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Why does it matter what happens to Andrew Wakefield?

8 Jan

People have been questioning the necessity of these latest revelations about Andrew Wakefield and suggesting that enough is enough or maybe that all this latest round of publicity will do nothing except make him a heroic martyr. This is possible.

However, for a number of reasons I really feel it is vitally important that not only is there some response but that that response comes at least partly from the autism community.

Firstly, I believe it is necessary for there to be a response full stop. These might be the same set of _facts_ that were uncovered during the GMC hearing but the difference here is that for the first time it has been established that the facts against Andrew Wakefield came about through what the BMJ refer to as fraudulent. This is a huge difference. Up until now it could’ve been argued that Andrew Wakefield simply made a mistake. After the events of the last two days, that can never be honestly argued again.

Secondly, there are a set of people who have been at the rough end of Wakefield’s fraud for the last 13 years. A set of people who have struggled to make new parents understand that there is no risk of autism from the MMR vaccine. Doctors. Particularly paediatricians and GP’s. It is vital that by establishing what Wakefield has done as fraud, the media ensure that the message is spread far and wide. They (the media) have something to atone for in this respect, being the original spreaders of the message that the MMR caused or contributed to autism. They now need to recognise their role in the past and help the medical establishment by ensuring Wakefield can never again spread his fraudulent claims via their auspices.

Thirdly, there is another set of people who have been at an even rougher end of Wakefield’s fraud. The sufferers of the falling vaccination rates of MMR. Its been well documented in numerous places, including this blog how people – particularly children – have been injured and died in the UK and US. The concept of herd immunity, no matter what some might claim is a real concept and when it falls, the level of protection falls. When it falls to far then the people who suffer are the very young, the very old and those who for genuine medical reasons cannot be vaccinated. Wakefield’s fraud needs to be spread far and wide in order for people to realise what he is, what he tried to do and what the consequences were in order to have some confidence in the MMR jab.

Fourthly, there is another set of people who have suffered heavily. This set of people are the silent victims of Wakefield’s perfidy. Autistic people. Wakefield and his supporters, TACA, NAA, Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, Treating Autism et al have turned autism into a circus. The aim of the last decade amongst serious autism researchers and advocates has been to

a) Raise awareness
b) Find evidence-based therapies that will help the life course and independence of autistic people
c) Protect the educational rights of autistic people

and getting research monies to meet these aims is long, hard and slow. Andrew Wakefield and his hardcore of scientifically illiterate supporters have actively derailed that process, dragging research monies away from these principled activities and towards their core aim of degrading vaccines and ‘proving’ vaccines cause autism. Wakefield himself has taken over US$750,000 worth of money to pursue a legal battle against the UK Gvmt. Just think of how that money could have enriched the life of just one autistic person.

However, this same set of people claim to be representative of the autism community. They write nonsense books about autism. They hold celebrity studded fundraisers for autism. They participate in rant-filled rally’s for autism. But none of them are really about autism. What they’re about is anti-vaccinationism.

Every one of these activities denigrate autism and autistic people. They take attention away from where it is needed.

We, the true autism community, made up of parents, autistic people, professionals of autistic people need to do two things. Firstly, we need to wrest back control of the autism agenda from these one-note people. Secondly, we need to speak to society at large and say ‘yes, some members of the autism community believed the fraudulence of Andrew Wakefield but not all of us did. Please don’t tar us all with one brush.’

What Andrew Wakefield has done has impacted everyone. We need to make sure that he and people like him can never affect us all in this way again. To do that we need to speak out about him, loudly and as long as it takes.

SafeMinds retaliates against skeptic blogger

7 Dec

SafeMinds is an organization with the stated purpose to “…to restore health and protect future generations by eradicating the devastation of autism and associated health disorders induced by mercury and other man made toxicants. ” SafeMinds has stayed with this purpose even as the years have gone by and the evidence has mounted that the SafeMinds hypothesis was incorrect (autism is not a form of mercury poisoning). Recently, SafeMinds produced an advertisement, framed as a public service announcement, focusing on mercury in the flu vaccine and tried to get these shown in movie theaters. As we discussed here recently, Elyse over at Skepchick started an effort to inform the movie theaters about SafeMinds. Her effort snowballed into a large petition and resulted in the movie theaters deciding to not show the SafeMinds advertisement.

Recently, SafeMinds has chosen to leave the discussion of ideas and take on Elyse in a personal attack, through their media effort at the Age of Autism. SafeMinds is not only a key sponsor of Age of Autism, but Mark Blaxill (SafeMinds board member) is one of the three principle editors of the Age of Autism blog.

Again, rather than discuss the issues, they pulled Elyse’s facebook photo


and posted this message

This is the woman who fought to pull the SafeMinds PSA’s from the theatres. It’s her FB profile page photo. She is anti-choice and wants to tell you that mercury is safe and that Thimeosal is good – according to her blog. She trolls AofA regularly. As do all the pro-vaccine-injury bloggers.

It was a call to mock and insult Elyse. A perfect example of cyber bullying. Amongst the comments to that FaceBook page was one extreme enough that one of the Age of Autism editors noted it and promised to remove it. “While I agree that the broken thermometer comment was out of order (the blog does not condone violent speech, so that comments is going.”

It took a while for them to make good on the promise. As in many hours later, after Elyse reported the abuse to the police. That comment does appear to be gone now. Many other abusive comments (but not all) also appear to be removed.

Rather than apologize for inciting the bullying effort, SafeMinds/AgeofAutism are defending themselves by claiming that Elyse was standing in the way of choice.

Stopping Americans unable to understand? What is she St. Skepchick? She interefered with medical choice and commerce. That’s her right to make the attempt. We dis not use her name. We pulled her public photo that she used here on FB. We ran it on FB, not the main site – our readers deserved to know who was behind (at the outer level anyway) the AMC campaign to stop the ads. We provide news. This was news.

No. It wasn’t news. And, no, Elyse was not interfering with medical choice or commerce. She was quite simply providing the theaters with information–allowing them to make informed consent about the SafeMinds advertisement.

The idea of SafeMinds being pro-choice on vaccines is rather ironic. Again a story from their outlet blog, the Age of Autism makes this clear. Two years ago, a theater in New Mexico was going to show the movie “Horton Hears a Who” combined with a free vaccination clinic. At that time, they had a connection to Horton star, Jim Carrey. Instead of allowing choice, providing information, they got Jim Carrey to force the cancellation of the event:

Following a long discussion with his representatives at Fox Entertainment – Who-ville – once again through Horton – was heard. The New Mexico test market of drive thru vaccines while at the movies with your children was stopped. Halted by Horton himself because he heard “we are here, we are here, we are here!” once again.

The bullying attack on Elyse wasn’t about choice, it was just a childish attempt at some sort of petty vengeance. Unfortunately it got out of control. I thank SafeMinds and the Age of Autism for editing the comments, but even what is left is unacceptable. It’s time for apologies, not excuses.

60 Minutes exposes stem cell con men

21 Apr

Autism News Beat has a post, Avoiding false balance, 60 Minutes nails con men. It isn’t autism specific, but it does have to do with a type of “therapy” that comes up a lot in autism: stem cells.

60 Minutes, a U.S. television news magazine did a “sting” operation. They had patients go into the stem cell clinics and expose the charlatans. The patients were real, they have ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)

The clinic run by a man named Larry Stowe claims to be able to cure cancer, ALS, MS, Parkinson’s disease and more…

He is a chemical engineering Ph.D. who claims he has cures for chronic diseases with herbs and vitamins, custom vaccines, and stem cell injections.

(below are the videos. Thanks to codeman38 for providing this link to the text)

http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/player-dest.swf
Watch CBS News Videos Online

Here is part 2

http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/player-dest.swf
Watch CBS News Videos Online

Bogus Urine Metals Testing Fails In Vaccine Court

13 Mar

The Thimersoal “test cases” in the OAP relied on bogus urine mercury testing. Among many other common problems the petitioners had in providing any sound scientific support for the notion that mecury can cause autism, that, was at least in part, the apparent conclusion of all three of the special masters.

I just skimmed through the recent decisions by the US Court Of Federal Claims in the Thimerosal “test cases” that were part of the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, and the expert testimony provided by Dr. Brent (respondent) in this regard is pretty clear:

From the Mead Decision

When specifically asked about the urine mercury tests that were performed on William, Dr. Brent said that the tests “showed pretty much exactly what you’d expect for the normal population, that their unprovoked specimens are normal. Yet, when they give chelators, most of [mercury excretion results] are increased.” Id. at 1852-1853. Dr. Brent expressed a concern about the use of data in this way to suggest that a condition exists that, in fact, does not. See id. at 1853. He stated that “it’s data like this that has been used as an excuse to subject these children to chelation therapy where the data supports [a finding] that their urine mercury status is totally normal.” Id. at 1853.

From the King Decision

Moreover, Dr. Brent explained that when the results of mercury testing of Jordan, both provoked and non-provoked, are viewed in their entirety, they are exactly what one would expect from an individual without any mercury-related problem. That is, Jordan’s non-provoked test results were within the normal range for non-provoked testing. (Tr. 1852-53, 4340.) At the same time, while his provoked results were outside the normal range for non-provoked testing, that is not surprising since the provocation/chelation process is designed to specifically provoke an increased excretion of metals. (Tr. 1852-53, 4340-41, 4347.) As Drs. Brent and Fombonne explained, administration of a chelating agent to anyone, autistic or not, mercury-poisoned or not, will always be followed by increased excretion of mercury.118 (Ex. M, p. 74; Tr. 1852, 4340-41, 4343.)

Interestingly, the added scientific clarity of the special masters with regard to bogus urine metals testing is also present to some degree in all three test cases:

Here’s one example from the Mead Decision

Moreover, a subsequent study, as reported in the 2007 Soden article filed as RMRL 458,150 could not confirm the 2003 Bradstreet study results. See Mead Tr. at 1844. The investigators found that “DMSA provoked excretion testing did not produce evidence of an excess chelatable body burden among the autistic [study] participants.” RMRL 458 at 480. The investigators concluded that “[i]n the absence of a novel mechanism of heavy metal toxicity or an alternate therapeutic action of chelators, the data presented provide[d] no justification for chelation therapy for the [study] participants.”

Many will remember the conclusion of Soden et al.

“In the absence a proven novel mode of heavy metal toxicity, the proportion of autistic participants in this study whose DMSA provoked excretion results demonstrate an excess chelatable body burden of As, Cd, Pb, or Hg is zero.”

But perhaps the most interesting of all, is the common thread that the reliance upon the bogus mercury testing seems pretty much acknowledged for what it is by both the special masters and the petitioners’ expert:

From the Dwyer Decision

Doctor Mumper’s willingness to rely on Colin’s mercury test results as evidence of high levels of mercury in his body was particularly troubling. She admitted that his results were not typical of those she saw in other autistic children. She admitted that she knew of no research into normal mercury excretion levels after chelation against which Colin’s one positive mercury test could be measured.741 It appeared that regardless of the results for mercury levels, Dr. Mumper was willing to opine that they reflected mercury’s role in ASD.

From the King Decision

In short, a careful analysis of the record demonstrates that there is no valid basis for Dr. Mumper’s view that the results of mercury excretion testing on Jordan King offer support for a conclusion that thimerosal-containing vaccines played a role in causing Jordan’s autism. To the contrary, the evidence supports a conclusion that Dr. Mumper’s reliance on such mercury tests has no basis in science or logic. Indeed, upon cross-examination even Dr. Mumper acknowledged that there is no particular profile or pattern of post-provocation test results that points to a finding that a child has mercury-induced autism. (Tr. 1555-60, 1568-69.) When pressed, Dr. Mumper could not even suggest an example of any type of result on a post-provocation mercury urine test that would not, in her analysis, support a claim of mercury-induced autism. (Tr. 1558-60.) Dr. Mumper’s analysis in this regard was illogical, and completely unpersuasive.119

Yep, regardless of the results of a scientifically meaningless test, it’s the mercury. Right.

Remember, these were the three Thimerosal “test cases”, presumably chosen by the Petitioner’s Steering Committee (PSC) because they offered the best opportunity to introduce good, and representative scientific evidence for the hypothesized role of thimerosal in the etiology of autism. It looks like they failed miserably, and this doesn’t seem surprising when it’s clear the cases leaned on at least one form of laboratory testing that’s clearly scientifically meaningless.

It won’t be surprising when many of the die-hard anti-vaccine and “alternative” autism medicine brigade ignore the fact that bogus urine toxic metals testing just had a bright light shined on it by the vaccine court. They’ll be likely to claim some form of conspiracy or politics about the cases, despite the fact that the spotlight revealed an apparent decision-making tool of many a “DAN! doctor” to not only be worthless in medicine, but also worthless in court.

On a related note, there has been recent news that a couple of “DAN! doctors” are facing a lawsuit in which bogus urine toxic metals testing is called out directly. Aside from numerous other problems they face in the complaint, it should be interesting to see how the defendants (Dr. Dan Rossignol, Dr. Anjum Usman, and Doctors Data, Inc.) explain the potential role of comparing chelator-provoked urine metals levels to a non-provoked reference range. If the three test cases in the OAP are an indication of the state of actual scientific support for such testing, the defendants would seem to have plenty to worry about.

Additional reading:

Mead v. Secretary of Health and Human Services Case No. 03-215V
King v. Secretary of Health and Human Services Case No. 03-584V
Dwyer v. Secretary of Health and Human Services Case No. 03-1202V
Thimerosal-Autism Test Cases Dismissed
Doctors sued over ‘dangerous’ autism treatment
Suing DAN! practitioners for malpractice: It’s about time
How the “Urine Toxic Metals” Test Is Used to Defraud Patients
24-hour provoked urine excretion test for heavy metals in children with autism and typically developing controls, a pilot study

Wakefield, O’Leary and Bustin

4 Feb

Below is an old post from 2007 when the Omnibus hearings were in full swing. It goes through the testimony of Professor Stephen Bustin and why it was so deadly to the MMR hypothesis. I thought now might be an ideal time to republish it.

On Day 8 of the Autism Omnibus proceedings, the MMR section of the hypothesis under examination (that thiomersal and MMR together cause autism) was examined. Just to briefly generalise about the MMR hypothesis –

It was hypothesised that measles virus (MV) from the MMR was travelling from the injection site, to the gut and then to the brain where it either a) causes autism or b) in conjunction with thiomersal causes autism. Wakefield claims to have found MV in the gut of several kids. Krigsman claimed to have replicated this work. They both used the lab of one Professor John O’Leary (Unigenetics IIRC) in Ireland.

So, on Day 8 of these proceedings Stephen Bustin came to the stand. Bustin is possibly _the_ world expert on the techniques used in the O’Leary lab that he claimed led to identifying MV in autistic kids gut and brain. The technique is called PCR. Not only does Bustin use PCR every day, he has 14 papers in the peer reviewed literature on PCR, over 8 book chapters and is personally the author of the _A to Z of Quantitative PCR._ which is considered ‘the bible’ of PCR. One of his papers has been cited over 1,000 times. Another has been cited over 500 times. He both organises and speaks at international PCR conferences (1934 – 37).

Basically, when it comes to PCR – this is the guy.

The first part of Bustin’s testimony concentrated on an explanation of PCR techniques and how these techniques were employed in a key study relied upon the week previous to make the MMR/Cedillo case: Uhlmann 2002. This paper describes the _exact process that Unigentics lab used to carry out their PCR work_ .

This is a mind bogglingly techie area so I’m going to try and stick to laypersons terms. Basically, the Uhlmann study is badly flawed. The key issues related to controls. Uhlmann (and a subsequent, as yet unpublished Walker poster presentation) didn’t use any.

a positive control is an essential control that tells you whether your assay is working, so what you would do is you would take the target that you’re interested in detecting and put it into a test tube and use your assay to detect it. If you don’t detect it, you know there’s a problem with your assay because it’s a positive control. If you do detect it, you know your assay is working. If you do this consistently each time, you know how efficient your assay is from day to day.

The positive control is simply something that tells you that your assay is okay.

Q And a negative control?
A A negative control is something very crucial. There you leave out your target, so if you don’t detect it then that means that there’s no amplification, which is what you want. If you do detect a positive in a negative control then you know there’s a problem with your assay because it should not be there, and you always get suspicious of any assay that gives you a positive result in a negative control.

So, back to Uhlmann:

Q And did Uhlmann provide the information necessary to establish whether these controls were working as expected?
A No. One of the surprising aspects of this paper is they give you very little information about how the assay was performed, about what the results actually were, and it really does not let you evaluate at all how reliable and consistent the results are.

Q Is there any discussion in Uhlmann about contamination?
A No.

Q Is this important?
A It is essential because obviously if you are trying to detect a very low copy number target and there is contamination around, and if you do not know whether there’s contamination around, then you can’t rely on your assay.

……

Q Now, did Uhlmann discuss how the RNA was handled?
A No. As I think I said one of the things about this paper is that it’s fairly unique in my experience, and it’s given no information at all about what actually was done. It actually tells you in outline what they did, where they got their samples from and that they prepared RNA, but it gives you no information whatsoever about, for example, the quality of the RNA the quantity of the RNA and how the different RNAs were extracted from different samples which they refer to.

Without being sure of how RNA is handled, it is impossible to rule out contaminants. i.e. that the samples are contaminated. And there’s more:

Q Did you also identify a mismatch between the measles virus sequences listed in the paper and the probes?
A Yes. This is, again, well, it suggests that there’s a problem with the probe design.

Q Now, regarding consistency and reproducibility did Uhlmann provide any data regarding amplification sensitivity or efficiency?
A No. I need to come back to what I’ve been saying several times now. There’s this lack of information that doesn’t allow you to evaluate this paper properly in terms of its validity.

And specifically regarding the Walker poster presentation:

….Now, as I tried to point out today I think virtually every expert in this case has referred to controls are essential. You always want controls of your samples. There’s no controls on this. So even though this is a poster presentation at the very least there should be a negative control on there to show that the PCR in the negative control hasn’t worked.

We don’t have that information. So this immediately invalidates these results because we can’t now say whether these are genuine or not because there’s no negative control there. So that’s a real problem….

Q Unless these issues are resolved would you have confidence at least in what’s been presented from the Walker lab?
A I can’t have any confidence because there’s actually no results I can evaluate without referring to a negative or a positive control, and these don’t give them to me.

So basically, Mr PCR – the guy who literally wrote the book on PCR – thinks these two things – the Uhlmann paper and the Walker poster presentation – are essentially useless.

Lets also not forget that these two items describe the exact methodology that Unigentics – O’Leary’s lab – used to state that Wakefields/Krigsmans and a multitude of private cases had MV in their samples.

Oh yeah – and as for the old crapola about the two clinical studies done thus far not repudiating Wakefield et al because the look at blood, not gut, Bustin states emphatically:

this is not an assay that is at its limits so this should be easily detectible, and it also means that if you’ve got that much measles virus in a gut sample it probably is in other cells as well and you should be able to detect it, for example, in blood.

In blood.

Turning to Unigenetics itself, as part of the failed UK litigation against MMR, Bustin was asked to look at the lab and samples that the Unigentics team had worked on. For this work he put in an astonishing 1,500 hours of work.

Now, Professor O’Leary’s own controls tell us that this should have been shifted upwards because this is much poorer quality RNA. The evidence from his own data is completely clear. There’s no such shift. This must mean that whatever this is is a contaminant that has been introduced after the sample has been formalin-fixed.

So by definition this cannot be part of the original biopsy because if it had been it will have shifted upwards.

Ouch. But the next one is a body blow to the entire MMR hypothesis.

…if you have a reference gene in that sample that is a cellular reference gene you should detect it if the RNA is of good quality.

If you don’t detect it there’s something wrong with the RNA. As Professor O’Leary’s SOP states, if we can’t detect the GAPDH we shouldn’t use the sample for analysis, which makes perfect sense.

Now, it happens that Professor O’Leary did use those samples for his analysis, and that’s why I was able to then hopefully identify what the contaminant is.

To summarise: O’Leary’s RNA was poor quality. There is no reference gene. There is something wrong with the RNA. O’Learys lab SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) states that in the events of this happening, they shouldn’t use the sample for analysis. But they did use it. They used contaminated RNA for their analysis. And Bustin has identified exactly what the contaminant was.

But first, what is _definitely not_ ?

If you detect a target that is apparently measles virus in the absence of an RT [like this one] step by definition it can’t be measles virus because it has to be DNA [measles virus does not exist as a DNA molecule]. It’s a very simple concept. At least it is to me. It’s not to everyone else.

Whatever it is that O’Learys lab is picking up in their lab tests, it cannot possibly be Measles virus. No RT step was taken:

What I immediately observed was that they had forgotten to do the RT step

No RT step means it’s DNA. Measles virus does not exist as a DNA molecule. That’s simple medical fact. Bustin later summed up:

So all of this evidence suggests very, very strongly that what they are detecting is DNA and not RNA. Because measles virus doesn’t exist as a DNA molecule in nature, they cannot be detecting measles virus RNA. They are detecting a contaminant. All of the additional evidence, from the nonreproducibility by Professor Cotter of the same samples that Unigenetics analyzed to the analysis of the data where there are discordant positives, where the negatives came up positive, suggests very, very strongly to me that there is a lot of contamination in the laboratory, which is not unusual, but they have not handled it very well in how they have troubleshot their problems.

So I have very little doubt that what they are detecting is a DNA contaminant and not measles virus, and I do not believe there is any measles virus in any of the cases they have looked at.

And just as an added kick in the teeth:

Q Now, we know that cerebral spinal fluid samples were sent from Dr. Bradstreet to Unigenetics for testing. Do the same concerns you’ve outlined here apply to that testing?
A Yes. Exactly the same concerns would apply to that.

This testimony exposes the MMR hypothesis as totally dead in the water. What a waste of time, money and health.

Elsewhere

Arthur Allen in the Huffington Post
Autism Diva

Parents in lawsuit over Thoughtful House treatement

14 Nov

Father takes ex-wife to court over son’s autism treatment is the title of a recent story on Statesman.com. The subtitle: Mother says intravenous treatment at Thoughtful House is unproven and too dangerous..

Yes, it’s about chelation. The kid has been undergoing chelation (suppository), but the father wants to do IV chelation. From the Statesman:

Mario Martinez wants his wife’s consent to let their 7-year-old son, William, undergo intravenous chelation — the use of chemicals to remove metals, such as lead and mercury, from the body. Martinez, 39, said he thinks his son is making steady progress at the Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin by undergoing a less invasive form of chelation and wants the boy to start IV chelation.

The parents are divorced, with the father having primary care of the child. However, Thoughtful House requires both parents to consent to IV chelation.

The mother states that the suppository chelation has been ongoing for two years (yes, years) without progress, but with adverse side effects:

Juli Martinez said in an interview that her son has been receiving chelation in suppository form for two years, which she claims has made him ill. She said chelation hasn’t helped his autism but being in a regular classroom has.

The father has taken the mother to court to get the approval for the IV chelation.

Chelation is the process of removing metals from the body through drugs. Alternative medical practitioners (such as Thoughftul House) use chelation on the assumption that “heavy metal toxicity” is a factor in autism.

It isn’t. This is based on an incredibly bad hyptohesis (Autism is a “novel” form of mercury poisoning), and idea that actual medical toxicologists reject.

Chelation therapy for real heavy metal toxicity is not a prolonged process. Two years is very long. Chelation by suppository is a relatively inexpensive therapy. By contrast, IV chelation at thoughtful house involves $400 every two weeks in testing:

While there may not be scientific proof that chelation helps autism, anecdotal evidence exists, Mario Martinez said. He is willing to spend an extra $400 every two weeks on tests to make sure the twice-monthly IVs are safe, he said.

The father says that the IV chelation is great:

Mario Martinez, who has had primary custody of the couple’s two children since their 2007 divorce, disputes that chelation has made William ill and said that the boy had an IV chelation test that showed he easily tolerated it. He said it brought “immediate, dramatic results,” in which his learning and behavior improved.

I wonder what an “IV Chelation test” is? Did they do a round of IV chelation, without the mother’s consent? What about their rules that the mother has to approve?

Frankly, the mother should be the one taking the father to court.

The court proceeding has been put off until Dr. Jepson of Thoughful House can appear or give a deposition.

The mother is representing herself. Frankly, a medical toxicologist should step in to offer her some support to end this travesty.

Ritalin and the Health Ranger

5 Jul

According to the Natural News Network they “focus on providing empowering content for intelligent readers.” A recent example is a report on research into potential dangers from ritalin and similar stimulants that are prescribed to an increasing number of children and adolescents for the treatment of ADHD. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry an estimated 2.5 million children and teens in the USA are taking these drugs and their use amongst adults is increasing. So it is important to assess their safety.

Whatever their intelligence, readers are unlikely to feel empowered after reading Mike Adams’ (aka the Health Ranger) recent article for Natural News Network, “Ritalin ADHD Drug Linked to 500 Percent Increased Risk of Sudden Death in Children.”

He tells us that

According to scientific research funded by the FDA and the National Institute of Mental Health, drugs such as Ritalin increase the risk of sudden death by five hundred percent among children and teens

And that is all he tells us. There is nothing else about the research in the article, not even a reference or a web link to the research. We are told that according to other research (again no references are provided) “ADHD drugs stunt the physical growth of children while impairing brain development.”

Then we get the usual tirade about ADHD being a fictitious disease, invented by the drug companies in order to boost profits from drug sales. And of course they are in cahoots with the FDA and the psychiatric profession. This wholesale chemical poisoning of our children in the name of profit is, of course, a holocaust and children are dying day by day while the mainstream media remains silent.

The media are so compromised that our trusty Lone Ranger had to use all his ranger skills to unearth this story. Well no. Actually he set up a Google news alert and read it in the Washington Post and on ABC News. So much for the media conspiracy of silence.

Of course he had to rely on the media because the drug companies are busy supressing negative research and hiding it away in obscure journals aided and abetted by “Corrupt, dishonest psych doctors “ Except that the paper is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and it is open access so anyone can read it for free.

This conspiracy of silence seems even more unlikely when you read that the study was supported in part by a contract from the Food and Drug Administration and a grant from NIMH (R01-MH56250) and many of the study’sauthors have received funding from drug companies.

Dr. Walsh has received research support from AstraZeneca. Dr. Duan has received research support from Pfizer. Dr. Olfson has received research funding from Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca and has worked as a consultant for AstraZeneca and Pfizer and as a speaker for Janssen. Dr. Greenhill has received research support from Johnson & Johnson, Otsuka, and Forest. The remaining authors report no competing interests.

The study did something very simple.

Mortality data from 1985–1996 state vital statistics were used to identify 564 cases of sudden death occurring at ages 7 through 19 years across the United States along with a matched group of 564 young people who died as passengers in motor vehicle traffic accidents. The primary exposure measure was the presence of amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, methamphetamine, or methylphenidate according to informant reports or as noted in medical examiner records, toxicology results, or death certificates.

So the research team compared deaths in traffic accidents, on the assumption that children’s medication status would have little bearing on survival rates in such circumstances, with other instances of sudden death. They found that the rate of methylphenidate usage for unexplained sudden deaths was five times more than for deaths in road accidents. So does this mean that Ritalin will make your child five times more likely to die unexpectedly than a child who is not taking Ritalin?

Not exactly. The study did find a clear difference in rates of medication between the two groups and subsequent statistical analysis indicated that this difference was significant and not just an artefact. But what does it signify?

Around 4% of American children are currently taking prescribed medications like Ritalin for ADHD. So you would expect that if Ritalin was not a factor in sudden deaths amongst children, we could expect to find around 4% of such children on Ritalin or similar medications. That works out at around 45 children or 22/23 in each group. In fact they only found 12 children on such medications – 10 in the sudden death group and 2 of the victims of traffic accidents.

Rather than Ritalin increasing the likelihood of sudden death, it is plausible to argue from these figures that Ritalin protects against sudden death. Instead of an expected figure of 22/23 Ritalin users they found only 10. and for traffic accidents the figure is even more dramatic – 2 instead of 22/23.

The authors point to all sorts of reasons why their results hould treated with caution: the small sample size; recall bias amongst parents; the rarity of sudden unexplained deaths in children; even the idea that Ritalin protects against sudden death by making children less likely to engage in potentially life threatening actiivities.

If our intrepid health ranger had read the study he would have known this. He would have also known that he has completely misrepresented its findings. Actually, if he had only read the press reports that he links to, he would have known that he has completely misrepresented its findings. I think he does know this and has deliberately misrepresented this study. Either that or he is the victim of his own conspiracy theoryand is totally impervious to any evidence that contradicts his preconceptions.

Whatever the case may be, anyone studying at the University of Google is more likely to get a D minus than a PhD if they rely on the Health Ranger and Natural News for their information. Though to be fair he does do a nice line in organic hair care products from The Valley of Longevity and he will even help you to buy real estate in the actual Valley in southern Ecuador.