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Book Review: Do you believe in magic? The science and nonsense of alternative medicine.

26 Jun

The name Paul Offit is fairly well known in the autism communities. He has spent considerable time countering the false idea that the rise in autism diagnoses seen in the past is due to an epidemic of vaccine injury. He spends most of his time as Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is co-inventor of a vaccine which protects infants against rotavirus. Dr. Offit has written a number of books including one on autism: Autism’s False Prophets and one on the anti vaccine movements, which includes large sections on autism: Deadly Choices, How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. And now he has a new book on alternative medicine: Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.


There are two phrases which come to my mind when I hear about alternative medicine. First is a question: what do you call alternative medicine that works? Answer: medicine. The second phrase is more dark: medical fraud is a multi billion dollar business, and the bad guys know about autism.

Alternative medicine is big. Big as in a large fraction of the populations partakes in alt med in one form or another. Big as in it is big business. And, in terms of the subject of this site, big as in alt med is strongly promoted to and popular with the autism communities. Particularly the autism parent community.

As with other books by Dr. Offit, Do You Believe in Magic gives both sides of the various stories presented. He usually starts by giving the pro side, in this case the pro side of alternative medicine. For example, he presents the success stories of various alt-med practioners like chelationist Rashid Buttar and faux cancer therapist Stanislaw Burzynski. If you know the background behind a given story (say, Buttar) it can be quite jarring. You know that the claims aren’t true but you read Dr. Offit presenting them like they are. But when you get to the rebuttal it makes it very powerful.

The media has focused largely on the topic of vitamins–which does get a lot of play in the book. Dr. Offit points out how they supplement industry got a major boost from legislation which removed oversight on the industry. He also points out examples of how the claims for many supplements are either false (they don’t work) or worse (people on supplements live shorter lives than those with the same conditions who do not take supplements). As this is an autism focused site, I’ll point out the two chapters which focus on autism. The chapters largely center around various personalities and for autism the chapter focuses on Jenny McCarthy–the “pied piper of autism”. The chapter goes into detail–as in three page–listing the various theories of what causes autism (heavy metals, vaccines, misaligned spines, etc.) and the various therapies which are purported cures. Three pages. It’s amazing to see it laid out like that–showing that the alt-med community doesn’t have a real idea of what causes autism. Instead, they have dozens of ideas, sometimes contradictory, sometimes disproved, sometimes just without scientific merit. The second chapter with an autism focus is that on Rashid Buttar. He is a chelationist who includes autism as one of the many conditions he “treats”. He also came to fame recently as the doctor (recommended by Jenny McCarthy) chosen to treat Desiree Jennings, whose story of faux vaccine injury became a YouTube phenomenon.

In case you don’t recall him, here is Rashid Buttar’s IV chelation suite for children, complete with Disney characters painted on the walls.


Yes, there is room for 10 kids to receive IV chelation at the same time. Which is a small example of how this is big business. Dr. Offit makes the point even more clearly, with Dr. Buttar as one example. Many millions of dollars have been spent by patients on Dr. Buttar’s concoctions–some of which have been clearly shown to do nothing. Some people are getting very rich in the alt-med business. Very rich. Rashid Buttar is one. Stanislaw Burzynski is another. His cancer therapies are amazingly expensive, make no sense and are a grand example of selling false hope.

Bookstores are filled with books on alternative medicine. There are very few books which take a critical look at this industry. Do You Believe in Magic is a welcome addition. Unfortunately, it will likely never sell as well as false hope.

I recently had the opportunity to meet Dr. Offit. One question I posed to him was simply, why does he stay at a teaching hospital? Given his successes, he could do pretty much anything he wants. His answer boiled down to simply–he is doing what he wants. He has the freedom to say what he wants. On more than one occasion this has led to frivolous lawsuits, and even those haven’t shut him up. In his latest book he takes on faux medicine, practitioners who are making huge profits from it and the leglistors who facilitated the industry. One could ponder who will sue him first except that facts are laid out so clearly as to make it difficult for anyone to do so.

By Matt Carey

Another anti-vaccine rally fizzles

24 Feb

A handful of “outraged” anti-vaccine activists occupied part of the sidewalk at the corner to 6th Ave. and 52nd St. today and listened to other angry anti-vaccine activists promote an anti-vaccine book and denounce Bill Gates.

Witnesses report 18 participants at an event which promoters predicted would draw “tens of thousands” of parents supposedly angry at the portrayal of the people they follow. One New York-based anti-vaccine group’s press release  proclaimed “Bill Gates: We are not Child Killers” and read:

The protest and press conference against Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates challenges his controversial remarks on national TV that those who question vaccine safety “kill children.” The attendees are demanding an immediate apology from Gates. The press conference will take place outside the Microsoft Executive Offices at 1290 Avenue of the Americas (corner of 52nd Street) in Manhattan. These groups will hold additional protests in Manhattan, Long Beach and Omaha where Gates will be speaking publically.

Gates’s actual words, spoken in a February 4 CNN interview, were aimed at leaders in the anti-vaccine movement who mislead parents into leaving their children vulnerable to dangerous diseases.

Well, Dr. Wakefield has been shown to have used absolutely fraudulent data. He had a financial interest in some lawsuits, he created a fake paper, the journal allowed it to run. All the other studies were done, showed no connection whatsoever again and again and again. So it’s an absolute lie that has killed thousands of kids. Because the mothers who heard that lie, many of them didn’t have their kids take either pertussis or measles vaccine, and their children are dead today. And so the people who go and engage in those anti-vaccine efforts — you know, they, they kill children. It’s a very sad thing, because these vaccines are important.

At least one anti-vaccine press release called on “tens of thousands of outraged parents” to participate in a multi-city event.

The rally was organized by Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland, authors of Vaccine Epidemic, which has sold about 1,300 copies. Holland is an anti-vaccine lawyer. Habakus is an anti-vaccine activist who can be seen here on stage with a guy who sang “Vaccine Gestapo” at last year’s anti-vaccine rally in Chicago’s Grant Park. Sample lyrics:

They have swastikas on their shoulders
They’re such patriotic soldiers
They’re like a militia in Montana
They’re a government agency in Atlanta
Vaccine gestapo! Vaccine gestapo!
Vaccine gestapo! Vaccine gestapo!

That event drew about 100 participants to hear disgraced former gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield denounce vaccines.

A spokesperson for Gates emailed us today to say “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation believes in the strong evidence behind the efficacy and safety of vaccines. There is overwhelming medical consensus that autism is not caused by vaccines.”

The southeast corner of 6th Ave. and 52nd St. in Manhattan where not much happened today.

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.

Facebook is the new vaccines

11 Mar

I thought I’d maybe travelled a couple of weeks forward in time and was reading a particularly stupid April Fools joke news report when I saw the Daily Mail were reporting:

Of course, we do not know whether the current increase in autism is due more to increased awareness and diagnosis of autism, or whether it can – if there is a true increase – be in any way linked to an increased prevalence among people of spending time in screen relationships. Surely it is a point worth considering,’ she added.

‘She’ in this instance is Professor Susan Greenfield of Oxford University, which just goes to show that even a massively intelligent person can also be a monumental idiot on occasion too. Some other gems of wisdom include:

‘My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.’

Buzzing noises and bright lights. I think these opinions reflect the lack of experience Professor Greenfield has with computers rather than any accurate reflection of how a PC or Mac actually works.

Note something about this totally ridiculous piece of journalism. They use buzzwords like Twitter and Facebook that the average uninformed Daily Mail reader might’ve seen but have no real idea about. They also clearly are talking about the opinions of one woman. At no point is any study or science referenced to support this Professors opinions.

In the eighties the Daily Mail was one of those newspapers convinced that ‘video nasties’ (straight to video low budget horror movies) would bring about the end of civilisation. In the nineties they were of course standard bearers for antivaccination beliefs. In the noughties they’ve published a few pieces on the evils of the nasty Intraweb.

But of course what really annoys me about this is the fastening on to autism. Its explained how naturally autistic people function online is a possible example of how the online environment (Facebook, Bebo, Twitter etc) are (oh dear god!) rewiring the brains of our children and making them autistic.

Never mind the fact that most new cases of autism are diagnosed in kids under three whos only interaction with a PC up to that point would be to try and push a rusk into the DVD tray. Never mind the fact that adult autistics are pretty wary of social networks at first. Lets just find another way to demonise autism and blame it on something else for which there is no supporting science whatsoever.

Sharyl Attkisson's long history of anti-vaccinationism

1 Aug

As blogged by Mike, Liz, Autism News Beat, Kristina and Orac, CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson seems to the prime suspect in the matter of how a fax sent to CBS News by Voices for Vaccines turned up on the Age of Autism blog less than 1 day later.

This matters. Reporters are supposed to be independent. They are supposed to give a balanced view. The very act of forwarding this fax to Age of Autism simply confirms that someone at CBS News, mostly likely Ms Attkisson, is deeply affiliated with Age of Autism. This makes her conflicted and she is totally the wrong person to be investigating the autism/vaccine hypothesis.

I went looking to see what else I could find to support my opinion that Ms Attkisson is someone who is not a reporter, but someone presenting her opinion in the name of investigative news. I found plenty.

Take this ‘interview‘ with Rep. Dave Weldon about the Poling case. I put the word interview in single quotes because it really isn’t an interview, its more a series of questions to allow Weldon to trot out a series of inaccuracies supportive of the idea vaccines cause autism. This is the sort of journalist who would ask God ‘tell me God, do you believe in creationism?’ And then give God a five minute run to explain how he does.

She was also the CBS employee (it seems wrong to keep saying she is a reporter) who interviewed Bernadine Healy in which the former Philip Morris shill said we should re-examine the autism/vaccine idea.

Over on the ‘No Mercury’ website, there is a long list of videos of Ms Attkisson (35 in total, dating back to March 2002) of which all seem to be ‘investigations’ into vaccines and other pharma related activities.

This piece which relates some of the most common and mind-numbingly stupid antivax canards around is just about the clearest indication of her loyalties. Anyone who states the following is not impartial and should not be investigating this story:

Non-profits which dispel any vaccine/autism/ADD link have ties to vaccine makers.

How urban legends get started

27 Jul

Its not often we in the autism/bad science community (you’ll know who we are, just look for the Reptiles who guard our huge mansions paid for by big pharma, or our Black Helicopters parked outside said mansions) get to see the actual birth of a brand new urban legend. When we do, we must tread warily, lest we scare off the fledgling nuttiness like bird watchers creeping up on a White-rumped Sandpiper.

But here we are, presented to you courtesy of two genuine, grade a mouth-frothers from those hallowed fori of all things anti-vaccine JABS (not, as some think an acronym for Just Awful British Silliness).

First, lets meet ‘Guss the Fuss’ – a person who ends each post with the legend ‘MMR RIP’, he seems to be under the delusion that the MMR is in some way dead. Or maybe that its pulled off a spectacular fart.

Second, is ‘Truthseeker’ who is non other than the owner of, one John Scudamore, a strange person who features anti-Semitic material on their site along with ‘The Illuminati Formula Used to Create an Undetectable Total Mind Controlled Slave’. Also apparently a man who thinks that satanic ley lines burnt his bottom. In fact, so impressed was I with Mr Scudamore, I decided to create the first in a series of Bad Science tarot cards, commemorating his ass-related event.

John Scudamore - Tarot

Anyway, on this occasion, these two paragons of anti-vaccinationism managed to start an urban legend that fullfilled the prime directive of anti-vaccinationism; its bullshit.

Gus The Fuss started a thread entitled: Sainsbury’s to offer holiday MMR jabs.

Oh no, the horror….except when Guss (the Fuss) linked through to the story, well, there was absolutely no mention of MMR whatsoever. When this was pointed out to him, he answered:

Dr Thomas P again you’ve proven to take articles at face value…


Someone else attempted to gently remonstrate with Guss (the) Fuss:

Gus, this is a story about getting vaccines against diseases you may encounter on holiday. Have you not read it?

There’s nothing about scheduled vaccines, is there? Eh? Is there?

Sainsbury’s are NOT offering the MMR vaccine.

And thats when John ‘Truthseeker’ Scudamore turned up:

Who is mentally ill and showing sociopathic tendancies out of you or Gus. The bad science PHD Doctor who is happy that allopathic mnedicine is still killing 750,000 americans each year and you still condone it? The bad science PHD who will not even attack the indusrty that commits this genocide? You are either a Sociopath or you are mentally ill as you can not see reality as is or you condone genocide.

All this about a total non-story.

This, Dear Reader, is how anti-vaccination/autism bull gets started and spread. Someone makes up a story, links to a news story that has a slight relationship to it and then….away we go!

Thanks JABS, for making sure misinformation grows. Thats really helpful!

The Great Autism Rip-off

1 Jun

I had to pinch myself to check I was actually awake and not dreaming when this landed in my inbox this morning.

This is a truly excellent piece of journalism on autism and the growing CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine) industry (Small Pharma?) that surrounds it. And its in the Daily Mail.

I can imagine many people choking on their cornflakes this morning. A little JAB of reality.

In this burgeoning market, private doctors and clinics have sprung up across the UK claiming they can treat or even ‘reverse’ the disorder.

Recent research published in the Journal Of Developmental And Behavioural Paediatrics found that a third of parents of autistic children have tried unproven ‘alternative’ treatments.

Worryingly, the study claims one in ten has used what the experts class as ‘a potentially harmful approach’.

I’d personally say the figures were a little lower than that now. As MMR fear in the UK has tapered off, parents turning to CAM has (I think) dropped off. One only has to take a look at the slackening number of posters on the various anti-vaccine pro-CAM autism websites such as JABS to see this in action.

Parent to four autistic children, Jacqui Jackson explained how many of us try something silly before coming to our senses:

‘I bought enzymes and supplements from America, which cost a fortune. I even paid thousands for a special mattress, blankets and pillows with magnets sewn into them that the sales people promised would do wonders but, of course, didn’t work.

‘Autism is seen by some people as big business.

‘I meet parents who want a cure and spend money in the hope they’ll have a normal child. I try to warn them that there is no evidence any of these things work, but they’ll often go ahead.’

I hold my hands up and admit we tried a bit of quackery – fad diets and even homeopathy (its all on this blog somewhere) – because we didn’t know any better basically.

In his exposé the Mail reporter claimed to have an autistic child so he could ask some CAM autism practitioners over here what to try:

During my investigation, I was recommended expensive tests, vitamin supplements and special diets, ointments, suppositories and injections to ‘flush out toxic heavy metals’, bizarre-sounding high-pressure oxygen chambers and intravenous infusions of hormones – and told in each case that they could bring about a complete recovery from autism.

Yet medical experts say there is no evidence to support their claims, and in fact many of the treatments I was offered were potentially harmful, and even possibly fatal.

The experience left me disturbed at the lack of regulation surrounding these practices.

Its nice to hear someone from the mainstream media stating what some of us have been stating for the last few years!

The report mentioned how:

This week, new legislation aimed at protecting consumers from ‘rogue traders’ came into force, prohibiting businesses from making ‘false claims’ that a product is able to cure illness.

Its about time. Hopefully, some of these CAM artists will be investigated under the auspices of this new law.

The reporter went to see a few DAN! registered UK docs. The experience wasn’t pretty. One made outlandish claims for Secretin but didn’t ask for any medical records. One pushed chelation and never mentioned Tariq Nadama. Another said the reporter would have to commit to a year of rubbing in a skin cream chelator of dubiouis eficacy. Dr Lorene Amet failed to disclose that she wasn’t actually a doctor of medicine (its not uncommon for DAN! ‘doctors’ to not actually be doctors).

Its a highly revealing piece of a grubby, grasping little world that preys on the parents of autistic people. Thanks are due to the Mail for reporting on this so accurately and thoroughly.

An Open Letter To The Poling’s

12 Apr

Dear Poling family,

Let me first start by saying that your little girl is beautiful. I am father to two girls (as well as one boy, young man now actually) so I know how great it is to have such wonderful little people around.

I read Jon Poling’s commentary in the AJC and I have to say that I was very disappointed by the level of accuracy in the piece. For example, he says:

On Nov. 9, 2007, HHS medical experts conceded through the Department of Justice that Hannah’s autism was triggered by nine childhood vaccinations administered when she was 19 months of age…

Now I have taken a keen interest in your families case since it became clear what the situation was. I _think_ I have read most of the newspaper reports available online as well as (more importantly) the HHS document itself and (even more importantly) the case study co-authored by Andrew Zimmerman and Jon Poling.

Nowhere, I repeat, nowhere, have I seen anyone from either the HHS, CDC, US Government, or even the Zimmerman/Poling case study say that ‘Hannah’s autism was triggered by nine childhood vaccinations’.

I have seen David Kirby refer to this several times. I have heard lots of people refer to these statements as if they are true and now I hear you doing it too.

But where is this concession?

In what legal, scientific or medical document does it state unequivocally that ‘Hannah’s autism was triggered by nine childhood vaccinations’?

You are a family on the cusp of storm. You need to take more care with your statements. People all over the world are listening. The *fact* as of right now is that no one has conceded ‘Hannah’s autism was triggered by nine childhood vaccinations’. Simply stating it as if it were true does not make it true.

The HHS expert documents that led to this concession and accompanying court documents remain sealed, though our family has already permitted release of Hannah’s records to those representing the almost 5, 000 other autistic children awaiting their day in vaccine court.

Now this confuses me on two levels. Firstly, Special Masters have already said that:

….in the case that is the subject of the media reports, if the parties who supplied documents and information in the case provide their written consent, we may then be able to appropriately disclose documents in the case.

It sounds to me like Dr Poling is trying to turn something around onto the HHS without justification. Maybe your legal team haven’t told you about this news. I understand they’re very busy of late.

The second part of Dr Poling’s statement that confuses me is the allusion to the records being released ‘to those representing the almost 5, 000 other autistic children’.

I thought that you wanted your documents to be made entirely public? Are you now saying you only want the legal teams of the other omnibus lawyers to have access to them?

I would also like to draw your attention to the email I sent to Terry Poling on March 5th asking why the Poling family had not cleared Dr Andrew Zimmerman from speaking publicly about the case. Does the Poling fmaily have any intention of lifting that embargo any time soon?

Dr Poling goes on:

Emerging evidence suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction may not be rare at all among children with autism. In the only population-based study of its kind, Portuguese researchers confirmed that at least 7.2 percent, and perhaps as many as 20 percent, of autistic children exhibit mitochondrial dysfunction. While we do not yet know a precise U.S. rate, 7.2 percent to 20 percent of children does not qualify as “rare.” In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction may be the most common medical condition associated with autism.

This is very disingenuous Dr Poling. I am not sure if you are purposefully distorting the truth or simply not as knowledgeable as you think. In point of fact the figure of 7.2% is from a 2005 study ‘Mitochondrial dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders: a population-based study‘. This is _not_ (as you state) ‘the only population-based study of its kind’. It was in fact a precursor to a _second_ follow up study by the same lead researcher correcting his own data.

This second study (published October 2007) is called ‘Epidemiology of autism spectrum disorder in Portugal: prevalence, clinical characterization, and medical conditions’.

This study declares a 4.1% figure. It is disingenuous in the extreme to refer to old science when newer, more accurate science exists on the subject (and by the same author no less!).

Further, as far as I can tell, the figure of 20% has but one source – a non published summary for attendees of a 2003 LADDERS conference in Boston, USA. Therefore it has not been subject to any kind of peer review. That’s not to say the figure is wrong, merely that it hasn’t been verified or undergone any kind of the usual scientific checks and balances a published piece of work must undertake to ensure quality. This is not ’emerging science’ Dr Poling. Its a set of program notes.

Further, as I understand it from talking to people involved in all three of these different items, the percentages you talk about are expressed percentages _of regressive autism only_ . Now I might have that wrong but I’m pretty sure that’s what was communicated to me.

Taking this into account, when Dr Poling states that:

In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction may be the most common medical condition associated with autism..

and he goes on to suggest population numbers between 10,000 (1%) , 72,000 (7.2%) and 200,000 (20%) of the autistic population he estimates at one million in the US, he is incorrect.

However, if I have understood what is said to me then we need to look at regressive autism numbers only, which are estimated to account for 25%-30% of autistic people. Therefore we are looking at not 7.2% or 20% (one is incorrect, one is not scientifically justified) of one million. We are actually looking at 4.1% (the only scientifically valid number) of between 25 – 30% of one million. Lets take the upper figure of 30%. This gives us a population of 300,000 for regressive autism. Applying the 4.1% estimate we can see that – at best and only if this data is all correct – mitochondrial autism may affect about 13,000 autistic people – 1.3%. If we took the lower range of 25% for regressive autism, we barely get over 1% (10,250).

Secondly, it should be noted that approximately 40% of autism can be accounted for genetically. This already makes it the single largest established cause(s).

Dr Poling goes on to say:

Today there is no doubt that mitochondrial dysfunction represents a distinct autism subpopulation biological marker.

This is true. However, prefacing this sentence with the word ‘today’ gives the highly misleading impression that autism has been associated with mitochondrial disorders and/or dysfunctions only since Hannah Poling came into out collective conciousness. This is far from the case. I can find instances in the scientific literature going back to 1986, over 20 years ago discussing mitochondria and autism and a PubMed search for ‘mitochondrial autism’ yields 34 quality papers published over a 20 year period. This is hardly a new thing Dr Poling.

As a neurologist, I have cared for those afflicted with SSPE (a rare but dreaded neurological complication of measles), paralytic polio and tetanus. If these serious vaccine-preventable diseases again become commonplace, the fault will rest solely on the shoulders of public health leaders and policymakers who have failed to heed the writing on the wall (scribbled by my 9-year old daughter).

I fear that this is projection. You are very close to pushing an anti-vaccine agenda Dr Poling and indeed Terry Poling was active an the Yahoo Group ‘Recovered Kids’ from at least Summer 2001 where she says things like:

Really, the only way to obliterate a disease is to vaccinate everybody – or at least so “they” say

Sept 2001.

Had I told the hospital staff she was autistic they would not have believed me. The same held true for a (sic) educational consultant who came to evaluate hannah the day before the fever started. She said in her report she saw absolutely no autistic behaviors.

Nov 2001.

She has mitochondrial disease which causes her autism.

March 2004.

I do know docs that speak for drug companies but they cover all the meds for a particular disease in their talks with other docs. If they do not agree that the drug is best for certain conditions on the whole they say so.

Feb 2003.

…it [autism] is a DSM set of symptoms. When the symptoms disappear you cannot say the child still has autism…..

Oct 2001.

So Dr Poling when you try to lay the blame for vaccine preventable injuries increasing at the foot of those agencies assigned to try and stop them reappearing I think that is farcical. To me it is clear that the main responsibility lies with those who shun what are by and large safe safe vaccines on the strength of a hypothesis that is nowhere _close_ to scientific truth. I urge you to read this article and the comments left by readers. Its clear who they see as responsible. For example:

Don’t want to vaccinate your kids? Fine with me. Just don’t send them to school where they then put my kids at risk because of your decision.

You are deluding yourself if you think you can turn responsibility for shunning vaccines back on health agencies Dr Poling.

All in all Dr and nurse Poling I think that your public use of misinformation and erroneous science to make your point will serve you no good in the long run. I also continue to be puzzled by your refusal to ‘ungag’ Andrew Zimmerman. I hope you can start to realise that what has ‘happened’ to Hannah is far from remarkable. Best wishes from one autism parent to another.

Vaccines, Autism and the Concession

1 Mar

1) Concession Report (This document has been removed due to the possibility of it being illegally obtained). If people really wish to read the document for themselves it can be founf here, at the Huffington post
2) Zimmerman Case Study

When David Kirby wrote his piece in the Huffington Post, I’ll admit I read it with my jaw on my chest. Here was evidence I was wrong. I emailed David Kirby to get the whole report from him and he was kind enough to provide not only a PDF version but a plain text version as well.

This enabled me to contact a few people that I know are medical people and/or scientists and/or closely connected to this case. For example I contacted Dr Zimmerman and learned that it was not possible for him to offer any sort of opinion on this case due to the fact that his patients parents had not allowed him to discuss his thoughts and opinions with anyone except the court. I was told however that ‘the comments on your site with questions raised and loopholes pointed out about the way others are interpreting the facts of the situation, are right on track.’

It is clear to me then that there is some wordsmithing going on – either deliberately or unintentionally. What we need to do is look closely at the wording of two documents. The concession report and the case study performed by Dr Zimmerman.

The claim by David Kirby et al is, in essence, that the US Government have conceded that vaccines cause autism in this one case. Lets look at the so-called concession report in relation to what it says about autism.

Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist, evaluated CHILD……on February 8, 2001. Dr. Zimmerman reported that after CHILD’s immunizations of July 19, 2000, an “encephalopathy progressed to persistent loss of previously acquired language, eye contact, and relatedness.” He noted a disruption in CHILD’s sleep patterns, persistent screaming and arching, the development of pica to foreign objects, and loose stools. Id. Dr. Zimmerman observed that CHILD watched the fluorescent lights repeatedly during the examination and would not make eye contact. He diagnosed CHILD with “regressive encephalopathy with features consistent with an autistic spectrum disorder, following normal development.”

Features consistent with. He did not diagnose her with autism. What were these features?

1) encephalopathy progressed to persistent loss of previously acquired language,
2) eye contact,
3) relatedness
4) disruption in CHILD’s sleep patterns,
5) persistent screaming
6) arching,
7) the development of pica to foreign objects,
8) loose stools
9) CHILD watched the fluorescent lights repeatedly during the examination
10) would not make eye contact

Of these ten, one is repeated (eye contact issues) so I make nine clear separate symptoms there. Which of these appear in the DSM (IV)? Green equal matches, red equal misses.

1) Loss of previously acquired language
2) Eye Contact
3) Relatedness
4) disruption in CHILD’s sleep patterns,
5) Persistent screaming
6) Arching
7) the development of pica to foreign objects,
8) loose stools
9) CHILD watched the fluorescent lights repeatedly during the examination

To meet the DSM(IV) criteria a person must meet no less than 6 of the criteria. So, as described perfectly exactly by the Dr Zimmerman in the concession report, this child has features consistent with an ASD. But its clear she does not meet the criteria for autism.

Later on,

CHILD was evaluated by Alice Kau and Kelley Duff, on May 16, 2001, at CARDS. The clinicians concluded that CHILD was developmentally delayed and demonstrated features of autistic disorder.

Almost the exact same phrasing. Consistent with. But no one has said thus far that the child has been diagnosed with an ASD.

The concession report concludes with:

the vaccinations CHILD received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder….

This is the phrasing that caused the uproar. But when looked at in light of the previous, it is clear that far from suggesting that vaccines cause autism via a mitochondrial disorder, the vaccines worsened an occluded or underlying mitochondrial disorder which took on a few of the symptoms of autism _but was never actually diagnosed as autism at all_ . Because it wasn’t autism.

Before we switch to Dr Zimmerman’s Case Study, lets clear up a few things.

No one, I repeat, no one is saying this child wasn’t autistic. She may well have been. What we are doing is looking at the science reported in the concession report and Zimmerman’s paper and seeing if what the _science_ says in these two papers means that it was the vaccines that caused any autism. The concession report clearly says that no it wasn’t. Thats why this case was uncontested. She was affected by her vaccines but autism was not the result.

Zimmerman’s case study is entitled ‘Developmental Regression and Mitochondrial Dysfunction in a Child With Autism’ – this is further evidence against the case presented that it was the vaccines that caused the autism. This child is reported as being one with autism. Not one who develops autism as a result of vaccines.

However, it is clear that this child _does_ develop autism:

We describe a female patient in whom developmental regression and autism followed normal development…..Evaluation at 23 months showed …..[t]he Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) score was 33 (mild autism range), and she also met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for
Mental Disorders-IV criteria for autism

and yet this autism was so mild that at that exact same period (23 months):

the patient began speaking again at 23 months old

which means that expressive language was lost for a sum total of one month (it is reported being lost at 22 months). It should also be noted that CARS is _not_ designed for diagnosis but is an indicator only. Overall, we get a picture of a child who had an underlying mitochondrial dysfunction exposed by the illnesses following her vaccinations which caused developmental regression. This developmental regression presented with some features of autism.

Did the vaccinations cause her developmental regression? Seems likely. It is an undisputed fact that vaccines do cause injury, that is why after all there is a compensation program to claim from in the US and the UK.

Was her developmental regression autism? No. At no point in either the concession report is it claimed that the developmental regression the child went through _was_ autism. However, in the same way that Leukemia (weakness, paleness; fever and flu-like symptoms) can have the same symptoms as flu (weakness, paleness; fever and flu-like symptoms) but be totally different, this child’s developmental regression shared certain features of autism.

So was this child autistic. She might well have been. However, her autism was not caused by a vaccine.


This column was forwarded to me by a friend. Thanks to him.

The practice of calling certain things near-autism, or even autism itself is not new. Here’s a quote from a Science article regarding HIV in 1989:

The signs of AIDS dementia in children are clear and, Pizzo says, “very painful to watch. Very young children lose words.” Words like “mommy” and “daddy” and “bear” are too hard to remember as the AIDS virus multiplies in the young child’s body and penetrates the central nervous

An 8-year-old boy, once normal, was rendered practically autistic by HIV, Pizzo said. He stopped speaking. Asked to trace a simple
outline of an elephant, the boy could not. Painfully, he knew what a simple task it was, and he knew he was failing it. But he could not cry even though his doctors could see tears welling up in his eyes.

Pizzo has seen children lose IQ points one boy lost as many as 28-as AIDS ravages their brains. “Kids who used to do well in school really deteriorate,” says Pizzo who has “before and after” IQ data from school-age children.

But in a series of remarkable studies, Pizzo has seen AZT (azidothymidine) reverse these symptoms. The child who lost words like “mommy” and “daddy” “got them back,” Pizzo says. The boy who lost IQ points is restored to his former capacity.

The 8 year old cries. After just a couple of weeks of continuous AZT therapy, the boy who could not trace an elephant is successful at tracing a horse.

Now, we all know that ‘tracing an elephant’ and losing IQ points are not symptoms of autism but it is intriguing to see a doctor describe a regression as ‘practically autistic’. Note also, just like in this case, in Zimmermans case study, the child quickly loses, then very quickly regains aspects of their former regression. But HIV didn’t cause autism any more than vaccines did.

Ya ken that hidden horde, aye?

24 Feb

So – the ‘Hidden Horde’ – the term that anti-vaccinationists like to smirk about as evidence of an autism epidemic. The logic goes like this: if there’s no autism epidemic then where are all the [insert age here] year old autistic adults? I’ve heard people asking for evidence of 75 year old autistics (conveniently forgetting that the average mortality age in the US and UK is around 70), 50 year olds – even 30 year olds.

Never mind that there’s been plenty of evidence for adult autistics. Thats not convenient for the anti-vaccinationist agenda so it gets ignored.

Anyway, todays Sunday Herald carries another story about adult autistics in Scotland called ‘Revealed: ‘invisible’ adults living with autism’.

According to the National Autistic Society (NAS) Scotland report, due to be launched this week, 52% of adults have not had an assessment of their needs since the age of 18…..It is estimated that more than 35,000 adults in Scotland have the condition, but campaigners said they were “invisible” to local authorities, who are failing to record the number of people with autism in their area.

The population of Scotland is 5,062,011. The latest prevalence estimates for the UK are 1 in 100. This means that 50,620 people are autistic. If 35,000 adults in Scotland are autistic then 69% of autistic people in Scotland are adults.

Hidden horde aye?