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Congress says no to misleading autism information

16 Jul

Last year Mr. Mark Blaxill and Mr. David Kirby were given the privilege to misinform members of the U.S. government and their aids. Besides the fact that Mr. Blaxill has yet to retract his position (and pseudo-papers) claiming that autism is mercury poisoning, and the mish-mash that Mr. Kirby makes of science, there is the curious incident of the misquoted quote. Mr. Kirby made a serious error in his talk, misquoting a statement by the NIH, and was caught by a congressional staffer (an M.D. who was obviously well prepared).

It isn’t like this sort of inaccuracy was something new. Mr. Kirby was having a lot of difficulty with accuracy about this subject around that time. Epiwonk discussed in great detail how serious Mr. Kirby’s misinterpretations are here and here.

I don’t really understand Mr. Kirby sometimes. Epiwonk’s first blog post caused Mr. Kirby to admit he made a mistake and “pull” his blog post. Mr. Kirby posted a second, with this statement:

NOTE: My original post on this topic mischaracterized the 2003 CDC vaccine investigation as an “Ecological Study,” which it was not. I am reposting this piece to reflect that information accurately, but also to point out that many of the weaknesses identified in the CDC’s data and methods apply to the published 2003 “retrospective cohort” study, as much as they do to any future “ecological” ones. I regret and apologize for the error.

He apologizes for the error. He removed the direct link to the post from his main webpage. But, did he pull the blog post which even he declares was “in error”? Nope. It is still on the Huffington Post for all to see. Hence my quotes in the phrase “pull” his blog post.

What about the misquote in Mr. Kirby’s lecture? Well, last I checked it was still in the power point presentation he has on his website. No comment, no correction.

I’m sure Mr. Kirby is planning on being more careful this year. This year? Yes, he and Mr. Blaxill are being hosted to give another briefing to congress.

Last year, Mr. Kirby and Mr. Blaxill packed a small room. This year, they seem to be struggling to get people to fill even that small space. How do I know? Well, the good people at the Age of Autism blog have supplied us with a list of the people in the Congressional Coalition for Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E) who will be attending, and who attended last year but not this year.

Want to run some stats? My unofficial and highly unscientific accounting based on the information on the Age of Autism blog:

C.A.R.E. has 11 offices attending who saw the briefing in 2008 returning in 2009.

However, C.A.R.E also has 26 offices declining the opportunity to observe Mr. Kirby and Mr. Blaxill for a second time. (including, oddly enough, Dan Burton)

Yep, you read that right. 70% of the C.A.R.E. offices who heard the briefing last year have decided to give it a pass this year. I actually doubt it is because Mr. Kirby was caught in a fabricated quote last year. My guess is that it’s just because Mr. Kirby and Mr. Blaxill basically had little accurate information of value to say last year, and little different to say this year.

Continuing with the stats:

C.A.R.E. has 8 offices attending for the first time in 2009.

C.A.R.E. also has 110 offices who did not attend in 2008 and are not attending now.

Summarizing these numbers, we see that, by far, most of C.A.R.E is not attending. ( I count 17 offices attending out of 153. Or, 89% are not attending).

Again, I don’t think it is because of Mr. Kirby’s lapse. The lack of a clear, scientifically sound message is much more likely the reason. Congress heard what Mr. Kirby and Mr. Blaxill have to say and there is no point in hearing it again.

Last year’s congressional briefing was the subject of three blog posts here:

Vaccines on the Hill. Vaccines on the Hill II. Vaccines on the Hill III.

Mark and David Geier promise its true

4 May

The South Jersey Courier Post carries a story today concerning the father and son team of Mark and David Geier.

They have presented at the branch meeting of the U.S. Autism & Asperger Association concerning their own branch of autism related woo – treatment with Lupron. A process that has led them to stretch the truth beyond breaking point numerous times, claiming false affiliations and using friends and family as members of review bodies in order to pass ethical regulations. In a wider world of autism related woo, this is a particularly sordid story.

The Geiers say excess testosterone increases the toxicity of mercury, which they claim is the primary cause of autism, and that the suppression of testosterone production improves the ability to remove the poisonous mercury — a method often referred to as chelation therapy.

The drug Lupron, or leuprolide acetate, lowers testosterone in autistic children, which then frees up the toxic mercury, the Geiers say. The Geiers, who operate eight offices nationwide under the name “Genetic Consultants,” found that testosterone blocks the body’s ability to make glutathione and that mercury binds to glutathione.

So, the Geier’s are still clinging grimly to the mercury = autism belief. A belief for which there is no sound science whatsoever and so much against it would take too long to discuss in one blog entry.

And they are also claiming that they have ‘found that testosterone blocks the body’s ability to make glutathione’. Searching PubMed for ‘lupron glutathione’ returns no hits at all. So where have they found this? Under the stairs? Why aren’t they publishing this science if they’re so sure?

Lupron lowers testosterone and…

To prove there is a hormonal connection to autistic children, the Geiers displayed several studies that showed a major side effect of high testosterone in children is precocious (or premature) puberty. The Geiers said they found signs of premature puberty, such as facial hair, body odor and early sexual development, in 80 percent of the autistic children in their clinic.

Weird stats. When I searched PubMed for ‘precocious puberty autism’ I got one result back:

This is a presentation and discussion of clinical and laboratory data obtained on 13 girls with Rett syndrome…..Precocious puberty and respiratory alkalosis were not found in our patients

Huh. Fancy that. Not found. And here the Geier’s are claiming an 80% correlation rate between autism and precocious puberty. Maybe that results from the test they’re using.

The Geiers said they found signs of premature puberty, such as facial hair, body odor and early sexual development…

And yet they somehow failed to perform the very simple and definitive test for precocious puberty – an xray of the wrist. If bone age is one year older than their chronological age then they have precocious puberty. Simple. And not done by the Geier’s. You have to wonder why.

And here we have more hidden science.

Mark Geier said laboratory tests at his clinic show that after just three months on Lupron, autistic children improved in dozens of cognitive and behavioral ways.

Next time someone tells you that ‘big pharma’ are using unindependant research, tell them this: science published in a mainstream journal has its methods and results clearly published so that other scientists can attempt to replicate them. That’s about as independent as you can get. Here we have the Geier’s simply saying these kids improved. No methods, no results, no science is shown. We’re just expected to take their word for it. That’s about as unindependent as you can get. Anyone would think the Geier’s have a vested interest in Lupron doing well.

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, 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.

More bad Kirby spin

1 Mar

And it is pretty weak this time, so I’ll make it brief.

David Kirby has a new blog post up on the Age of Autism.

David Kirby: US Health Officials Back Study Idea on Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated Children – Will Media Take Note?

He reports on a meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee and their consensus statement. Mr. Kirby quotes the Concensus Statement:

As they stated in a draft “consensus statement”:

“(There is) a strong desire to study the health impact of the immunization schedule, potentially through a ‘vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study’. Outcomes to assess include biomarkers of immunity and metabolism, and outcomes including but not limited to neurodevelopmental outcomes, allergies, asthma, immune-mediated diseases, and learning disabilities. The inclusion of autism as an outcome is desired”

Implying that the NVAC has a “strong desire”.

Oh, wait, he didn’t exactly quote, he changed something into (There is). He provides the original, so read and compare:

Public and stakeholder engagement activities have identified a strong desire….

Yeah. It isn’t NVAC who has the “strong desire”, but, well, the organizations Kirby represents (and may be paying him).

Kirby then throws in some of his boilerplate: story ideas he wants others to do.

It isn’t even good spin anymore.

Oops! The Kirby Autism-Speaks connection.

26 Feb

David Kirby just published a piece at the Huffington Post about an Autism Speaks interview that supports the idea that we need to do research on the proposed autism-vaccine connection.

No surprises there.

I was laughing at myself on the way home from work, thinking “Heck, if I were one of the Generation Rescue crowd, I’d be claiming a conspiracy. I’d be saying, ‘looks like Generation Rescue and Autism Speaks and the rest are on a concerted effort to ramp up hype on vaccines”.

But I’m not that paranoid.

Then David Kirby posted to the EOHarm yahoo group about his Huffington Post piece.

He included an email exchange between himself and Peter Bell of Autism Speaks. [edit: Note that Peter Bell is not just anybody at Autism Speaks. He’s Executive Vice President. See the first comment below]


Here’s Peter Bell telling David Kirby about the interview

From: Peter Bell [mailto:pbell@…]
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 5:29 PM
To: David Kirby
Subject: NICHD Director Dr. Alexander Discusses the Need for More Research on Environmental Risk Factors for Autism Spectrum Disorders

I think you will find this of interest:

We just posted this on our website.

And David Kirby’s response. He’s going to blog it!

From: David Kirby [mailto:dkirby@…]
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 6:32 PM
To: Peter Bell
Subject: RE: NICHD Director Dr. Alexander Discusses the Need for More Research on Environmental Risk Factors for Autism Spectrum Disorders



I will write about this – thanks


For some reason, Mr. Bell doesn’t want people to know that he tipped David Kirby off:

—–Original Message—–
From: Peter Bell [mailto:pbell@…]
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 7:03 PM
To: David Kirby
Subject: RE: NICHD Director Dr. Alexander Discusses the Need for More Research on Environmental Risk Factors for Autism Spectrum Disorders

You just happened to find this on our website, right? J

And Mr. Kirby agrees to keep the story…only he didn’t. He forwarded the entire exchange to the EOHarm list.

—–Original Message—–
From: David Kirby [mailto:dkirby@…]
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 7:24 PM
To: ‘Peter Bell’
Subject: RE: NICHD Director Dr. Alexander Discusses the Need for More Research on Environmental Risk Factors for Autism Spectrum Disorders

I go there often, yes!

The piece will be up in minutes



Oops. Again.

I don’t really know why Autism Speaks wants to keep their connection with David Kirby a secret. I mean, it’s pretty clear that AS has vaccines as their top priority (they didn’t mention anything else about the IACC’s strategic plan).

OK, I can see why Autism Speaks would want a bit of distance between themselves and David Kirby and Generation Rescue. It can’t help fundraising efforts, for one thing to be “just another anti-vaccine autism organization”.

But one more time: Oops!

Did you think that was it? More MMR bull arrives

25 Feb

The recent decision by the Special Masters in the Autism Omnibus case that MMR/thiomersal can’t cause autism according to evidence presented by HHS and lack of evidence presented by Master et al hit the mercury militia hard. They genuinely thought they were going to win.

But, of course, there was a ‘Plan B’ ready just in case. Today we see its co-ordinated unveiling. In part one, that scientific heavyweight Jenny McCarthy, together with her partner Jim Carrey released a press release:

Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles-based non-profit autism organization, today announced that the United States Government has once again conceded that vaccines cause autism…

Both the inference and the statement of fact are in error here. The United States Government has _never_ conceded that vaccines cause autism. I challenge McCarthy and Carrey to show the statement that contradicts me. Team McCarrey’s announcement today also fails to establish that the US government have conceded vaccines cause autism.

Of course, the historical reference is to Hannah Poling. As has been discussed numerous times, Hannah Poling’s autism has not been shown to have been caused by vaccines. I have asked various people, including David Kirby numerous times to provide back up to their belief the government have said vaccines caused ehr autism. They cannot. They have not. In point of fact, only three of Hannah Poling’s symptoms that were described by both HHS and a scientific case study co-authored by her father as those being caused by vaccines, tally with the DSM (IV) criteria for ASD.

The case of Hannah Poling is a red herring.

As we shall see, so is this ‘new’ case.

Team McCarrey go on:

The announcement comes on the heels of the *recently unsealed* court case of Bailey Banks vs. HHS

If by ‘recent’ one means July 2007 then they may have a point. But I don’t think ‘recent’ can really apply to a case which has had open access to it (Kathleen blogged about it in May 2008) for about a year and a half. So why lie? To add to the drama, whip up mystery and confusion of course.

But now we get to the meat of it – the actual ruling. In Part II of today’s coordinated attack, RFK Jr and David Kirby blogged about this case.

Kennedy jumps straight in:

…last week, the parents of yet another child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were awarded a lump sum of more than $810,000 (plus an estimated $30-40,000 per year for autism services and care) in compensation by the Court, which ruled that the measels-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine had caused acute brain damage that led to his autism spectrum disorder.

Whereas David is a tad more circumspect:

Is vaccine-induced ADEM (and similar disorders) a neurological gateway for a subset of children to go on and develop an ASD? That question will now become subject to debate…Special Master Abell had no trouble linking MMR to ADEM in Bailey Banks’ case. But linking his ADEM to PDD/ASD was more difficult.

So, lets rewind a little. Bailey was awarded a payment because he was found to have suffered vaccine induced damage. Cool. Thats the system working as it should – a child is damaged by a vaccine, they get compensated. What the MMR vaccine was established to have done in Bailey’s case was cause something called ADEM. What McCarthy, Carrey, Kennedy and David are now all claiming is that this ADEM resulted in an ASD diagnosis.

They rest their case on the conclusion of Special Master Abell:

The Court found that Bailey’s ADEM was both caused-in-fact and proximately caused by his vaccination. It is well-understood that the vaccination at issue can cause ADEM, and the Court found, based upon a full reading and hearing of the pertinent facts in this case, that it did actually cause the ADEM. Furthermore, Bailey’s ADEM was severe enough to cause lasting, residual damage, and retarded his developmental progress, which fits under the generalized heading of Pervasive Developmental Delay, or PDD. The Court found that Bailey would not have suffered this delay but for the administration of the MMR vaccine, and that this chain of causation was not too remote, but was rather a proximate sequence of cause and effect leading inexorably from vaccination to Pervasive Developmental Delay.

On the fact of it, it looks like they are right. But they aren’t.

Bailey has a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) which is indeed a subtype of ASD.

However, whilst PDD-NOS is a subtype of ASD (alongside autism etc). ASD is in turn a subtype of PDD. As the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities notes, the term PDD actually refers to a category of disorders and is not a diagnostic label. So when Abell refers to Bailey’s vaccine induced ADEM as leading to PDD he is not referring to ASD. He is referring to PDD. Not PDD-NOS, which _is_ a subtype of ASD but PDD, of which ASD itself is a subtype. Or, to quote Wikipedia:

PDD-NOS is often incorrectly referred to as simply “PDD.” The term PDD refers to the class of conditions to which autism belongs.

Abell made something of a worrying statement in his conclusion. I’ll quote from David Kirby:

Abell also chided MacDonald for his assertion that “all the medical literature is negative” in regards to an ADEM-PDD link. “However, soon thereafter, he corrected this statement by clarifying, ‘I can find no literature relating ADEM to autism or [PDD],'” Abell wrote. “It may be that Respondent’s research reveals a dearth of evidence linking ADEM to PDD, but that is not the same as positive proof that the two are unrelated, something Respondent was unable to produce. Therefore, the statement that ‘all the medical literature is negative’ is incorrect.”

Was any evidence that there _is_ a link between ADEM and PDD produced? I’ll have to read through more carefully. Its worrying that the SM is reduced to ‘chiding’ a witness for such a thing as a clarification of terms. Wasn’t he more worried that there was an extreme lack of evidence linking ADEM to PDD at all? Did Petitioners produce _any_ evidence that there was a link? A quick search of PubMed reveals nothing for ‘ADEM autism’ or ‘ADEM PDD’. I don’t want to second guess a Special Master but it does make me worried that maybe he simply didn’t get some of the science.

David also lists some of the symptoms of ADEM:

Symptoms usually appear within a few days to a couple of weeks. They include: headache, delirium, lethargy, seizures, stiff neck, fever, ataxia (incoordination), optic nerve damage, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, irritability and changes in mental status.

None of these say autism to me. I also did fine one ADEM paper in PubMed together with measles:

We report a seven year old male with measles associated acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) despite having received measles vaccination in infancy. The diagnosis was based on serum antimeasles antibodies and MRI brain. The patient was managed with high dose corticosteroids along with supportive measures. There was a complete neurologically and physica recovery.

There was a complete mental and physical recovery. This doesn’t seem to indicate causation or autism.

In my opinion based on what I’ve read so far here we have a little boy who either already had or was on the cusp of PDD-NOS. He was also vaccine damaged resulting in ADEM….and thats where the link breaks down. It might be enough for 50% and a feather but the fact that PDD is not PDD-NOS, together with the total lack of any evidence I can see to link ADEM to PDD, let alone PDD-NOS speaks volumes.

Who carries the authority?

19 Feb

The recent Omnibus decisions are hoped by some to stem the tide of rabid anti-vaccine beliefs espoused by people who shame the name of autism advocacy. On Salon, Rahul K. Parikh says:

In the case of autism, science and reason have too often failed to reach people. And consequently they have turned to the courts. For those of us who believe in the scientific method, the autism trials have not been necessary. But judges, unlike doctors in their cold white coats, still command a great deal of respect, and so perhaps the court’s recent ruling will sink in and finally persuade parents to regain their confidence in vaccines.

Never happen Rahul, never happen. These same anti-vaxxers have already began spin campaigns not only against the legality of the verdicts but against the three Special Masters themselves. To this group, the Special Masters command no respect whatsoever and neither do their verdicts. Take this piece of rampant stupidity from Barbara Loe Fisher:

The U.S. Court of Claims special masters are hampered from considering evidence which has not yet been published in the medical literature regarding potential associations between vaccines and the development of regressive autism

I don’t see how it is possible to make a dumber statement. What she’s saying is she wanted the Special Masters to look at unpublished science. As is well known, unpublished science is not like an unpublished novel. Unpublished science means its science that has not been put through the rigour of peer review, not had its methods examined to ensure they are transparent and reproducable, not had its conclusions reviewd to see iof they are accurate and not had its data examined to see if it is usable. This unreviewed, unpublished ‘science’ is what got us to this stage in the first place. A ten year multi-million pound, dollar and euro effort to close down bad science.

So how does she and people like her get away with saying such things? *Just because they can* . Because people believe extremes and people believe celebrities. People believe bloggers and people believe those who have shared (or think they have) experiences. I’m not saying its right but its true. If anyone genuinely believes this ruling will shut the door on these people they’re wrong. For confirmation of that you need look no further than Rolf Hazlehurt, father of one of the kids who made up the three test cases from the Autism Omnibus.

If we win, we keep going.
If we lose, we keep going.
If we win, the going will be easier.
If we lose, the going will be more difficult.
However, the Court rules, we will keep going.

You have to understand. This is not about scientific truth – or even truth at all – to these people. Its about winning and its about pushing their antivaccine beliefs as fast and far as they can. Even as they claim to not be anti-vaccine they write emails to others clearly showing they are. One of these emails will come to light very soon I believe. Expect to see very familiar names on it.

To these people science has no authority. Doctors have no authority. The Special Masters have no authority. The only people who have authority – real authority – can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. David Kirby. Jenny McCarthy. Maybe Dan Olmsted. If one of these people were to bow to the obvious and say so publicly then we might have a very different scenario. But they won’t. They have too much invested in esposuing the anti-vaccine line.

Mainstream media have a lot to apologise for also. The red tops, the broadsheets and all those hundreds of little bitty TV channels all over the US that gave the anti-vaxxers airtime in the name of impartiality and allowed them to scare away facts and reason, they need to reverse that policy.

But more than that, scientists and doctors need to get online and blog, get on Twitter and use them. Talk to people in their own language. Screw decorum. Ask people who’ve been using their blogs to support vaccines for _years_ what to do and how to do it. People like Oracand Ben Goldacre are prime examples.

This needs to happen because we’ve already lost one generation of kids to their loony parents. The loony parents who only recognise the authority of celebs, authors and each other in nests of email lists and blogs. If we want to give up another generation to the reach of the internet then keep on keeping on and hope that Rahul K. Parikh is right. But he’s not.

Brian Deer, not a complainant

16 Feb

Just in case you didn’t see it–Brian Deer published more information about Dr. Andrew Wakefield recently. This has caused a lot of furor (we are over 160 comments on that thread already). No surprises there: saying anything which might suggest Dr. Wakefield is anything less than a hero, especially when Brian Deer is doing it, will do that.

Almost all (if not all) of the responses to Brian Deer’s piece has been one big diversionary tactic: attack the messenger. Everyone seems to be studiously avoiding facing the real tough questions. Let’s avoid the ethics questions for the moment. If the details Mr. Deer presented in his article are true, Dr. Wakefield’s autism research has lost any last shred of support. That is a tough pill to swallow for the Wakefield supporters.

David Kirby joined in on the Deer bashing. Seems he read an article by Melanie Philips and rehashed it for his fans on the Huffington Post. He found Ms. Philips’ story to be “very interesting reading”. You see, Ms. Philips postulated:

What the Sunday Times did not report was that the GMC investigation into Wakefield was triggered by a complaint from… Brian Deer, who furnished the allegations against him four years ago.

This was then spun into a story of supposed conflict of interest and a great avoidance of the direct and specific claims of possible misinformation in Dr. Wakefield’s papers.

But, back to Mr. Kirby. He states:

The point is an excellent one. Imagine if a US journalist sued a doctor for libel or misconduct, and then went to the NY Times and asked to be hired as a freelancer to cover the trial that they themselves had instigated in the first place. It wouldn’t happen.

I found that statement very ironic, coming as it did from someone who aided significantly in manufacturing the thimerosal controversy, and who now seems to owe some of his employment to servicing that same controversy.

That said, what about this notion, this postulate as I have called it, that Brian Deer initiated the investigation that he is now reporting on? Well, it turns out that Mr. Deer is not a complainant in the GMC hearings on Dr. Wakefield. Below is a letter to Mr. Deer explaining exactly that.

Strictly Private & Confidential
Mr Brian Deer

25 May 2005

Dear Brian

General Medical Council – Dr Wakefield, Dr Murch, Dr Walker-Smith

I write further to your telephone conversation with Peter Swain last Thursday seeking clarification in relation to your role in the above General Medical Council (“GMC”) proceedings.

I have now had the opportunity to review the GMC’s files. My understanding is that further to your articles appearing in the Sunday Times in February 2004 in relation to your investigation into Dr Andrew Wakefield and the MMR vaccine, you were approached by GMC case officer Tim Cox-Brown, who asked you to supply the GMC with further information regarding this matter.

Your situation as a journalist who has carried out an investigation into the conduct of the practitioners in question is unusual for the GMC. I note from the GMC and FFW’s correspondence files that there does appear to have been some confusion in relation to your role in these proceedings.

In GMC ‘complainant’ cases an individual will have approached the GMC with a complaint against a particular practitioner. If the GMC decides to hold an inquiry, legal representation is offered to the complainant for preparation and presentation of the case before the Professional Conduct Committee.

As stated in Peter Swain’s letter to you dated 16 December 2004, your role in this matter is that of ‘informant’ rather than ‘complainant’. This is due to the fact that the conduct of the practitioners in question has not affected you directly and clearly involves issues of a wider public interest.

As you are aware, your involvement the GMC’s conduct of this case prior to our commencing our investigation and subsequent to our meetings with you on 24 February 2005 and 7 March 2005 has been minimal. We are preparing this case for presentation at the Professional Conduct Committee on the instructions of the GMC. Moreover, we are not able to discuss draft charges with you for reasons
of confidentiality.

We apologise for any confusion in relation to your status in these proceedings and any difficulties this may have caused you. We have made it clear to all parties that your role is that of informant rather than complainant. Please find enclosed a copy of the letter sent to Dr Wakefield’s legal representatives clarifying your status in these proceedings.

We are grateful for information supplied by you and your assistance to date.

Yours sincerely

Matthew Lohn

So, Brian Deer didn’t initiate the investigation. He wasn’t a complainant. It isn’t like, as in Mr. Kirby’s analogy, Mr. Deer didn’t “sue a doctor for libel or misconduct”.

Let me take a page out of Mr. Kirby’s own playbook:

David, if you read this (and we both know you will), take the message to heart and write a correction to your blog piece on the Huffington Post. Better yet, put up a new one with an explanation and apology.

Kirby blows another irony meter

11 Feb

I need to find a source for militaryp-spec irony meters.

David Kirby has posted a piece on the Brian Deer investigation of Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

Here’s the comment that blew the irony meter:

Imagine if a US journalist sued a doctor for libel or misconduct, and then went to the NY Times and asked to be hired as a freelancer to cover the trial that they themselves had instigated in the first place. It wouldn’t happen.

So, David, you wrote “Evidence of Harm”, massively fanning the flames of the mercury causation theory.

You are now blogging on the Age of Autism blog.

Are you paid for that effort?

I haven’t seen a lot of non-vaccine/autism bylines for you in the past few years. So, if AoA is paying you, it would be a sizable fraction of your “journalist” salary.

If so, couldn’t it be well argued that you created your own “journalist” job?

Ironic, eh?

Ah well…as long as we are discussing Mr. Kirby, here is another of his comments:

In his writing, Deer claimed that Wakefield had made up results about severe MMR reactions in the children just days after receiving the shots, had ignored signs of autism in some kids before they received their MMR vaccine, and changed lab reports on the gut biopsies – among other alleged infractions that have been covered in the two year trial in London of Wakefield et al.

The accusations printed in the Sunday Times are, frankly, outlandish. And they are false.

Hmmm, false? Do you have the facts to back that up? Have you seen the medical records that Mr. Deer has reported on? It seems highly unlikely to this observer.

Let’s look at some of Mr. Deer’s claims:

Supposedly, Dr. Wakefield found measles RNA in the guts of his subjects. From Mr. Deer’s report, the father of child 11 from the Lancet study has stated that he had no fewer than 3 separate tests for measles RNA from the same gut biopsies that Wakefield tested. Three negative results.

Dr. Wakefield claimed that the children were developing normally before the MMR. According to the Deer article, another child from the original 12’s story:

The boy’s medical records reveal a subtly different story, one familiar to mothers and fathers of autistic children. At the age of 9½ months, 10 weeks before his jab, his mother had become worried that he did not hear properly: the classic first symptom presented by sufferers of autism.

Dr. Wakefield claimed that the 12 study subjects were presented sequentially to his hospital, indicating that they were randomly selected. And, yet, none of them were in the Royal Free Hospital’s catchment area–or even the greater London area. That’s one fact that doesn’t take access to the GMC’s records. And it demonstrates a clear non-random nature to the subject choice.

How about the report by Dr. Wakefield that the subjects had regressions shortly after their MMR shot? Again, from Mr. Deer’s article:

This was Child Two, an eight-year-old boy from Peter-borough, Cambridgeshire, diagnosed with regressive autism, which, according to the Lancet paper, started “two weeks” after his jab.

However, this child’s medical records, backed by numerous specialist assessments, said his problems began three to five months later.

A pretty major disconnect between Dr. Wakefield’s story and the medical records.

How about the measles-in-the-gut theory? Dr. Chadwick, working in Dr. Wakefield’s own hospital, testified in the Omnibus proceeding that he told Dr. Wakefield pre-publication that the PCR data directly contradicted the results Dr. Wakefield was publishing. Dr. Wakefield knew when he published that there were good data that showed he was incorrect. How did you sweep that under the rug, Mr. Kirby?

Did Dr. Wakefield fabricate results or is there another reason why he got a lot of very important facts wrong? I don’t know, but I do agree with Dr. Fitzpatrick who asked why Dr. Wakefield’s papers have not been retracted. They should be.

(And I thought Dierdre Imus wrote the worst blog post of the day!)

post-publication note: Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick has written an excellent article on Dr. Wakefield’s studies, including the recent information from Mr. Deer.

IACC Plan has no vaccines, Alison Singer resigns from Autism Speaks

16 Jan

There was just no way I could listen in to the last IACC meeting. I have been keeping up with all the meetings, but yesterday it was not to be.

I knew it was going to be big, but it was way big. David Kirby tipped the hand when he blogged about how the Strategic Plan was going to include vaccine related research. Strange move–why blog about it before it was set in stone? Why not blog about it right after the December meeting when the language was discussed? A suspicious person would think that Mr. Kirby got wind that the vaccine language was in danger.

And, so it was. Here is a press release:


Disagreement on Vaccine Research Prompts Departure

NEW YORK, NY (January 15, 2009) – Alison Tepper Singer, executive vice
president of communications and awareness for Autism Speaks, today
announced that she has resigned from her position with the advocacy
organization, effective next month.

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to help to build this
organization into the preeminent autism advocacy group — the group
that has, in fact, elevated the word “autism” to the global
vocabulary,” said Singer. “I am grateful to Autism Speaks founders Bob
and Suzanne Wright for their leadership, insight, commitment and for
the tremendous support and love they have shown to my family and me.”

“However, for some time I have had concerns about Autism Speaks’
policy on vaccine research. Dozens of credible scientific studies have
exonerated vaccines as a cause of autism. I believe we must devote
limited funding to more promising areas of autism research.”

Singer resigned prior to the January 14th Interagency Autism
Coordinating Committee (IACC) meeting, at which the discussion of
vaccine research was to be continued from the December meeting, at the
request of one of the public members. Knowing she might cast a vote
with which Autism Speaks might disagree, she resigned from Autism
Speaks prior to the meeting. Singer serves as a public member of the
IACC and will continue to serve until 2011. She was appointed to the
IACC by outgoing HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt in 2007.

The IACC, created via the Combating Autism Act of 2006, is responsible
for coordinating all efforts within the Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) concerning autism spectrum disorder, including drafting
a Strategic Plan for autism research with budgetary requirements. At
the January meeing, the IACC voted to seek input on two proposed
studies of vaccines and autism from the National Vaccine Advisory
Committee Safey Working Group (NVAC), an HHS group specifically
charged with undertaking and coordinating scientific review of the
federal vaccine safety system, prior to including the proposals as
specific objectives in the strategic plan. Singer voted in favor of
this motion.

Singer was the first professional hired by Autism Speaks when it
launched in 2005. She served as interim CEO for three months, then as
senior vice president and later as executive vice president. She also
served as a staff member of the board of directors until her
resignation. Singer has been responsible for directing the
organization’s award-winning awareness and strategic communications
programs, including its work with the Ad Council which was awarded
aprestigious “Effie” award in 2008 in recognition of the 43 percent
increase in overall autism awareness directly attributable to the
campaign. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the YaleChild
Study Center and on the board of directors of Autism Spectrum News, as
well as on numerous state and local autism advocacy committees. She
has appeared on Oprah, The Apprentice, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning
America, CBS Early Show and numerous other news programs discussing
autism issues.

“My work with Autism Speaks and within the advocacy community has been
exceptionally rewarding, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of
my daughter, my brother and the millions of others affected by autism
spectrum disorder,” said Singer.

Autism Speaks has its own press release.

NEW YORK, NY (January 15, 2009) – Autism Speaks today decried a vote by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to reverse a previously voted-on decision to approve objectives relating to vaccine safety research as part of its deliberations for the Strategic Plan for Autism Research. The decision to debate removing these objectives was not posted on the meeting’s agenda, nor were the public members given any forewarning that this section of the plan – which was resolved at the previous IACC meeting in December — would be revisited. As a result, Autism Speaks is withdrawing its support for the Strategic Plan.

IACC met yesterday at the NIMH in Bethesda, MD, to finalize the Strategic Plan. As mandated by the Combating Autism Act of 2006, IACC must develop and annually update a strategic plan for the conduct of, and support for, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research, including proposed budgetary requirements.

“We are angered and disappointed by this last-minute deviation in the painstaking process of approving the Strategic Plan. Members of the autism community have worked tirelessly during the last two years to develop a plan that would set the stage for significant progress and discoveries for autism research over the next five years,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “In a matter of minutes, the Federal Members of the IACC destroyed much of the good will that had been established during the course of this process. Because of this surprise tactic, we now have a plan that is tainted and cannot be supported by the autism community.”

Five of the six public members voted against this revision. Autism Speaks Executive Vice President Alison Tepper Singer was the sole public member to cast a vote in support. The evening prior to the vote, Singer submitted her resignation to Autism Speaks – which was accepted – based on her intention to vote on certain Strategic Plan vaccine safety matters in a way that diverged from Autism Speaks’ position on this issue. Thus, in casting votes on January 14, she was acting as an individual public member of IACC and no longer as a representative of Autism Speaks.

“We are hopeful that the new administration will fulfill the intent of the Combating Autism Act and truly value and respect the input of the autism community,” added Wright. “It is imperative that we move forward and ensure that there is a Strategic Plan that meets the needs of the autism community. Autism Speaks is committed to being part of that process.”


I have to point out something rather odd in the Autism Speaks version. Note that they claim

“The decision to debate removing these objectives was not posted on the meeting’s agenda, nor were the public members given any forewarning that this section of the plan – which was resolved at the previous IACC meeting in December — would be revisited”

This is given as the reason why they are withdrawing their support for the Plan, by the way.

Why point this out? How did Alison Singer know the night before to resign if there was no forewarning? How did Autism Speaks accept the resignation if there was no forewarning? And, in the speculation realm, why did David Kirby blog about the vaccine provisions if there was no idea that those provisions were in danger? As I noted above, the natural time to blog it was right after the December IACC meeting, but he delayed for some time. Come on, Autism Speaks. Admit it, you are pulling support because you wanted vaccine language, not because this was a surprise.

It took guts to do what Ms. Singer did. I know I can expect comments pointing back to the Autism Speaks video that Ms. Singer participated in, but I’d like to stress: it took a lot of guts to do what she did.

Oh yeah, Autism Speaks: You don’t speak for the “autism community” any more than Generation Rescue does. You certainly don’t speak for me on this issue.

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