’t find “recommended” vaccine schedules (they refer people to Dr. Bob Sears). A search for Wakefield shows he is only mentioned once “Studies by researchers: Horvath, Wakefield, Levy, and Kushak highlight a myriad of gut problems present in children with autism, including abnormal stool (diarrhea, constipation), intestinal inflammation, and reduced enzyme function”. The science advisory board is down to one person (Jerry Kartzinel) and an unnamed “cohesive group of professionals committed to healing and preventing autism”.

Sure, it’s still not a place I would recommend to anyone, especially a parent who just found out their kid is autistic. But just a few short years ago the trajectory was increasing with the vaccine discussion, not decreasing.

Generation Rescue’s Vaccinated/Unvaccinated Study

8 Jun

Generation Rescue and other groups have been calling for an independent study of health outcomes comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. They recently announced at the AutismOne conference that they had announced that they had procured funding for the project. They had been trying to get funding for this project from a settlement from a lawsuit against Airborne. The funds from that lawsuit have not been distributed yet. So if Generation Rescue has funding, it is from some other source.

That said, documents filed in Generation Rescue’s bid for the Airborne settlement money gives us a chance to see their proposed study design. Let me pull some of the highlights out for discussion.

The “purpose” of the grant is listed as:

Funding for study on vaccinated verse (sic) unvaccinated children to ensure the safely and well being of children worldwide.

They request $809,721 for the project.

Here is a segment of the statement of the problem to be addressed:

The U.S. and many other countries appear to be experiencing a silent pandemic with 1 in 5 children now suffering from learning disabilities, sensory deficits, and developmental delays. Neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mental retardation, and cerebral palsy, are increasingly common, very costly, and cause lifelong disability. In 2003, the National Survey of Children’s Health reported that 0.5% (I in 200) children ages 6-17 had autism, 11.5% had learning disabilities, 8.8% had ADHD, and 6.3% had behavior problems. By 2007, the prevalence of autism in the U.S. had risen to 1 in 150 children (Rice et aI., 2007). There are a number of physical ailments that children with Childhood Neuro-developmental Disorders (NDs) typically manifest including: food allergies and eczema, general gastrointestinal distress, constipation and diarrhea, yeast overgrowth, immune system deregulation, sleep disturbances, and high levels of environmental toxins.

Why study vaccines? According to the proposal:

What could be causing these increases in NDs and disability among children in the US.? Hypotheses proposed to explain these increases have included changes in diet coupled with reduced physical activity and/or increased sedentary behavior, low birth weight, stress, medication use in pregnancy, infections and environmental toxins. Although it remains widely debated, certain routine childhood vaccinations have been suggested as contributing to the increase in neuro-developmental disorders. A recent examination of the vaccinating practice of other countries showed that the United States vaccinates children on average double that of all other first world countries; the U.S. uses 36 compared to 18 at other countries. In fact, the United States utilizes more vaccines than any other country in the world yet it has the worst mortality rate among children 5-years-old and under of the top 30 developed countries. Coincidently, some of the countries with the lowest vaccination rates also report the lowest rates of autism. It has been theorized the child’s body is overwhelmed by the combination of heavy metals (mercury, lead aluminum), live viruses (particular from their vaccines), and bacteria. These serve to slow or shut down normal biochemical pathways leading to NDi physical and mental manifestations.

I believe the “recent examination of the vaccinating practice” mentioned in the above paragraph refers to the pseudo-study Generation Rescue generated “AUTISM AND VACCINES AROUND THE WORLD: Vaccine Schedules, Autism Rates, and Under 5 Mortality”, which I discussed at length here. Generation Rescue’s “examination” was amazingly manipulative. For example, they compared a recent study on the autism rate in the U.S. for children born in 1994 to a French study from 1997 on children born between 1976 and 1985. Of course the rate in the US was higher than the rate in France. That doesn’t have anything to do with their current vaccine schedules.

What are Generation Rescue’s research credentials?

Research Programs: With some of the top scientists in the world, research is dedicated to finding more of the causative factors and treatment approaches for children with NDs.

Sort of vague there. I note that Generation Rescue decided not to tout their phone survey as an example of their research efforts. Given that in many cases the survey showed exactly the opposite of what Generation Rescue claimed in their cherry-picked publicity, this is understandable. It is still interesting that Generation Rescue seems to realize that the survey was not an asset.

That said, who are “some of the top scientists in the world”? Although not named in the proposal, it is worth checking who these “top scientists” might be. From their website, here is s Generation Rescue’s “Science Advisory Board”?

Richard Deth, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Northeastern University, Pharmaceutical Sciences

Brian Hooker, Ph.D.
Principle Consultant
Brian Hooker Consulting

Jerry Kartzinel, M.D.
Pediatric Partners of Ponte Verde

Woody R. McGinnis, M.D.
Research Coordinator, Behavioral Nutrition

I’ll leave it to you to look these gentlemen up, but they are perhaps not what most people would call “top scientists in the world”. Their papers are not very highly cited autism. Also, Generation Rescue does not appear to be using their “top scientists” for this project. Which begs the question: what is the actual project?

I. Project’s Primary Purpose, and the Need it Addresses. The goal of this project is to test the association between vaccinations and both acute and chronic neuro-developmental disorders and the efficacy of preventive health strategies. This will be achieved by conducting a retrospective cross-sectional study comparing the incidence of chronic illnesses (i.e., asthma, obesity, and eczema), neuro-developmental disorders (i.e., autism, ADHD and learning disorders), and overall health and well-being among a random sample of vaccinated and unvaccinated children (5-18 years of age). The study will obtain information from a random sample of two populations: I) children being horne-schooled and belong to the National Horne Educational Research Institute (NHERI); and, 2) children among the 30,000 unvaccinated patients being provided health care at the Homefirst Health Services in Chicago. Data will be collected from medical charts and parental reports via website health surveys and the standardized measures including the Autism Diagnostic Questionnaire.

The project proposal is vague and very brief. But let’s consider some details presented.

Not surprisingly, they chose to work with the Homefirst clinic in Chicago. Homefirst comes up quite often in discussions of proposed vaccinated/unvaccinated studies. This results largely from the fact that the director of Homefirst, Dr. Mayer Eisenstein has stated with no equivocation that there are zero autistic children who were born in his clinic and didn’t receive vaccines.

There is some confusion about how many of Homefirst’s patients are actually unvaccinated. Generation Rescue states that 30,000 are unvaccinated, but this is actually the estimate for all the children at Homefirst, vaccinated and unvaccinated:

“We have a fairly large practice. We have about 30,000 or 35,000 children that we’ve taken care of over the years, and I don’t think we have a single case of autism in children delivered by us who never received vaccines,” said Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, Homefirst’s medical director who founded the practice in 1973.

For the moment, let’s take Dr. Eisenstein at his word. What possible biases are there that they should be working around? One example–we don’t know the status of patients who have left Homefirst. Consider the parents who joined Homefirst specifically to avoid autism. After their child is diagnosed, is it conceivable that they not return to Homefirst and would find a different clinic? How do they plan to control for this? Also, one can not minimize the fact that Dr. Eisenstein has a lot riding on the reputation that he has built on the “no vaccines, no autism” slogan.

Even without this, researchers I have been in contact with have questioned how useful clinical notes such as these could be in screening, much less diagnosing, autism. From what I can see, Dr. Eisenstein’s practice does not include psychologists or other staff to test for autism, so that would not be directly included in the notes.

As an aside, the lack of autistics in his practice hasn’t stopped Dr. Eisenstein from joining the alternative treatment of autism. The Chicago Tribune discussed Dr. Eisenstein, his somewhat troubled past and his foray into treatments like Lupron in Autism doctor: Troubling record trails doctor treating autism.

NHERI is a new name to me. I have not heard much about them or their founder in autism discussions before. As an aside, one quote from the NHERI website was quite interesting–“”Whoever has the data controls the policy.” Kay Coles James, Virginia State Cabinetmember”.

The “Autism Diagnostic Questionnaire” is not a standard diagnostic instrument by any means. In fact, it is difficult to find out what it is at all. A google search for “Auism Diagnostic Questionnaire” gives only two hits (or did before I published this piece). The questionnaire appears to be this worksheet from the Autism Research Institute (DAN). I can find no information on how it is scored or how accurate it is.

One thing missing in this proposed study is actual contact with the children. “Standard measures” could mean a lot of things, but if they were planning on screening children and then testing probable cases using an ADOS and ADI-R (which one might argue would be “standard”), wouldn’t they mention that? If so, wouldn’t they mention who would perform such tests. None of the staff assigned to this study appears to be a psychologist, for example. The Staff for the project are listed as:

Project Stafjing: The Project Director will have a Masters’ degree and will be responsible foroverseeing the implementation, quality assurance and reporting of this project. Dr. A. Mawson is Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), and Principal Investigator of the Mississippi Study Center for the National Children’s Study. Dr. B. Ray is President of the National Home Education Research Institute and an experienced researcher in home education. Dr. S. Buttross is Professor and Chief of the Division of Child Developmental Disorders in the Department of Pediatrics; UMMC; and Dr. W. May is Professor of Biostatistics, Department of Medicine, UMMC. The combined experience of these investigators ensures the highest standards of quality and scientific rigor.

Generation Rescue and others have often called for an “independent” research. Left unvoiced is whether “independent” means “independent of the government and pharmaceutical companies” or whether “independent” includes being free from ties to the vaccines-cause-autism groups.

The “Project Director”, Dr. Mawson, is a vocal supporter of Andrew Wakefield. Below is a letter by him you can find in multiple places on the web. Note this was not included in the research proposal:

Dear Dr. Crippen,

I would like to point out that Trisha Greenhalgh’s assessment of Andrew Wakefield’s paper was itself seriously flawed!

You do a disservice to Wakefield and the scientific community by perpetuating this myth of the flawed study and the paper that should have been “rejected” by The Lancet.

The paper is actually excellent–a superb case study that will join the ranks of other famous case studies, such as the link between rubella infection and congenital rubella syndrome (Gregg 1941) and between exposure to thalidomide and embryopathy (McBride 1956).

Greenhalgh states that the paper set out to test a hypothesis that was unstated –of a causal relationship between exposure to MMR and autism — and the design of the study was all wrong. She starts out with an incorrect assumption about the nature of the study and then continues to build on her incorrect foundational argument. Her argument may look impressive to the layman and most medical practitioners perhaps, but not to anyone who knows anything about study design, i.e. epidemiologists, and the reviewers of the paper for The Lancet, who clearly understood that the paper was not an hypothesis-testing paper but a hypothesis-generating paper. It was, in short, a case series analysis.

The paper, once understood in this light, as case series analysis, is truly remarkable, well written and brilliantly documented. It concluded by stating the hypothesis, based on parents’ reports, that the children’s’ signs and symptoms were temporally connected to MMR vaccination. Subsequent studies may not have substantiated the hypothesis; but that does not detract from or invalidate the merits of the paper as a case series and as, essentially, a hypothesis paper.

Anthony Mawson.

I’d be interested in Prof. Mawson’s take on the quality of the Wakefield Lancet article now that it has been retracted. More to the point, the fact that the study is not a true “case series” in the fact that the subject selection was highly biased. There is an “Anthony Mawson” who is a signatory on the “We Support Andy Wakefield” website.

Dr. B. Ray is the President of NHERI, the homeschooling group involved in the research and is not a medical professional nor an epidemiologist.

Dr. Susan Buttross appears to be rather reasonable. The website for a clinic she is affiliated with has links to sites like the CDC and the AAP when discussing vaccines and autism. She worked on the Mississippi Autism Task Force, whose report can be found here. That report does not discuss vaccines one way or the other. It does discuss that toxins have been “implicated”:

To further complicate the findings, there is mounting suspicion that environmental factors play a role in many cases. A genetic predisposition may cause certain individuals to be more sensitive to environmental toxins. Specific environmental toxins have not yet been identified, however, lead, mercury, and other chemical toxins have been implicated. There has been concern that certain dietary components may be a causative factor in some cases. Viral infections including rubella, measles, and CMV (cytomegalic virus) have also been linked to ASD. Illicit drugs and alcohol used by the mother during pregnancy are also known to increase the risk of a child developing ASD.

Interviews with her can be heard here, here and here.
Mississippi Autism Task Force

Dr. W. May is, I believe, Warren May. I have no real details on what connection he may have to the autism communities and to the question of vaccines.

In the introduction I pointed out that Generation Rescue was attempting to get funding for this project from the Airborne settlement. The Ariborne suit was brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI was not supportive of the Generation Rescue proposal, noting that the project was vague and the sample groups likely heavily biased and that Generation Rescue was not actually conducting the study, but was managing it, building in overhead costs that might not be warranted.

I tend to agree with CSPI that the proposed study is far from being strong enough to be very convincing, one way or the other, on the question of vaccines and autism. There are some potentially reasonable people associated with this proposal. But I would think that any active involvement by Dr. Mayer Eisenstein would seriously taint the study. Further, should Dr. Mawson still support Andrew Wakefield, given Wakefield’s multiple ethical lapses and clearly biased study design, I would think that too would cast somewhat of a pall on the study.

Can an study comparing outcomes of unvaccinated and vaccinated populations be performed? Like any study, a lot depends on how definitive the answer you want is. Prometheus at the Photon in the Darkness blog has discussed the limitations of these studies and, also how they could be done. One early example is in his post “Let’s put on a Study!” Dr. David Gorski goes into the details as well in The perils and pitfalls of doing a “vaccinated versus unvaccinated” study. I agree with his conclusions:

Still, if the government caves and decides to do such a study, it is up to us in the scientific community to make sure that it’s done by no one but the best epidemiologists, in other words, that it’s a proper study that correctly controls for confounders and can answer the question being asked, not the dubious study custom designed to have the maximal chance of a false positive result, which is of course what the anti-vaccine movement really wants.

The questions raised by a vaccinated/unvaccinated study are far to important to be handled by anything less than the best researchers with access to the best data. I fear that Generation Rescue’s plan doesn’t meet either count.

Autism Insights, another journal for questionable autism research?

30 Jan

The double standards applied by the autism alternative medicine community never cease to amaze me. Typically they do a game of “six degrees of separation” with any one they disagree with. Do you have ties to anyone who has worked on vaccines? Do you have ties to anyone who knows anyone who might have worked with a governmental agency? Well, if so, anything you say is ignored as biased.

Funny that no one took a good look at the Journal that the recent “confirmation” of Dr. Wakefield’s research was published in. The alt-med community doesn’t question research they like.

Confused? Here’s the back story. A recent article was published Clinical presentation and Histologic Findings at Ileocolonoscopy in Children with Autistic spectrum Disorder and Chronic Gastrointestinal symptoms in a journal called “Autism Insights”. The paper came out the day before the decision from the GMC on Dr. Wakefield. The paper was touted as “Wakefield’s Science Proven Valid Again In New Study That Replicates Findings” in a blog post (guess where?)

Have you ever heard of “Autism Insights“? Neither had I. Don’t feel bad. Unless you read one of the two other articles published in that “journal”, you couldn’t have heard of it.

Yes, two other articles. One is an editorial.

This new article brings the total published in “Autism Insights” to 3.

The first:

Trends in Developmental, Behavioral and Somatic Factors by Diagnostic Sub-group in Pervasive Developmental Disorders: A Follow-up Analysis
Authors: Paul Whiteley, Lynda Todd, Kalliopi Dodou and Paul Shattock

Then an editorial:

Autism Etiology: Genes and the Environment
Authors: A.J. Russo

and now

Clinical Presentation and Histologic Findings at Ileocolonoscopy in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Chronic Gastrointestinal Symptoms
Authors: Arthur Krigsman, Marvin Boris, Alan Goldblatt and Carol Stott

Yep, that’s it. The entire production of “Autism Insights” is two papers and one editorial.

So far, every paper has had an author on the journal’s editorial board.

Take a look at the Editorial Board. This paper, timed to come out exactly when Dr. Wakefield needed good press has no fewer than four people from Dr. Wakefield’s own clinic, ThoughtfulHouse.

Bryan Jepson, MD
Director of Medical Services, Medical Center at Thoughtful House Center for Children, Austin, TX, USA

Arthur Krigsman, MD
Director of Gastrointestinal Services, Pediatric Gastroenterology, Thoughtful House Cener for Children, Austin, TX, USA

Carol Mary Stott, PhD
Senior Research Associate, Research Department, Thoughtful House, Austin, TX, USA

Andrew Wakefield, MBBS, FRCS, FRCPath
Research Director, THoughtful House Centre for Children, Austin, TX, USA

There are prominent DAN doctors, Richard Deth, and others from the alt-med community on the editorial board as well.

Come on guys. Is this really the standard of science that is acceptable to support Dr. Wakefield?

As an aside, a year or so back I emailed some friends with a speculation that the alt-med community would create their own journal. As far as predictions go, this wasn’t really a longshot. Still, it is interesting to see the prediction come true.

As to the paper itself? I’ll only say a few brief words as it really isn’t worth the time.

1) I recall in the Omnibus hearings that many of the GI “findings” claimed by the petitioners were found to be misinterpretations by the experts who reviewed them

2) No one has ever said that autistic kids are somehow immune from GI complaints, including inflammation.

3) There are multiple details where, even if correct, this research is very dissimilar from that of Dr. Wakefield’s original Lancet paper and later work.

It is too bad that these researchers chose to make clinical findings into what amounts to a political statement of support for Dr. Wakefield. If there is any valuable information gained from these children, I don’t see how this paper respects their contribution.

edit to add: I forgot to acknowledge that this post came from a tip from Prometheus at the Photon in the Darkness blog.

Blogs raise the alarm on autism conference

27 Oct

That’s the title of a post on Canada’s National Post website. Another article on the main site reads Controversial autism conference got funds from Sick Kids
.

The pieces are about the fact that Sick Kids, a highly respected children’s hospital, is hosting a Canadian version of the Autism One conference.

AutismNewsBeat attended and reported on a previous AutismOne conference, should you wish to see what happens at such conferences.

The Canadian version of the AutismOne conference appears to be much smaller than its American counterpart. Here is the list of speakers:

Jonathan Alderson, EdM
Evdokia Anagnostou, MD
John DeMarco, BCBA
Wendy Edwards, MD
Richard Frye, MD, PhD
Paul Hardy, MD
Martha Herbert, MD, PhD
Sonja Hintz, RN
Bryan Jepson, MD
Derrick MacFabe, MD
Valerie MacLean
Lindsay Moir
Manon Noiseux, MsC
Jon Pangborn, PhD
James Partington, PhD
Dan Rossignol, MD
Stephen Shore, EdD
Chantal Sicile-Kira
Lauren Underwood, PhD
Rudi Verspoor, HD(RHom), DMH
Sueson Vess, AutismOne Chef
William Walsh, PhD

Compare this to the last Chicago AutismOne conference speaker list:

Lisa Ackerman
Tim Adams, JD
James Adams, PhD
Alanna Apap, BCBA
Lynne Arnold
Tapan Audhya, PhD
Carmen Augustin, MSW, LCSW
Mary Lynch Barbera, RN, MSN, BCBA
Jeffrey Becker, OD
Marion Blank, PhD
Mark Blaxill, MBA
Kenneth Bock, MD
Tom Bohager
Mika Bradford
Kerry Brooks
Gregory Brown, MD
Jeff Cantor, DDS
Jane Casey
Ved Chauhan, PhD
Charles Chapple, DC
Lillian Chen-Byerley, MS, OTR/L, RCTC
Sylvia Chin-Caplan, JD
Rob Coben, PhD
Ken Cook
Laura Corby
Mark Corrales, MPP
Lee Cowden, MD
Mary Coyle
Mary Beth Cull
Dorinne Davis, MA, CCC-A, FAAA
Dennis Debbaudt
Vicky Debold, PhD, PN
Amy Derksen, ND
Richard Deth, PhD
Lisa Dietlin
Tami Duncan
Stephen Edelson, PhD
Mayer Eisenstein, MD, JD
Michael Elice, MD
Lark Eshleman, PhD
Seyyed Hossein Fatemi, MD, PhD
Barbara Fischkin
Barbara Loe Fisher
Richard Frye, MD, PhD
Carolyn Gammichia
Andrew Gammichia
Patricia L, Gannon, DDS
Mark Geier, MD, PhD
David Geier
Kristin Selby Gonzalez
Dana Gorman
Doreen Granpeesheh, PhD
Cindy Griffin, HD (Rhom), DSH-P, DIHom
Katherine Guttshall, MA, BCBA
Louise Habakus, HHP, AADP
Boyd Haley, PhD
Elaine Hall
Paul Hardy, MD
Martha Herbert, MD, PhD
John Hicks, MD
Betsy Hicks
Sonja Hintz, RN
David Holmes, EdD
Devin Houston, PhD
Diane Isaacs
Laurette Janak
Pam Johnson, DDS
Oliver Jones
Michelle Lancaster, DDS
Raun Kaufman
KP Khalsa, DN-C, RH
Cheryl Kilmer
Brian King, LCSW
David Kirby
Steven Kossor
Robert Krakow, JD
Arthur Krigsman, MD
Andrea Lalama
Mary Jo Lang, PhD
Lindyl Lanham, DSH-P, BS Spec Ed
Jeffrey Lewine, PhD
Carolyn Lewis
Allen Lewis, MD
Derrick MacFabe, MD
Cynthia Macluskie
Mark Macluskie
Jackie Marquette, PhD
Vicki Martin, RN
Julie Matthews, CNC
Jenny McCarthy
Woody McGinnis, MD
Mary Megson, MD
Joseph Mercola, DO
Claudia Miller, MD
Elizabeth Nickrenz
Mark Noble, PhD
Nancy O’Hara, MD
Melissa Olive, PhD, BCBA
Dan Olmsted
Valerie Paradiz, PhD
James Partington, PhD
Mitchel Perlman, PhD
Kathryne Pirtle
Jon Poling, MD, PhD
Sym Rankin, CRNA, APN
Kerri Rivera
Rick Rollens
Mary Romaniec
Dan Rossignol, MD
Jennifer Salcido, ND
Sarah Clifford Scheflen, MS, CCC-SLP
Harry Schneider, MD
Norm Schwartz, MD
Alice Shabecoff
Stephen Shore, EdD
Chantal Sicile-Kira
Terrie Silverman, MS
Allan Sosin, MD
Jane Sparks, RN
Pramila Srinivasan
Kim Stagliano
Cheryl Steinberg
Sandra Stewart
Carol Stott, PhD
Rev. Lisa Sykes
Catherine Tamaro
Theoharis Theoharides, MD, PhD
Polly Tommey
John Turner, DC, CCSP, DIBCN
Lauren Underwood, PhD
Anju Usman, MD
Sueson Vess
Aristo Vojdani, PhD
Andrew Wakefield, MB, BS, FRCS, FRCPath
David Warner
Vicki Warren, EE
Toby Watkinson, DC
Stacey Whetlow
Robert Weiner, PhD, CST-D
Amy Yasko, PhD

Yes, Canada will miss out on Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield, who was recently given “The first annual Andrew J. Wakefield Award for Courage in Medicine” by AutismOne, if that gives you an idea of AutismOne’s leanings. Does Sick Kids want to be hosting future “Andrew J. Wakefield Award for Courage in Medicine” award ceremonies? Do they want to have HBOT balloons smoking in their exhibit hall? Do they want to host future conferences with speakers from SafeMinds (Mark Blaxill), TACA (Lisa Akerman), the “National Vaccine Information Center” (Vicky Diebold and Barbara Loe Fisher), together with Mark and David Geier (bad armchair epidemiologists and, worse yet, purveyors of Lupron as a therapy for autism), Mayer Eisienstien, Joseph Mercola…?

I join Orac at Respectful Insolence in asking, what was Sick Kids thinking?

Generation Rescue: an autism research organization?

1 May

Generation Rescue has been trying to rebrand itself as a “research” based organization over the past year. This is a tough sell given their track record of promiting junk as science. Even if they didn’t keep touting their phone survey it would be difficult to forget it. Rather than write the effort off as bad, they cherry picked the “results” which support their political and public relations agenda.

I was reminded of this while I was writing a review of the Science Advisory Board for the newly minted Autism Science Foundation. Why not do the same for Generation Rescue?

it is worth noting that it would have been impossible to review GR’s science advisory board a year ago. It didn’t exist from what I recall. I recall checking fairly recently, and the advisory board consisted of one person.

But, that was the past. GR is ramping up their Advisory Board. Below is the current Advisory Board for GR. I use the ISI Web of Knowledge database to check for papers with the Science Adviser as “author” and the topic as “autism”, just as I did for the Autism Science Foundation. I also did a few other checks, as you will see.

S. Jill James

I get 11 autism papers for Dr. James papers in the search. One of which was cited 84 times (which is very respectable), but most of which have been cited 1 or 0 times.

I found something interesting on her website. Under “Research Support” she lists, “CDC: Mechanisms of Oxidative Stress in Children.”

I find it amusing that the top science adviser to Generation Rescue is accepting funding from the CDC. Were she on the “other side” of the fence on the vaccine question, GR would certainly have claimed that accepting money from the CDC is a clear indication of bias and would call for “independent” research.

I guess you can be independent and still accept money from the CDC.

Dr. Richard Deth

Dr. Deth was recently discussed by Kev, by the way. He has two autism papers in the ISI database. One of which was cited 31 times.

Woody R. McGinnis, M.D.

I only get 3 papers from the ISI Web of Knowledge database for McGinnis WR and topic=autism. Apparently they aren’t listing his papers in the Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology which came out last year.

Jerry Kartzinel, M.D.

I get no hits for an ISI search on papers for Kartzinel as author and subject=autism. He is, of course, the co-author with Jenny McCarthy on her recent book. Not exactly research, though.

This is not a group of heavy hitters in autism research. As noted, Dr. James has a few papers which have been cited a number of times. But, given the nature of this group (and of Generation Rescue) the question has to be asked–is this a real advisory board or is it for show? In general, this is a pretty lightweight group in the autism world. When Jill James is your “heavy hitter” you aren’t going to impress many people who actively watch autism research.

Besides, when has GR ever really acted like they want “scientific advice”? Seriously–they seem to be an organization which thinks scientists exist to confirm the observations of parents.

Compare this Science Advisory Board to that of the Autism Science Foundation, which we recently discussed. GR, an organization that has been around for years, is just putting together their Advisory Board and, well, the effort is slow to get moving. ASF had a reasonable Advisory Board at their launch.

But, Generation Rescue isn’t an organization to let their glass house stop them from throwing stones. You can imagine that when an organization like the Autism Science Foundation comes out with a stance against the vaccine/autism hypothesis it would see some “heat”. True to form, but I admit later than I expected, Kim Stagliano put forth a mild attack. As attacks go, it’s actually sort of amusing. Ms. Stagliano uses as her theme an idea that the ASF is stuck in the past in their approach to research. I find this attack by Ms. Stagliano amusing given Generation Rescue’s approach to research. GR’s concepts of research are like a neaderthal man found in a glacier: they represent ideas frozen in time, and ideas whose evolutionary path led to nowhere. You know the ideas: MMR and thimerosal caused an autism epidemic.

I am left wondering why Generation Rescue doesn’t have Dr. Andrew Wakefield as a science adviser. Certainly if anyone typifies the antiquated stance on science that Generation Rescue holds, it is Andrew Wakefield. GR certainly shows great admiration for the man who fueled the MMR/autism scare in 1998. But, it is one thing to admire the man, it is another thing to add someone to your advisory board whose research is considered an embarrassment by the vast majority of the research community. Who knows, Perhaps Dr. Wakefield turned GR down?

If I may take another minute on Ms. Stagliano’s blog post. She calls in the spectre of the Tobacco companies. It seems to be a favorite contrivance for her and the entire Generation Rescue/Age of Autism crowd. Favorite and patently ridiculous. Here’s what she had to say.

If the American Lung Association had spun off a new group headed up by those with a strong allegiance to Philip Morris and called themselves, INCS (“It’s Not Cigs Stupid!”) would anyone take them seriously outside of those with a financial interest in cigarettes?

The tobacco gambit is a bad comparison to autism from the outset. Epidemiology showed clearly that tobacco causes cancer. The epidemiology on MMR and thimerosal has shown they didn’t cause an “epidemic” of autism.

What takes the tobacco gambit from bad to ridiculous is when, only a few paragraphs later, Ms. Stagilano cites Bernadine Healy. Dr. Healy accepted tobacco company money as part of an organization which denied the dangers of second hand tobacco smoke. One sure sign that Ms. Stagliano’s post is basically propaganda–she refers to Bernadine Healy as “one of the most trusted doctors in America”. Er. Yeah. I would love to poll the “man on the street” and see how many have even heard of Bernadine Healy. Plus, I guess someone can be accept tobacco company money and still be “trusted”? Wll, at least as long as they support the “vaccines might cause autism” concept, eh Ms. Stagliano?

I actually wish Generation Rescue well with their effort to build a Science Advisory Board. I would hope that they would (a) find real scientists and (b) take their advice.

It would be a new direction for Generation Rescue.

Dear Mercury and MMR Militia

21 Jun

I want to write you all an open letter to offer you my opinion as to where you are going wrong. Before I do, I fully realise that this is a massive generalisation and that some of you won’t hold all the opinions I’m about to go through. I think though, that many of you do.

Three things prompted this open letter. First of all was David Kirby’s trip to the UK. Second was a comment from Kelli Ann Davies where she expressed surprise that some of us might know/guess/whatever the intentions of the science and medical community. Third was Ginger Taylor’s recent sulk about the AAP. I’ll touch on these things as I go through this.

You have a truly massive credibility issue which grows with every passing year. Once upon a time it was an issue with the science/medical community but now it is an issue with the general public. There are a number of reasons why this is so.

1) You cannot keep your story straight. You have (as I said to Kelli Anne) some first class marketing and PR people. As I recall, Lynn Redwood, Mark Blaxill and Sallie Bernard all have marketing qualifications. You also have numerous leading lights who are very, very rich. This means you have ample opportunity to lever your message into the heart of the US media system.

But that means nothing without a coherent story to sell. You don’t have one. I understand that you have recently talked about how the ‘story of vaccines’ has _evolved_ . That is stretching things more than a little. Its mercury, no its MMR, no its both, no its Aluminium, no its all three, no its all ingredients, no its the very vaccines themselves, no its the schedule they’re given. No – its ALL the above. And don’t forget the mitochondria!

The more ingredients you add to the pot, the more you have to explain why they are causative of autism. You didn’t even manage to do this when you were concentrating on just _one_ thing (thiomersal). The above is not an example of an evolving hypothesis. Its an example of an ever widening hypothesis as one after another, your original ideas have been taken down.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than David Kirby’s stumbling backwards and backwards:

In 2005, David said in a FAIR Autism Media interview:

It’s now 2005…..[W]e should see fewer cases entering the system [cdds] this year than we did last year.

When that didn’t happen he then said:

if the total number of 3-5 year olds in the California DDS system has not declined by 2007, that would deal a severe blow to the autism-thimerosal hypothesis…..total cases among 3-5 year olds, not changes in the rate of increase is the right measure.

That didn’t happen either.

You started off by pointing an air pistol at a target 20 feet away and missing. You worked your way through Magnums, Shotguns and Miniguns and kept missing. You currently have a canon wheeled right up to within a foot of the target and you’re _still_ missing.

2) Your science is weak and getting weaker. Sadly for you, the onus was (and still is) on you to provide evidence that vaccines in any of the myriad of hypotheses cause autism. Lets hypothetically agree with you that vaccines are in fact, fashioned by Satan and are in fact, tools of population control. That is not the point. The point is: _do they cause autism?_

There is not one paper that passes muster as valid science that offers corroborating evidence that any vaccine, any ingredient of vaccines or any schedule they are administered in causes autism. This is after over 10 years of trying to find one. What you are increasingly left with is a double conspiracy theory. In one barrel of the conspiracy theory, brave maverick doctors are having their research suppressed. In the other barrel of the conspiracy theory, Big Pharma shills are publishing science to refute the various vaccine hypotheses.

Of course, neither barrel is true. The brave maverick docs are not having their science suppressed. It is simply not good enough to pass peer review.

A good example of this is the science experts being presented at the Omnibus Autism proceedings. No Geier’s. No Jim Adams. No Boyd Haley. No Andrew Wakefield. At least, not so far anyway. And this is in the Vaccine Court, where standards of evidence are way lower than in a civil court, where – by the way – not a few of these same researchers science was not good enough to even be entered as evidence.

And you have this nasty habit of shooting yourselves in the foot. Only today David Kirby posted on the Huffington Post about how rubbish the VSD database was. The very same database the Geier’s recently used to allege a link between vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders.

And the list goes on. The Hornig study? Refuted by Rick Rollens MIND Institute. The Nataf paper on Porphyrins? Liz Mumper, head of DAN! medical admits that even ‘normal’ children have raised Porphyrin levels. The Bernard et al paper? Refuted. Richard Deth’s work? Exposed and questioned.

3) Your choice of media people to represent you is doing you harm. I am not sure how the idea of latching onto Jenny McCarthy as a spokesperson for the anti-vaccine/autism connection came up. There are a few other celebs I can think of with more gravitas than McCarthy. In truth, you couldn’t have chosen worse. Already, she has made a public fool of herself (and you). As has her partner, Jim Carrey, with his ‘lazy ass’ FUBAR and calls to notice ‘warnings from the universe‘.

I understand that these events feel terribly cathartic to you but I would urge you to take off your rose tinted glasses and see how the real world perceives these kind of things. Its not good. Don’t take my word for it, go to a _mainstream_ news source, discount the people you know as friends/associates who are leaving comments and then see what people think.

You have also latched onto the words of Bernadine Healy. I can see why but she (is/was) a member of a paid lobby group that advances the ‘science’ of Philip Morris to put forward the idea passive smoking isn’t dangerous. How desperate do you have to be to turn to _this_ ‘authority’ for backup?

4) You cannot see that you are being humoured. I know that some of you have been very proud of your success in getting involved with things like the IACC and y’know, thats great – well done to you. And then there’s the ‘coup’ of getting the AAP to attend a DAN! conference and ‘work with’ them. But there’s one thing you seem to have forgotten. AAP members are medical scientists. They will go with the decent science.

I read a blog post from Ginger Taylor today which seemed to be telling the AAP their ‘window of opportunity’ to work with DAN! et al had closed due to the fact they endorsed a letter that a paediatrician had written on how to tackle parents who were nervous about vaccination.

Amusingly, Taylor also chided the AAP for not turning up to the ‘green our vaccines’ rally:

I warned that the window would only be open for a short time unless we saw real action, and would probably close around the time of the Green our Vaccines Rally if they didn’t show up for us in some respect.

Well the AAP didn’t show up for the rally and well… this certainly signals that the window is closed. They want it closed. And it looks like they may be locking it.

Can you not understand that to expect the AAP will turn up for a rally which touts such anti-science as Aluminium and Formaldehyde being at singularly dangerous levels in vaccines and Anti-Freeze being in them at all is the height of arrogant stupidity? Surely you cannot be that naive?

The truth is – and I get this from speaking to AAP, NIH, FDA and NHS members – that you had, and always will have, an opportunity to impress them with decent, peer reviewed science. That’s all you’ve ever needed. And that’s what you’ve never had.

5) The future. The person you’ve decided will be your public face is writing another book. <a href="http://stopthinkautism.blogspot.com/2008/06/today-autism-recovery-tomorrow-crystals.html"She says that:

It’s really an Indigo book…….We’re definitely the Indigos, you know, breaking down these walls so this, you know, New Earth behind us can happen.

And what’s your role in this?

…But people aren’t quite there yet and I kinda had to, not lower my vibration, change my vibration to focusing on the world hearing that message. Hearing that biomedical treatment does help these kids.

And then, slowly, you know I can put it in my speeches. and then in my last book I talked about the indigos and crystals. And I’m just like, I’m really following source, kind of I felt the need to do that, I’m just kind of dribbling it here and there until people, you know, have that spiritual awakening of spirituality.”

That’s where you’re going. You’re close to abandoning any kind of rational basis for your beliefs and just becoming Jenny’s followers in an Indigo Spiritual Awakening to herald in the New Earth..

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