Respectful Insolence

…because Paul Offit’s written a book:

AUTISM’S FALSE PROPHETS
Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure

Paul Offit, MD
Columbia University Press
September 2008
Genre: Non-Fiction/Medicine
Format: Hardcover

AUTISM’S FALSE PROPHETS will show the reader the incredible history of how greedy lawyers, doctors, and unknowing parents have helped prevent the search for the real cause of autism. As these forces conspire to blame vaccines or the preservatives used in vaccines for causing autism, the search for a real cure is hampered while millions of dollars go chasing after the wrong causes or, worse, to support misguided legal actions. Children are dying because of quack treatments that desperate parents agree to have inflicted on their children. How on earth did we get here?

In AUTISM’S FALSE PROPHETS, Dr. Offit carefully outlines the faulty science that allowed one British doctor to turn the world of autism on its head and allowed the return of diseases that had rarely been seen in Britain and the United States for decades. He also tells the story of perhaps the greatest fraud on the autism community: facilitated communication. By reviewing the history of how the vaccines-cause-autism movement began, Dr. Offit skewers the logic and the science of those associated with the vaccines-cause-autism front and demonstrates how, all too often, greed was the motivating factor behind “scientific” conclusions.

British Rights: Columbia University Press
Translation Rights: The Zack Company, Inc.
Audio Rights: The Zack Company, Inc.
Film & TV Rights: The Zack Company, Inc.

Too bad it’s not being released until September. It’s about time someone answered nonsense like Evidence of Harm and Jenny McCarthy’s book with a book like this, and I can only hope that Offit goes on an extensive book tour and manages to show up on TV a lot to promote it. (I also wonder if Dr. Offit would be willing to send little old Orac a review copy before it comes out.) He may well manage such a tour, ironically enough, thanks to the very antivaccinationists who have, unfortunately, publicized their agenda so well. There’s been very little in the way of effective countering of the antivaccinationist message by scientists, and that has to change.

Antivaccinationists are probably already gearing up to slime Offit and use the “pharma shill” gambit against him heavily. I know he has a thick skin, but this sort of thing could provoke antivaccinationists to new levels of craziness.

Comments

  1. #1 PlanetaryGear
    May 1, 2008

    and not even available for pre-order on amazon yet! Come on, why do you torture me with info about things I can’t have yet?! wonder if they will do quantity discounts so i can get a copy for my whole family and a long list of friends who have let themselves be vaguely frightened by these fear mongers.

  2. #2 TheProbe
    May 1, 2008

    Just think, PlanetaryGear, it will be out just in time for early Xmas shopping.

  3. #3 Ian
    May 1, 2008

    TheProbe: It’s not even summer and you’re talking of Xmas? Don’t torture us with things we can’t have – yet!

  4. #4 Dangerous Bacon
    May 1, 2008

    “I can only hope that Offit goes on an extensive book tour and manages to show up on TV a lot to promote it.”

    Unless he’s got heart-rending personal testimonials to share or centerfold credentials (or both) he probably won’t get air time on the big talk shows.

    And yes, the same antivaxers who worship the Geiers will be wailing about Offit’s conflicts of interest and ignoring the evidence he presents. Par for the course.

  5. #5 Beowulff
    May 1, 2008

    Unless he’s got heart-rending personal testimonials to share or centerfold credentials (or both) he probably won’t get air time on the big talk shows.

    Probably not on Oprah, no, but maybe Jon Stewart’s Daily Show or Colbert Report?

  6. #6 Uncle dave
    May 1, 2008

    Dangrous Bacon;

    “Unless he’s got heart-rending personal testimonials to share or centerfold credentials (or both) he probably won’t get air time on the big talk shows.”

    Precisely.

    Sorry but I think I used this one already;
    “A lie can travel halfway around the earth while the truth is still putting on its shoes”

    -Mark Twain

    “The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.”

    -Mark Twain

    The truth will eventually come out thanks to individuals like Offit and others that are working slow and steady at getting to the correct conclusions.

    Thanks for th book recommendation Orac, I’ll look for it.

  7. #7 Badger3k
    May 1, 2008

    Stewart seems to go for the vaccine causes autism link, at least from what I get. He does support that Comedy Central Night of Too Many Stars, which supports Autism Speaks. I’m not sure Dr Offit would get a hearing, but it would be nice. I like Stewart, but his support for this and PETA make me question his intelligence.

  8. #8 DLC
    May 1, 2008

    In a day when the pharmacist at the local grocery store tells me that Homeopathy just might work for some allergy sufferers, and when children die horribly because their would-be Witch-Doctor parents sacrifice them to the Invisible Dragon in my Garage, I do not hold out much hope that people will suddenly “See the light” after this book comes out.
    But it’s definitely a sight for sore eyes.
    If I had the money I’d buy the man time on as many TV stations as I could. Sadly, I have no such kind of money.
    Thanks for the info, Orac.

  9. #9 js
    May 1, 2008

    As these forces conspire to blame vaccines or the preservatives used in vaccines for causing autism, the search for a real cure is hampered while millions of dollars go chasing after the wrong causes or, worse, to support misguided legal actions.

    There’s no doubt that the “mercury militia” are blockheads, and there’s no doubt that their scaremongering risks a very real public health crisis, insofar as it puts parents off of childhood vaccines. But the passage I quoted above is hyperbolic nonsense (would legal fees really be going straight to autism research, d’ya think?), and is exactly the kind of ridiculous appeal to emotion that underlies most of the MM’s claims.

    I don’t think it’s to the good.

  10. #10 Prometheus
    May 1, 2008

    JS,

    As of now, the legal fees – including “expert witness” fees – for both sides of the vaccines-cause-autism court furball are being paid by the US taxpayers. That’s right – we’re paying not only for the defense of HHS, but also for the plaintiffs’ lawyers and “experts” (frankly, I don’t think we’re getting good value on the latter).

    If you go to Kathleen Seidel’s Neurodiversity Weblog, you can see how much just one lawyer is making on this:

    http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/149/

    Half a million dollars would pay for a pretty substantial research study, even these days.

    This situation is so far out of touch with reality that even hyperbole can’t reach it.

    Prometheus

  11. #11 Kev
    May 1, 2008

    JS,

    As parent to an autistic child myself I don’t particularly care about a cure. What I do care about is research into helping my child and others like her. Education, adult schemes, speech and language therapy.

    In the UK, the legal fees associate with the Wakefield court case amount to £16million. Thats money that could’ve helped autistic people instead of blaming vaccines.

  12. #12 js
    May 1, 2008

    Thanks for your responses, but you’re making my point for me.

    Prometheus:

    Half a million dollars would pay for a pretty substantial research study, even these days.

    What does “this would pay for that” have to do with anything? The money that was slated for the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska probably would have exceeded all federal research dollars for all developmental disorders. So what? Are you seriously suggesting that if your handpicked lawyer and all his/her works disappeared, that an additional half a million dollars would have magically gone directly to potentially productive autism research?

    Kev:

    Thats money that could’ve helped autistic people instead of blaming vaccines.

    Could’ve? Dubious. Should’ve? Probably. Would’ve? Extremely unlikely.

    Scientists with expertise to study autism are, by and large, doing so and there’s no real shortage of funds in this area. And even if there were, it’s not remotely true that the dollars misspent that you two (and Ortiff) have noted were slated for research (or for treatment, Kev) before they were misdirected by the “conspiracy of greedy doctors and lawyers.”

    Unless you can produce evidence that specific dollars would have gone to Point A had they not been diverted to Point B, this is crap argumentation, and it hurts the cause because it’s easy rhetorical pickings for the Mercury crowd.

    It’s not at all difficult to construct valid and powerful arguments against the Mercury Militia (we all do it all the time). We should stick to that.

  13. #13 js
    May 1, 2008

    Sorry, I meant “Offit” not “Ortiff” above.

  14. #14 Brendan S
    May 1, 2008

    You know, it’s pretty nice that someone is putting the shoe on the other foot for these anti-vac people; all reasoning aside.

  15. #15 isles
    May 1, 2008

    I’m buying one for every library in our town.

  16. #16 trrll
    May 1, 2008

    There’s no doubt that the “mercury militia” are blockheads, and there’s no doubt that their scaremongering risks a very real public health crisis, insofar as it puts parents off of childhood vaccines. But the passage I quoted above is hyperbolic nonsense (would legal fees really be going straight to autism research, d’ya think?), and is exactly the kind of ridiculous appeal to emotion that underlies most of the MM’s claims.

    I suggest that you reread the passage you quoted, as it makes no claims that legal fees would otherwise go to autism research. Moreover, it is undoubtedly true that federal research funds are going to support research projects directed toward the mercury hypothesis. This is in a time of very tight NIH budgets, when many worthy projects, including autism studies, are having difficulty obtaining federal funding.

    When you characterize this very genuine issue of misallocation of autism research dollars as “hyperbolic nonsense” and a “ridiculous appeal to emotion,” the words that come to my mind are “concern troll.”

  17. #17 Orac
    May 1, 2008

    The other word that comes to mind is “clueless.”

  18. #18 Uncle Dave
    May 1, 2008

    Kev wrote;
    “As parent to an autistic child myself I don’t particularly care about a cure. What I do care about is research into helping my child and others like her. Education, adult schemes, speech and language therapy.”

    RIGHT ON THER MONEY Kev!

    This has been my beef watching in wings so to speak about the autism issue. A lot of wasted ADD energy is spent by many of these parents (McCarthy strikes me as basically another hollywoood narcisist).
    The real issue facing parents as Kev quite accurately points out is the long term care and developmental growth issues for autistic children. focusing on good developmental programs (teachers, therapists etc.) would be a more productive focus for these parents.

    There are children that are identified as Educatably mentally retarded, I do not find parents spending a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what caused it?

    How will your child cope? How will he develop long term? Can he take care of himself? Will he need long term assistance? what will he do or what will you have to do when you pass away?

    Maybe writing a book and focusing on mercury and such is basically a defense mechanism for many parents that simply cannot deal with the issue of thier childs autism. Instead of focusing on thier development (very tough and daunting task in and of itself) and all that goes with it, they choose to embark on the avoidance technique of spending thier days fighting others and trying to convince others that they are on to “what caused it” which has nothing to do with the fact that thier child is autistic and needs help now.

    Ok I’m done sorry….

  19. #19 rmp
    May 1, 2008

    Just great! Look what we have as our main opinion page article today in our local paper! Link I’m afraid this is spreading like a virus and there is no ‘herd immunity’ effect.

  20. #20 rmp
    May 1, 2008

    Just great! Look what we have as our main opinion page article today in our local paper! Link I’m afraid this is spreading like a virus and there is no ‘herd immunity’ effect. If anyone who has a canned response they’d like to send in, please do so. I with words not so good.

  21. #21 rmp
    May 1, 2008

    Sorry for the double post. I got a 550 error the first time and didn’t think it went through.

  22. #22 Tdoc
    May 1, 2008
  23. #23 Backlash time?
    May 1, 2008

    “The worst year for measles was 1958, according to modern public health records. More than 763,000 cases were reported that year, including 552 deaths. Outbreaks in the early 1990s led to a revision of vaccination guidelines to include children younger than school age.”

    I think maybe if a few children get meningitis or die from a vaccine preventable disease in cases where the parents have been influenced by people like Generation Rescue’s JB Handley and Jenny McCarthy, then there might be a stinging backlash against the antivaccinists.

    I hope to see JB Handley tarred and feathered by a mob of angry parents one day.

  24. #24 Paul Offit
    May 2, 2008

    Orac,

    Please send me the best address to which to send you an advance copy of the book, probably available by mid-June. My email address is offit@email.chop.edu.

    Best,

    Paul

  25. #25 Lenora
    May 2, 2008

    Hey, Paul Offit reads your blog! Dr Offit, I’m a parent of two ASD kids and I appreciate what you do to support autism science.

  26. #26 Anec Dote
    May 2, 2008

    “In the UK, the legal fees associate with the Wakefield court case amount to £16million. Thats money that could’ve helped autistic people instead of blaming vaccines”

    What really is a waste of money is the GMC hearing instigated by Brian Deer. The prosecution case is rapidly going down the pan.

  27. #27 COI
    May 2, 2008

    Don’t you think that Paul Offit may have a few too many conflicts of interest to be held up as the Prophet of Vaccines and Vaccine Safety? Is the book Forward going to be written by Julie Gerberding? After all, Offit holds patents for a vaccine currently on the CDC schedule, was/is a member of the ACIP an is generally considered to be the mouthpiece of the CDC. He even had a patented vaccine pulled from on the schedule a few years ago after it was suspected of causing deaths and complications in infants – but he still assures parents that it was coincidence, and his vaccine was safe.

    Sorry, IMO a book about vaccines by Offit is no more credible than a book by Wakefield.

  28. #28 HCN
    May 2, 2008

    Offit was at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia when several children died from measles. Their parents were from a church that did not vaccinate. Dr. Offit got to witness first hand what happens;
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE0DD1530F937A15757C0A967958260&s … “In one church group in Philadelphia, for example, 500 people were infected and six died.”

    Wakefield is a gastroenterologist who is unqualified to treat children, and who failed to disclose his relationship to and payments from a lawyer. Plus, even after he was told the samples from the kids’ guts were worthless, he still pushed through with the worthless test results (with one of the dozen children provided by the lawyer living with the aftermath of having his bowel perforated several times).

    There is really not much doubt who is more qualified to write on infectious diseases and their outcome.

  29. #29 Orac
    May 2, 2008

    Indeed. Or perhaps COI would like Dr. Mark Geier to write a book. This is the man who makes a large part of his living testifying against pharmaceutical companies and vaccine manufacturers; that is, when he isn’t injecting powerful antiandrogenic drugs into autistic children, the better to lower their testosterone levels to get rid of phantasmagorical testosterone “sheets” that supposedly interfere with chelating all that mercury that supposedly caused all that autism. Meanwhile, to support his “expert” testimony, he grinds out studies from a front “institute” constructed apparently solely to allow him to constitute an IRB consisting of cronies, friends, fellow antivaccinationists, and even a parent of a child in one of his “studies,” a breathtakingly unethical bit of prestidigitation. And don’t even get me started on Dr. Rashid Buttar or, even worse, Andrew Wakefield, who was paid by trial lawyers and had a patent application on a competing vaccine to the MMR as he did his crappy “research” that launched a wave of anti-MMR fearmongering in the UK a decade ago.

    No, as far as conflicts of interest go, I’d take Dr. Offit over any “hero” of the “vaccines cause autism movement” any day any way.

  30. #30 HCN
    May 2, 2008

    Through a reprinted USA Today article, it turns out that the Philadelphia measles epidemic caused over 1600 cases and nine deaths:
    http://www.pediatricservices.com/parents/pc-40.htm

    “In Philadelphia, Offit says, 1,600 children caught measles, and nine died. The disease begins with a cough and a runny nose, then a rash appears on the face and spreads to the trunk. Many children develop severe pneumonia, and some suffer encephalitis that leads to brain damage. There is no effective anti-viral medication to treat it. “At the heart of the outbreak in the city was a Baptist church whose members chose not to vaccinate” their children, Offit says. Seven of the nine children who died were from that church. The others were babies who lived nearby and had not gotten their measles vaccines.

    “Offit remembers those children, he says, when he hears debate over whether vaccines should be mandated. “Should that freedom (to refuse vaccination) extend to having the right to contract and ultimately pass on a serious and occasionally fatal infection?” he asks.”

  31. #31 Dr Aust
    May 3, 2008

    The GMC hearing into Wakefield and chums is NOT about their bad science. It is about their alleged unethical and substandard practices as doctors. Notably, doing multiple colonoscopies and lumbar punctures on sick and distressed autistic kids to prove a loopy theory. Plus, in the case of the two pediatricians, giving Wakefield (who was not qualified to treat kids and was driven by his obsession with proving his MMR theory) the run of their clinic.

    I like to think that the medical regulators have the cojones (in Orac’s phrase) to tackle doctors who use their patients as guinea pigs, or who sell them unproven and dangerous treatments, or who pitch patients stuff in which they have competing financial interests. As a potential patient I don’t think folks who do stuff like this should keep their medical licences.

  32. #32 Jason S.
    May 4, 2008

    As someone who has to deal with the facilitated communication phenomenon in my professional work on a frequent basis, I’m more looking forward to that aspect of his book. Of course, now I have to endure the pains of waiting. Thanks a lot, Orac.

  33. #33 Anec Dote
    May 5, 2008

    Dr Aust are you Brian Deer?

  34. #34 Dr Aust
    May 5, 2008

    Dr Aust are you Brian Deer?

    Nope.

    In a similar vein:

    Anec Dote, are you Martin J Walker, John Stone, Clifford G Miller, Martin Fryer, or indeed any of the JABS Posse?

    Just thought I’d ask.

  35. #35 isles
    May 6, 2008

    COI: Offit’s vaccine was NOT the one that was pulled on suspicion of causing intussusception. That was the first rotavirus vaccine. The one Offit’s team invented has been watched very closely and does not cause that complication. It will, however, save millions of children’s lives around the world. Sorry if that bothers you.

  36. #36 Hey PrOffit is here... cool ...
    May 7, 2008

    Hey Paul PrOffit is here?

    So, PrOffit, how many vaccinations can a baby get at one time? Is it 10,000 or 100,000? How many copies of this book are the pharma companies going to buy from you? Another day another dishonest doctor.

  37. #37 HCN
    May 7, 2008

    Hello, Common Sue. I see your reading comprehension is holding steady at the bottom quartile.

  38. #38 Really, HCN?
    May 7, 2008

    I have no idea what you are referring to HCN? What’s wrong with my reading comprehension? I’m trying to ask a few questions of PrOffit. I wonder if PrOffit will agree to inject himself with 10,000 vaccines? If so, do you think he’ll sell tickets to the event (anything for a PrOffit)…

  39. #39 Orac
    May 7, 2008

    Hi, Sue.

    You’re kind of late to the game. Dr. Offit was last here five days ago. I highly doubt he’ll see your comments.

  40. #40 He lurks
    May 7, 2008

    Why wouldn’t you think he’s continuing to follow up on this thread, Orac? I’m sure he’s checking in every once in a while. Don’t sell yourself so short. So, PrOffit is it 10,000 or 100,000? Also, Paul… what’s the percentage of SIDS deaths that are vaccine related… Huh? I’m sure you know.

    ps. Nice pictures I saw of you Orac :)

  41. #41 Orac
    May 7, 2008

    I doubt Dr. Offit is around because even I don’t follow comment threads for five days, except for rare exceptions, and I’m a prolific blogger who’s plugged into the medical blogosphere. Dr. Offit is neither a blogger nor, as far as I can tell, an avid reader of blogs. Consequently, it’s hard to believe that he will be coming back to this particular thread.

  42. #42 HCN
    May 7, 2008

    Common Sue, try reading for comprehension (it might be difficult because it uses math and assumes you know what the little number to the upper right of a “10” means… this might help – http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781592576487,00.html ):
    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/109/1/124

    How about YOU tell us how many SIDS deaths are related to vaccines? Be sure to give us the PubMed indexed paper with the pertinent information.

    Someone has tried to tell me this week the the MMR caused SIDS… only one problem: SIDS is defined as an unexplained death of a child under the age of one, but the MMR is not given to children under the age of one. Oh, and then there is the real knee slapper lie where they claim that Japan reduced SIDS deaths by moving the pertussis vaccine to age two, when in reality the number of SIDS stayed the same, but the deaths from pertussis went up (and they could no longer blame the pertussis vaccine because the children had not received it).

    Yet, I find this paper:
    Vaccine. 2007 Jun 21;25(26):4875-9. Epub 2007 Mar 16.
    Do immunisations reduce the risk for SIDS? A meta-analysis.

    Which concludes: “Immunisations are associated with a halving of the risk of SIDS. There are biological reasons why this association may be causal, but other factors, such as the healthy vaccinee effect, may be important. Immunisations should be part of the SIDS prevention campaigns.”

  43. #43 HCN
    May 7, 2008

    Common Sue, once you finish reading the little math book listed above, could you tell us how preventing diseases through vaccination is a bigger money maker than allowing kids to get sick and putting them in the hospital?

    That is the part that really confuses me. Let’s figure out the numbers with the MMR vaccine, something that is not even on the modified vaccine schedule at Generation Rescue. So if we stop giving the MMR, measles will go back to infecting everyone (it is very effective in transmitting, as we’ve seen recently around the USA).

    Since measles will put about 6% in the hospital for pneumonia (and some of them don’t get to go home, they get to go to a funeral home). That number comes from the CDC Pink Book chapter on measles, page 2: “Pneumonia
    (in 6% of reported cases) may be viral or superimposed
    bacterial, and is the most common cause of death.”

    Hospital stays for measles related pneumonia can range between $4000 to $12000 or more. That means that a community SAVES $10,000 by not vaccinating 1000 children. In 1000 children, 6% is 60 requiring hospital care. Multiply that by the cost of the average stay, $8000, and you get hospital costs of about $480,000 (which involves medication, monitoring equipment, sterilizers and a bunch of other stuff supplied from pharmaceutical companies).

    How exactly does spending $100 for two MMR vaccines put money into the pharmaceutical companies? Oh, and I didn’t even factor in mumps (hearing aids cost money!), and Congenital Rubella Syndrome.

    Explain it to me please.

    For some supplemental reading try this:
    http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/159/12/1136

  44. #44 HCN
    May 8, 2008

    Oops, made a decimal error… A community saves $100,000 for NOT vaccinating 1000 children with two MMRs. That means that hospitalizing 60 children out of 1000 who get measles (with about one or two not going home) is only about 4 to 5 times more expensive.

    Sorry.

  45. #45 He's full of himself
    May 8, 2008

    “Consequently, it’s hard to believe that he will be coming back to this particular thread”.

    Well, from what I have seen of PrOffit he’s quite full of himself. Therefore, I would imagine, following a thread about him specifically and about his book would be one that he would check on periodically… Maybe not. Either way, where can I buy a ticket to the PrOffit injects himself with 10,000 vaccines circus show?

  46. #46 Reading Comprehension
    May 8, 2008

    “How about YOU tell us how many SIDS deaths are related to vaccines? Be sure to give us the PubMed indexed paper with the pertinent information”.

    I can’t tell you that, HCN. All I can say is that it is FAR more than what is reported. One look at the VAERS system tells us that. Just because the deaths are hidden under “unknown causes” or simply “SIDS” doesn’t mean that those deaths listed on VAERS referencing healthy children dying within hours of vaccinations are not vaccine related. Clearly, many of them are. As for numbers, I don’t know… that’s why I was looking to PrOffit to comment on that issue – perhaps he has more information to shed. Unfortunately it appears that he’s too busy to address babies dying from vaccine reactions.

  47. #47 HCN
    May 8, 2008

    Lots of blather, but no evidence that Sue can read for comprehension.

  48. #48 Jesse
    May 8, 2008

    HCN’s on the mark. You can always tell when Sue Leitch (sp?) is posting: cute little insult/pet names (PrOffit), a complete misunderstanding od science and medicine (Just because the deaths are hidden under “unknown causes” or simply “SIDS” ……) and of course, the two constants….. no evidence to back up her claims and the belief that there is a conspiracy to hurt babies with vaccines.

    Like a broken record….

  49. #49 What a moron you are...
    May 8, 2008

    “HCN’s on the mark. You can always tell when Sue Leitch (sp?) is posting”

    What a complete idiot you are… LOL! I worry about you guys… Please seek help.

  50. #50 Jesse
    May 8, 2008

    Sue, if think there’s any question at all about who you are and which posts are yours…. you’re far less intelligent than I thought you were.

  51. #51 Oh, boy...
    May 8, 2008

    “Sue, if think there’s any question at all about who you are and which posts are yours…. you’re far less intelligent than I thought you were”.

    Jesse, you aren’t very smart my friend. Own it and seek help.

  52. #52 Jesse
    May 8, 2008

    Sue, even if Orac (who can see IP addresses of commentators) hadn’t already called you out on it, you must be incredibly, incredibly stupid if you think you post with an iota of anonymity.

    You dumb enough to repeatedly parrot the same stuff so not only are you dim enough to think that vaccines cause autism, you never change, even a little. We can smell your desperation and inanity from miles away.

    But go ahead, keep thinking your worthless posts aren’t the steady heaping stream of mental diarrhea you impose upon us.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.