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Paul Offit in the New York Times

13 Jan

Paul Offit is in the NYT today talking about his book:

A new book defending vaccines, written by a doctor infuriated at the claim that they cause autism, is galvanizing a backlash against the antivaccine movement in the United States.

which is true. For the first time in the nearly six years I’ve been blogging about autism and vaccines, things are happening beyond the stale, jargon filled denouncements appended to the end of news pieces about autism and vaccines. Doctors in the US and UK are wising up to the very real health dangers – and dangers posed to autism research – posed by the antivaccine/autism lobby. I’ve seen health experts on TV over here, read many interviews with actual doctors and scientists in both countries and am aware of plans to carry the message much, much further and harder than ever before. Its about time.

Offit again mentions the threats he’s received and Dr. Gregory A. Poland mentions threats his kids, something that Offit has also received, as have I and several other autism parents who don’t believe vaccines cause autism. Some scoff at that according to the NYT article. I would suggest that that displays a level of arrogance and head-burying that is unhealthy.

However, I think some of the scientists involved are naive or simply don’t understand the level of blind fanaticism they are dealing with:

If the surgeon general or the secretary of health or the head of the C.D.C. would come out and make a really strong statement on this, I think the whole thing would go away,” said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, who has a severely autistic daughter…

With respect to Dr Hotez, thats living in a fantasy world. What would happen is that certain factions would simply do what they try to do to Dr Offit, Dr Poland, Dr Shattuck, him (if he knew it), me, Kathleen, Kristina, Amanda, Orac, Joseph, Do’C (the list goes ever on) and now Josh and Ben from Change.org – they would suggest that the Surgeon General had become a pharma shill. They would wheel out the same tired old statements from ex-heads of NIH etc, people who have no relevance and no ideas and the whole thing would just go around and around.

To be 100% honest, the best thing to do with these people is buy them an island somewhere, transport them to it and let them live out their lives totally organically and naturally. Two birds, one stone.

But seriously, you will never, ever get through to these people. They cannot be reasoned with. To quote Lord Byron:

Those who will not reason are bigots, those who cannot are fools, and those who dare not are slaves.

Leading members of Generation Rescue are quoted in the piece:

We have hundreds of fully recovered children. I’m very frustrated that Dr. Offit, who’s never treated an autistic child, is spending his time trying to refute the reality of biomedical recovery.

He…condemned threats generally, saying he had received some himself. “No one should ever do that to another human being,” he said.

This is a constant source of puzzlement to me as I keep hearing about these ‘hundreds of full recovered children’ (didn’t it used to be thousands?) and yet a search of PubMed for these case studies show nothing at all.

So where are they? Much like David Kirby with his claim HHS have said vaccines caused Hannah Poling’s autism when they have not, this is yet another soundbite with no substance at all to back it up. How long can one keep making such wild claims without a shred of evidence to support them? How long before one’s own conscience starts to trouble you?

Many doctors now argue that reporters should treat the antivaccine lobby with the same indifference they do Holocaust deniers, AIDS deniers and those claiming to have proof that NASA faked the Moon landings.

I agree. But whilst we live in a society that thinks Jenny McCarthy is capable of offering medical advice and the media love celebs more than people it ain’t going to happen. Medical science needs to carry on fighting and fighting harder.

Autism Myths

11 Nov

It is my great pleasure to release my latest website – Autism Myths. Its not a blog, its more like a collection of blog posts on very specific subjects regarding autism.

Topics referenced so far are:

The IOM Are Afraid to Look At Susceptibility Groups
The Myth That Autistic Children Can’t Develop
The Myth of No Autistic Adults
The ‘Leaky Gut’ Hypothesis
The Myth of Overwhelming Immunity
Misleading Lab Reports
“Mrs Toast”
The Autism Epidemic
The Verstraten Paper
The Poling Concession
The Simpsonwood Conspiracy
The Amish Anomaly

Please use the contact page to send me comments and suggestions but if you do suggest stuff, please include a link to a blog entry that you think best dispels the myth in question. Please further note that the site is *not* just about vaccines, it is about all myths related to autism.

The IOM and "completely expressed concerns"

11 Sep

If you’ve read my previous posts Dr. Bernadine Healy, you know I have some pretty serious concerns about how she represented the way the Institute of Medicine operated when they produced their report on Vaccines and Autism.  Those statements were made in interviews with Sharyl Attkisson.  Again, if you’ve been reading, you realize that Ms. Attkisson’s methods were a cause of concern for me as well.  I have voiced these concerns with CBS news via fax.

Dr. Healy made some pretty bold assertions, and Ms. Attkisson failed to even attempt to follow up on them.

The prime example is when Dr. Healy proposed that

…“There is a completely expressed concern that they don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people. “First of all,” Healy said, “I think the public’s smarter than that. The public values vaccines. But more importantly, I don’t think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you’re afraid of what it might show.”

I’ve noted before, that a statement of that magnitude, calling into question the very methods and motives of the IOM deserved followup by Ms. Attkisson.  When someone makes a claim that an organization we all depend on to be independent and unbiased may have acted improperly, and unbiased reporter should make sure of the facts by checking with the real source before going ahead with the story.

Well, bloggers sometimes do the work that reporters fail to do.  In this case, AutismLibrary asked the IOM for comment on some of the way the IOM and its process in handling the 2004 Vaccines and Autism report have been portrayed.  Below (with permission) is the response that AutismLibrary received and blogged:

Thank you for your recent and very thoughtful message. As you know, the IOM’s Immunization Safety Review Committee most certainly did not suggest that scientific inquiry into the role of vaccines in autism should cease because the results could affect public perception of the value of childhood vaccinations. The public deserves better than that.

The committee’s 2004 report, Vaccines and Autism, states:

Determining causality with population-based methods such as epidemiological analyses requires either a well-defined at-risk population or a large effect in the general population. Absent biomarkers, well-defined risk factors, or large effect sizes, the committee cannot rule out, based on the epidemiological evidence, the possibility that vaccines contribute to autism in some small subset or very unusual circumstances. However, there is currently no evidence to support this hypothesis either.

After a paragraph in which the report follows that sentence with a discussion of the sparse literature regarding subsets of autism and the theoretical possibility of a vaccine-susceptible subpopulation, the report states:

While the committee strongly supports targeted research that focuses on better understanding the disease of autism, from a public health perspective the committee does not consider a significant investment in studies of the theoretical vaccine-autism connection to be useful at this time. The nature of the debate about vaccine safety now includes a theory that genetic susceptibility makes vaccinations risky for some people, which calls into question the appropriateness of a public health, or universal, vaccination strategy. However the benefits of vaccination are proven and the hypothesis of susceptible populations is presently speculative. Using an unsubstantiated hypothesis to question the safety of vaccination and the ethical behavior of those governmental agencies and scientists who advocate for vaccination could lead to widespread rejection of vaccines and inevitable increases in incidence of serious infectious diseases like measles, whooping cough, and Hib bacterial meningitis.

The committee urges that research on autism focus more broadly on the disorder’s causes and treatments for it. Thus, the committee recommends a public health response that fully supports an array of vaccine safety activities. In addition the committee recommends that available funding for autism research be channeled to the most promising areas.

Some readers have apparently failed to appreciate the full meaning and intent of the committee’s carefully written text. The report, as supported by the above-quoted paragraphs, clearly acknowledges the possibility that new information in support of hypotheses about susceptible subpopulations could emerge, at which time significant new research efforts might be appropriate. Whether the recent information about mitochondrial dysfunction will be the foundation for a major new research direction remains to be seen. The committee’s comment on the untoward consequences of discouraging vaccination was offered as an elaboration of their concerns about the unsubstantiated vaccine-autism hypothesis and not as support for their recommendations about an appropriate research agenda for understanding autism.

The scientists and clinicians on this committee evaluated the then-available scientific data in an unbiased manner. They reached their conclusions based on where the evidence led them. This principle—making recommendations only if supported by the evidence—guides all studies that IOM undertakes. I reiterate that the committee most certainly did not urge caution about pursuing the vaccine-autism connection in order to avoid frightening the public away from immunizations. The IOM stands ready to re-examine this issue should sufficient and relevant evidence emerge.

I almost put the entire last paragraph in bold for emphasis. Instead I’ll pull two lines out:

I reiterate that the committee most certainly did not urge caution about pursuing the vaccine-autism connection in order to avoid frightening the public away from immunizations

and

The IOM stands ready to re-examine this issue should sufficient and relevant evidence emerge

I read this as: there were no “completely expressed concerns” that affected the IOM’s study and that although they recommended rejecting the vaccine/autism hypotheses (thimerosal and MMR), they haven’t “turned their backs” on the subject. Should good research come forward (as with any subject in science) they will look again.

I do have one simple question: Shouldn’t Sharyl Attkisson approached the IOM for comment before going forward with this story?

Another fax for Ms. Couric

9 Sep

Note: I didn’t do my homework–Ms. Attkisson has discussed the Hornig paper. She manages to do exactly what we would expect: toe the ThoughtfulHouse line. The blog piece by Ms. Attkisson was posted while I was finishing my fax, given the time stamp.

As you will read below, I didn’t find Sharyl Attkisson’s recent blog post to be what I expected. OK, I wasn’t expecting her to be convinced by the recent study by Hornig et al., (paper here) but I at least expected her to comment on it. Instead, she dodged the issue completely. Worse yet, her post boils down to (a) assuming that the government doesn’t do vaccine safety research then (b) apparently implying that she and Dr. Bernadine Healy are somehow responsible for a “new” effort by the government to study vaccine safety.

So, CBS news has two new pages in their fax machine (to go along with a previous fax). In an effort to save their staffers the time of forwarding the fax, I quote it below.

September 8, 2008

Katie Couric, Managing Editor
CBS Television Network
524 West 57th Street
6th Floor
New York, NY 10019-2902

VIA FACSIMILE

Dear Ms. Couric,

I have faxed you recently about my concerns with the reporting of Ms. Attkisson. I would love to be writing you now with word that things have improved. But, sadly, they have not.

Ms. Attkisson appears to have avoided the key story of the week (if not month) in vaccines and autism: the study by Hornig et al. which shows (again) a lack of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Instead, Ms. Attkisson ran a blog piece that perpetuates the myth that vaccine safety is not a high priority for the nation’s health researchers.

Hornig et al. is precisely the sort of study that Dr. Bernadine Healy (in an interview by Ms. Attkisson) claimed the research establishment was “afraid” to perform: a study looking not at large populations, but specifically at children with autism. In this paper, the study group critera were very narrow: children with autism who regressed and have significant GI problems. The study sought to answer questions raised by Dr. Wakefield’s flawed study, which has caused much distress in the autism community for 10 years. The study found that MMR is not linked to autism: a conclusion accepted by autism advocate Rick Rollens, one of the most vocal spokespeople for the autism/vaccine link.

You can imagine that, yes, I expected Ms. Attkisson to address this study in her blog or reporting. Instead I read with dismay her blog piece on September 4th, “Vaccine Watch”. In her introduction, she references her interviews with Dr. Healy, but avoids the issue of the Hornig MMR study. Instead, she discusses recent NIH grant solicitations in the area of vaccine safety, and presents them as though vaccine safety research is something new. As noted above, this perpetuates the myth that vaccine safety is not being studied.

In addition to the Hornig et al. study, there is another study soon to be released on autism and thimerosal containing vaccines. Again, a targeted study looking at the exact population of interest. I would hope that this one doesn’t escape Ms. Attkisson’s attention. Also, one need look no further than clinicaltrials.gov to find ongoing studies on vaccine safety and adverse events. It is difficult to find a way that will not appear sarcastic to point out that the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Office is a very clear example of the government’s ongoing commitment to tracking vaccine safety.

If you have any question of how important the Hornig study is in the autism community, take a look at the comments on Ms. Attkisson’s own blog post. You will find that, even though Ms. Attkisson avoided the study, the autism community considered the Hornig study to be the news of the week, not the NIH grant solicitations.

Accusations of media bias are often applied too quickly by readers who disagree with the stances taken on certain stories. However, in the case of Ms. Attkisson, I find it difficult to understand how she could avoid a story which not only was so important to the community, but also answered the precise questions she has posed in her previous reporting.

I appreciate your time in this matter, and will gladly clarify any statements above that may not be clear.

Sullivan
Autism Parent
LeftBrainRightBrain.co.uk
SullivansJourney@gmail.com

Katie Couric, Sharyl Attkisson, Larry King, and Dr. Jay Gordon

12 Aug

As you may recall, I faxed Katie Couric a while back making some comments and asking for some information.  I find that the CBS coverage of autism is, well, a bit odd.  Sharyl Attkisson seems to be promoting an idea, not following a story where it leads.  The main example I give for that is the total lack of a followup to the assertion made by Bernadine Healy that “[t]here is a completely expressed concern that they don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.”  Who, precisely, aside from Dr. Healy expressing this concern?

The Voices For Vaccines fax which preceded mine was posted an autism/vaccine advocacy website within hours of being sent, begging the question of who within CBS news sent it, and why there is such a close tie between the two.

Anyway, I shouldn’t rewrite the entire previous blog post–the short version is: I had questions.  I still do.  That’s right, I still do.

I’m not complaining, just pointing out a simple fact: CBS didn’t take the time to respond to simple questions about their reporting.

Now, take a newer event in the autism world.  In preparation for the Every Child By Two press conference last week, some comments were made on the Yahoo group dedicated to the “Green our Vaccines” rally.  One comment in particular by Dr. Jay Gordon struck me as rather bothersome.   The comment was directed at a person named Avrielle Gallagher, who works for Larry King Live.

Being in the mode of wondering about how the media works, especially those apparantly sympathetic to the vaccine/autism causality question, I decided to contact Ms. Gallagher.  I sent the following email to the same address Dr. Gordon used.  For good measure, I used the Larry King Live website to send the same message:

Hello,

I saw an email from Dr. Jay Gordon to you.  It was posted on the JennDCRally autism list.  The email is listed below.

Could you explain what is meant by the term, “[redacted]?  I see that you work for Larry King Live.  Is he asking you to do a show on the conflicts of interest of these groups?

If so, perhaps you would like to read a few analyses of Dr. Offit’s conflicts of interest.  I looked into the public data and posted my views here:

https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=1022

I rewrote this and faxed it to Katie Couric of CBS, as noted here:

https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=1057

As you will see, I am not in agreement with Dr. Gordon.  You will also see that I am the parent of a young child with autism, one who does not subscribe to the autism/vaccine concept.

Rather than “[redacted comment]”, I would like you to consider going after a good, reasoned story.  I would especially like to see a good, reasoned story on the subject of Dr. Offit’s new book, “Autism’s False Prophets”.   This is causing quite a stir amongst the alt-med subset of the autism community.  They have publicly stated that they have targeted Dr. Offit and those are also promoting vaccination (like Amanda Peet).

As you will see from my posts, Dr. Offit appears to have no more financial conflicts of interest regarding vaccines.  He is actually in a position of high independence.  And, yet, he still promotes the same message as before.  That should tell us all something.  In addition, his book is going to be a big story.

So, I ask a simple question: will you go after the story or the person?

I look forward to a response.

I’m still looking forward to a response.  I’m an optimist that way, I guess. 

Oh, you are no doubt wondering why I redacted Dr. Jay’s exact words.  You see, after a bit I decided to email him.  I admit, I should have emailed him from the start, but I did wait a few days.

Dr. Gordron, I saw the below message from the JennyDCRally autism group.

If I may, could I ask what you mean by “[redacted].”?

Given that Avrielle Gallagher works for Larry King Live, this sounds like you are asking for Larry King to do a show about these people in a poor light.

I am the parent of a child with autism.  Surely you can see that the image of the autism community (or segments of the autism community) as a group that would use the media to “[redacted]” is something that I would like to avoid.  While we as a community may be divided on some issues, I would bet that the majority would agree that we rely heavily on the support of the majority of the public.

I look forward to your response.

Sullivan

Even though I misspelled his name, he responded within a couple of hours:

Thanks.

You’re correct, that was very poorly phrased.

What I meant was that there should be more light shined on the financial conflicts of interest which exist.

Jay

(emphasis his)

When I notified him that I intended to include his comments in this piece, he replied:

Dear Sullivan,

The first statement I made reflected my anger. I really do think there is far too much conflict of interest in the lives of many of the vaccine researchers, the CDC and the AAP.

The brief email answer I sent you reflects my true feelings about this.

Please feel free to quote me and, if you do, please also mention that I certainly don’t think that my being immoderate in my comments helps anybody.

Best,

Jay

Dr. Gordon did what Katie Couric, Sharyl Attkisson, Avrielle Gallagher, and the staffs for CBS News and Larry King Live failed to do: answer simple and (I hope) respectfully posed questions.

I could give a long list of the people who have answered simple, sometimes even complicated, questions, respectfully posed. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. I would have loved to add CBS News and Larry King Live to the list.

It all just makes me wonder. CBS News and Larry King have spent decades reporting on how this person or that company or some group in the government ignored questions. Invariably, those reports cast a bad light on the groups investigated. And, yet, when presented the opportunity to clarify their own actions, they chose to be silent.

Maybe I’ll send a respectful question to Voices For Vaccines and ask if CBS News responded to their concerns. I know that CBS took the time to respond to the Orange County Register’s blog on Autism.

In their reply to the Inside Autism blog, CBS News noted:

…We believe our report was in no way defamatory of any institution or individual, and that no retraction is warranted…

As I’ve noted before, I like the irony of CBS News deciding for itself whether it was defamatory. Strikes me odd given the complaints alleged against, well, basically everyone the vaccine/autism groups have ever complained about.

But, I digress. I’d like to point out that I didn’t claim CBS was “defamatory”. I only bring this up to point out that even though CBS communicated with the Register blog, they haven’t addressed my questions.

A commenter on the Register’s blog said it best in her response to Lisa Randall of Voices For Vaccines. The Register’s blogger decided to highlight the comment, and I pull out the segment that caught my eye here:

…We expect the press to tell us the truth…

The first step is to tell us anything.

Jon Poling and Bernadine Healy

7 Aug

As Kev has noted, Dr. Jon Poling has a Letter in the most recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

As I read Kev’s piece I knew I wanted to make a comment. But as I saw that comment would be really long I saw that it would end up looking more like a mini-blog post. Since I have the keys to the car, as it were, I figured I’d go straight to the blog post.

Dr. Poling makes mention of Dr. Bernadine Healy’s interview at CBS. He states that he agrees with her statement:

“I don’t think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you’re afraid of what it might show. . . . If you know that susceptible group, you can save those children. If you turn your back on the notion there is a susceptible group . . . what can I say?”

All those dotted lines just begged for someone to look at the parts cut out.  The parts in red below are what Dr. Poling used for his quote. [edit: sorry, the red shows up in the editor, but not the post]

Healy said: “There is a completely expressed concern that they don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people. “First of all,” Healy said, “I think the public’s smarter than that. The public values vaccines. But more importantly, I don’t think you should ever turn your back on any scientific hypothesis because you’re afraid of what it might show.”

and

“What we’re seeing in the bulk of the population: vaccines are safe,” said Healy. “But there may be this susceptible group. The fact that there is concern, that you don’t want to know that susceptible group is a real disappointment to me. If you know that susceptible group, you can save those children. If you turn your back on the notion that there is a susceptible group… what can I say?

Dr. Poling says he agrees with her. A HUGE question in this community involves the parts Dr. Poling left out: that “[t]here is a completely expressed concern that they don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.

Dr. Healy threw the conspiracy theorists a huge bone with that statement. It was a big statement to make and one that is left completely unsupported.

As an aside–this is my biggest complaint about Sharyl Attkisson. Given the nature of the statement and the ramifications of it, she should have asked Dr. Healy for sources or some way to back that statement up. The fact that Ms. Attkisson didn’t and, in fact, helped lead Dr. Healy through her (unsupported) claims gives a lot of credence to the idea that Ms. Attkisson is promoting her own agenda rather than trying to report a story.

But, back to the post at hand: Does Dr. Poling agree with all the statements? Because, he should realize that people will assume he does and blog posts and internet discussions will appear with people generalizing to “Dr. Poling agrees with Bernadine Healy”.

Consider this, Dr. Healy stated that there “…is a completely expressed concern…”. Note the present tense.

Dr. Poling states in his Letter “Also commendable is the new 5-year research plan of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, which will entail the study of minority subpopulations, including patients with mitochondrial disorders”. He cites this document: “Draft ISO Scientific Agenda for NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group, April 4, 2008

Let’s not quibble on the fact that Dr. Poling’s statement implies that the idea of a study is already accepted, when it is a draft. I think we can all agree that the study is very likely going to happen.

Notice the date: April 4, 2008. The Vaccine Safety Working Group recommended looking at people with mitochondrial disorders. (another aside, Dr. Poling makes a big case, joined by Mr. Kirby, that Hannah Poling has a dysfunction, not a disorder. Is the CDC going to look at the wrong subgroup, those with disorders?)

OK, back to the date: April 4, 2008. The date of Dr. Healy’s interview: May 12, 2008.

Dr. Healy’s statement that there (present tense) “…is an expressed concern….”

Not only is the statement completely unsupported….I’m at a loss for the words here. Should I use, “erroneous”, “creates a false impression”, “ignorant of the recent history in the very subject she was discussing”?

So, I, for one, would like to hear Dr. Poling’s opinion on all of Dr. Healy’s statements. I fear that I will not like the result, but at least we’d have all the facts.

(note: I made some edits after posting–just changing a few words to make it read better)

David Kirby vs Accuracy

20 Jul

As I’ve said before, I like David Kirby personally. We exchange friendly emails. We even recently discussed the idea of having a private blog – readable by all but one that allowed only two posters (David and I) and no commenters. This would, I suggested, give us the opportunity to have a civil debate.

Unfortunately, David was too busy, which was a shame. However, the offers always open should he find a bit more time.

He did have time yesterday to blog a piece for the Huffington Post in which he discussed Amanda Peet and said she was ‘against the medical establishment’ for taking the stance she did. He cited a few things to support his point. I’d like to discuss these things but before I do I’d like you Dear Reader to take note: someone who was at the IACC meeting David talks about (he wasn’t there) will hopefully be posting their account of proceedings on LB/RB.

Anyway. Lets proceed. David’s first piece of rhetoric to support the idea Amanda Peet was against the medical establishment was:

A workgroup report of the IACC (the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, which includes HHS, CDC, NIH and others) says that some members want “specific objectives on vaccine research” included in the new, multimillion-dollar national autism research program, as mandated by Congress in the Combatting Autism Act.

I’m sure that some members do want this. Lynn Redwood and Mark Baxhill to be precise. As the upcoming IACC account will show, I don’t think any other IACC workgroup members were interested. (Please see this correction of an ignorant Limey’s take on the US system.)

I would also like to correct David on his characterisation of the Combating Autism Act. The Act contains no mention of vaccines. It specifies environmental research but the words ‘vaccine’, ‘vaccination’ ‘immunize’, ‘immunization’, ‘mmr’ or ‘thimerosal’ appear nowhere in the CAA. I hope David will correct his HuffPo piece accordingly.

Notes from the meeting indicate that workgroup members want federal researchers to consider “shortfalls” in epidemiological studies cited as proof against a vaccine-autism association (by Offit, Peet, et al); as well as a specific plan “for researching vaccines as a potential cause of autism.” The workgroup also says that the final research agenda should “state that the issue is open.”

Once again, David’s notes are coming from two people, Lynn Redwood and Mark Blaxill and indeed – they asked for all these things. The account of the meeting I have heard (from someone who was there) differed somewhat. As a flavour of how much the majority of the working group listened to Redwood and Blaxill, I enclose a teaser quote from chairperson Tom Insel:

“Lyn, your community is not the whole community and there are many people with well thought out concerns about ethics of the concept of prevention and if we want to be inclusive we will not do this.”

Back to David:

July 14, 2008 – Rep. Brad Miller (R-NC), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, (Committe on Science and Technology) writes to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt to complain that current federal autism research “shows a strong preference to fund genetic-based studies,” even though there is, “growing evidence that suggests a wide range of conditions or environmental exposures may play a role” in autism.

I blogged that episode here. Suffice it to say that a _politician_ is not representative of the medical establishment. I would urge everyone reading this to read that piece as it suggests amongst other things that Generation Rescue and SafeMinds be responsible for a Board that would serve as a liaison between the IACC and parents of autistic people and autistic people themselves!. After reading that I would urge everyone to contact the following people to express your thoughts (politely!) to the decision makers:

HHS Sec Mike Leavitt (mike.leavittAThhs.gov)
NIMH director/IACC director Tom Insel (tinselATmail.nih.gov)
Everyone here: http://science.house.gov/about/members.htm

Once again, back to David:

Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH and the American Red Cross and current Health Editor of US News & World Report tells CBS News that, “Officials have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis as irrational,” and says they “don’t want to pursue a hypothesis because that hypothesis could be damaging to the public health community at large by scaring people.”

I still can’t get over the fact that David is using this person to back up his points! He continues to trumpet the opinion of Bernadine Healy who actually did assert that cigarettes do not cause cancer and worked closely with Philip Morris to do so. She also totally reneged on her stance on fetal tissue research when she found herself in the same camp as President Bush. In AoA language she’s a shill.

David then goes on to cite al three Presidential Candidates – as if a politicians opinion in an election year means anything! I definitely fail to see what any of them have to do with being part of the medical establishment.

Onwards:

March 29, 2008 – Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the CDC, speaking about the Hannah Poling case on CNN says: “If a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines, and was pre-disposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage (including) symptoms that have characteristics of autism.”

Er, so? I’m really not sure how this is a ‘point’ for David (or anyone else who thinks its supportive of the idea vaccines cause autism). If she’d said ‘yes, vaccines caused autism in Hannah Poling’s case’ (which no-one ever has by the way, despite statements to the contrary) than _that_ would be a bombshell. As it was Dr. Gerberding was simply speaking what is obvious.

David again:

The CISA Network (Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment), headed by the CDC, receives a report from top researchers at Johns Hopkins University that 30 typically developing children with mitochondrial dysfunction all regressed into autism between 12 and 24 months of life. At least two of them (6%) showed brain damage within one week of receiving simultaneous multiple vaccinations.

Now, I can’t answer this as much as I’d like to. I have spoken to people involved in the preparation and writing of this report (as has David) and I was given two take home points from our email chat:

1) The science is _not yet complete_ . The paper is not published.
2) The authors feel ‘disappointed’ in the slant David has put on their work and are loth to discuss it with anyone else due to that. I was told that David might be rather surprised when everything comes out later in the year.

David once more:

Medical Personnel at HHS concede an autism case filed by the family of Hannah Poling in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, before the claim can go to trial as a “test case” of the theory that thimerosal causes autism. Though portrayed by some (ie, Dr. Offit) as a legal decision, it is in fact a medical decision. HHS doctors admit that the “cause” of Hannah’s “autistic encephalopathy” was “vaccine-induced fever and immune stimulation that exceeded metabolic reserves,”

First of all, I beg to differ with David. The concession was a legal one. By definition the phrase “autistic encephalopathy” does not exist in mainstream science so if it was used (a fact which has yet to be determined – I invite David once more to link through to the document where this is stated). A simple test of its non-existence is to search for the phrase on PubMed. I got:

Quoted phrase not found.

So we have a multitude of uncertainties here:

1) Nowhere (except in David’s writings) can we find evidence of HHS apparently saying “autistic encephalopathy” caused Hannah Poling’s autism.

2) The phrase itself (“autistic encephalopathy”) does not appear in the entire PubMed database, thus causing me to doubt its use by the medical establishment.

3) Is the concession legal or medical? If a diagnosis does not exist but is used in a legal document then by definition it must be legal – thats my opinion anyway.

David also mentions a HHS Vaccine Safety Working Group meeting but I know next to nothing about that so can’t comment.

I have to say that based on the above, David seems to be attempting nothing more than an intellectual ‘land grab’ i.e. to attempt to paint those who claim vaccines cause autism as part of the medical establishment and those who stand against them as not. Its a good political idea but I don’t think its going to work. There are just too many holes in this particular boat for it to float for long.