Respectful Insolence

I’m not normally one to do link roundups or Instapundit-style one sentence “link and comment” posts. Sure, I do them occasionally, but I think the reason that I don’t is that to me blogging is a way to express my views, not just to point to the views at others (in other words, because I’m just too enamored of my own prose). However, because of a bizarre confluence of my being at the AACR meeting and a bunch of good stuff showing up, there were some items that I just didn’t have the chance to comment on, even though I wanted to. Moreover, because I want to do a couple of posts on the AACR meeting itself (perhaps pounding them out while I’m on a transcontinental flight home a couple of hours from now) and because Your Friday Dose of Woo has to be done in a day, there’s the very real possibility that I may never get around to them. So, in order to make sure that they’re out there and mentioned, here are a few links worth reading.

On antivaccination hysteria:

  1. Autism myth lives on. Sam Wang, an Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Neuroscience at Princeton University and co-author of Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life, takes on the myth that vaccines cause autism.
  2. Government Aims to Appease Vaccine Critics: Officials Hope to Avoid a Crisis of Confidence in Vaccines, Critical for Public Health. Arthur Allen, author of Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver, correctly characterizes a recent public meeting held at the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office as an attempt to appease antivaccinationists. Money quote: The vaccine establishment needs public confidence in order to protect public health. But is its goal to empower opponents of vaccination, or to get them to stop spreading dangerous nonsense over the Internet? It might never bridge the gap between science-based informed opinion and those who demand changes in vaccine policy based on no evidence. A place at the table is fine. But people with knowledge have to be in charge. Amen, brother Art. Amen. Of course, you do realize that now you’ll be accused of being an elitist, don’t you?

Two articles on pharmaceutical company chicanery that I noticed too soon before my flight home to say much:

  1. FDA: Heparin fraud suspected: But no proof drug’s contamination was intentional, chief says. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Given China’s lax regulations reminiscent of the situation in the U.S. at the height of the robber baron era and that China can’t even keep its supplement industry from letting its herbal products be contaminated with led and mercury, why on earth do we allow U.S. pharmaceutical companies to outsource so much of their production to China? The FDA is overburdened and underfunded; it has trouble policing domestic pharmaceutical companies adequately. So how does the government and pharmaceutical companies think they can adequately monitor ingredients made in China? Americans have died because of this debacle.
  2. Key Vioxx Research Was Written by Merck and Documents Allege and Maker of Vioxx Is Accused of Deception. This does not look good. I’m going to have to look up the studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Maybe I’ll blog on them next week, after I’ve had a chance to read them both in detail. (I don’t think I’ll have time to get to it before the weekend; that is, if you want Your Friday Dose of Woo.) One thing that bothers me a little bit about these studies after glancing at them quickly is that some of the authors on both studies appear to have been either consultants or expert witnesses for plaintiffs suing Merck. If we’re going to emphasize conflicts of interest due to pharmaceutical companies, it’s only fair to point out other conflicts of interest as well. I’ll reserve judgment until I can read the actual papers, though.

Homeward bound!

Comments

  1. #1 Natalie
    April 16, 2008

    Anyone who enjoys shooting fish in a barrel may want to pop over to the comments on Sam Wang’s article. There is a serious stupid epidemic over there, and there’s only 14 comments so far, so most of the stupid has not been treated yet.

  2. #2 Liesl
    April 16, 2008

    Anyone have any idea how to find out where our meds are being made? or, where the ingredients are coming from? You know, I could use a new dose of paranoia with my daily anticoag. :->

  3. #3 Landru
    April 16, 2008

    That USA Today comments thread is a marvel of stupidity, with commenters trashing each other at length, based on an inability to read each others’ comments, supplemented by a commenter who believes that we can thrash the autism out of godless children and anchored by the usual paranoid conspiracy theorists. It’s very nearly delightful, except of course not.

  4. #4 Jim
    April 17, 2008

    Kind of on topic; this months Redbook has a mommy struggling to raise an autistic child. I could not force myself to read it after seeing she turned to Jenny, DAN and some homeopathetic type for her answers.

  5. #5 Porlock Hussein Junior
    April 17, 2008

    Wednesday’s AP story on the Vioxx affair noted that the papers had in some cases been written by Merck’s consultants, but the people who did the research were allowed to review them and suggest revisions.

    The word “suggest” is theirs, not mine.

    There isn’t much more to say, is there? Except maybe a little more public education, 400 years so far not having been sufficient, to inform enough people about science that this stuff doesn’t pass unnoticed but leads to some executives and consultants being shown the instruments of torture.

  6. #6 Porlock Hussein Junior
    April 17, 2008

    OK, your goddam server decided get a 500 error after waiting a few minutes, so here is another try, with apologies — no, complaints — if it comes out duplicated:

    Wednesday’s AP story on the Vioxx affair noted that the papers had in some cases been written by Merck’s consultants, but the people who did the research were allowed to review them and suggest revisions.

    The word “suggest” is theirs, not mine.

    There isn’t much more to say, is there? Except maybe a little more public education, 400 years so far not having been sufficient, to inform enough people about science that this stuff doesn’t pass unnoticed but leads to some executives and consultants being shown the instruments of torture.

  7. #7 Porlock Hussein Junior
    April 17, 2008

    Your sever hates me. Is it prejudiced against my name? Anyway, my third attempt to submit this for publication, after which I’ll lay off for a while:

    Wednesday’s AP story on the Vioxx affair noted that the papers had in some cases been written by Merck’s consultants, but the people who did the research were allowed to review them and suggest revisions.

    The word “suggest” is theirs, not mine.

    There isn’t much more to say, is there? Except maybe a little more public education, 400 years so far not having been sufficient, to inform enough people about science that this stuff doesn’t pass unnoticed but leads to some executives and consultants being shown the instruments of torture.

  8. #8 LanceR
    April 17, 2008

    Porlock,

    The 500 error is a common failing here on Scienceblogs. Please do not repost your comments, the server error is only when it tries to refresh the page.

    Your comment will come through.

  9. #9 LanceR
    April 17, 2008

    Is it irony when my comment about the 500 error kicks up a 500 error?

    <grin>

  10. #10 Orac
    April 17, 2008

    Please e-mail webmaster@scienceblogs.com and complain. I’ve already pointed the problem out on numerous occasions; maybe some tactical air support will finally get it fixed.

  11. #11 ktesibios
    April 17, 2008

    Orac, I would happily give up the Friday dose of woo in favor of a full blog post on the Vioxx studies.

    That heparin story made me go “woahhh!”. I had an embolic stroke last month and spent several days in the hospital hooked up to a continuous infusion of- you guessed it- heparin. Since I’m back on the street, I reckon i must have gotten the good stuff.

    With the record they’ve racked up, China should simply be blacklisted for any product intended for use in humans (and, after the poison pet food incident, perhaps for products intended for consumption by any living being). If it’s necessary to offshore pharma manufacturing, there are countries where plenty of scientific and engineering expertise is available that aren’t ruled by crime syndicates. For example, two of the meds I take to help keep my plumbing from clogging up (simvastatin and benazepril) are both genrics manufactured by Teva in Israel.

    For Liesl: my pharmacy prints the manufacturer’s name on the prescription labels. That’s how I know who the maker is and where they’re located (looked them up online).

  12. #12 Liesl
    April 17, 2008

    Ktesibios: The thing that concerns me is not knowing where all of the constituent parts in a med might be manufactured. It seems like the drug could be manufactured in the States but some of the ingredients could be acquired from other countries. Wasn’t that the case with Heparin? Or was it totally manufactured in China? My head hurts from not knowing! I also wonder if this is a problem that makes injectables particularly vulnerable. Then again, I only pay attention to the injectables because that is what directly concerns me. Anyway, what do you think?

  13. #13 Porlock Hussein Junior
    April 17, 2008

    Your sever hates me. Is it prejudiced against my name? Anyway, my third attempt to submit this for publication, after which I’ll lay off for a while:

    Wednesday’s AP story on the Vioxx affair noted that the papers had in some cases been written by Merck’s consultants, but the people who did the research were allowed to review them and suggest revisions.

    The word “suggest” is theirs, not mine.

    There isn’t much more to say, is there? Except maybe a little more public education, 400 years so far not having been sufficient, to inform enough people about science that this stuff doesn’t pass unnoticed but leads to some executives and consultants being shown the instruments of torture.

  14. #14 Dan
    April 18, 2008

    Orac if you are still looking for topic for your “Friday Dose of Woo” you might consider debunking Avain Transport Theory. Surely that is for worse then the intelligent design fold and needs a little repectful insolence. Personally, if been labeled a denialist for trying to debunk the theory. Even worse a “scientific medical denialist”. Damn you for coming up with that term.

  15. #15 Dan
    April 18, 2008

    Damn link did not work for Avian Transport Theory go here:

    http://richarddawkins.net/article,2478,Sexpelled-No-Intercourse-Allowed,RichardDawkinsnet

  16. #16 Jim Lippard
    April 20, 2008

    I haven’t seen anybody at ScienceBlogs yet blog about Dorothy Bishop’s paper this month in _Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology_, which supports the hypothesis that the growth in autism diagnoses is caused by a change in diagnostic practice. She specifically looks at past diagnoses of developmental language disorder, and finds that a third of them would have been classified as autism or within the autistic spectrum.

    There’s a summary of her study in The Economist.