Bioethics

Category archives for Bioethics

Another antivaccine paper bites the dust

Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic are known for producing dubious scientific studies in the service of antivaccine pseudoscience. Last month, they published a paper purporting to show that aluminum adjuvant causes neuroinflammation in mice that was roundly criticized for poor experimental design and manipulated images. Guess what? It’s soon to be retracted.

Over the last couple of days I noted a disturbance in the antivaccine force, another study claimed to be slam dunk evidence that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines cause autism. It’s not. Also, a word to antivaxers challenging Orac to look at this study: Be very careful what you wish for…

Many are the PR firms and astroturf groups out there trying to influence the public. One favored technique is to publish an op-ed by an expert or “thought leader” in a major media outlet. Not infrequently, these op-eds are ghostwritten. Unfortunately, to its sorrow, STATNews found that out this week.

I’ve discussed so-called “right-to-try” laws, which promise to speed experimental drugs to terminally ill patients, but which in reality are about weakening and bypassing the FDA. Now über-Libertarian Peter Thiel is trying a new tactic to bypass the FDA by organizing an offshore clinical trial of a new herpes vaccine based on dubious science and not overseen by an IRB to protect patients. Both right-to-try and this trial are different fronts in the same fundamentalist free market war on FDA regulation.

Antivaxers often complain that they are judged harshly. It turns out that they are probably correct. But is this a bad thing? More importantly, what about the children, who didn’t choose not to be vaccinated?

Antiabortion antivaccine activists like to claim that “aborted fetal cells” in vaccines mean that vaccines are contaminated products of evil. In reality, there are no “aborted fetal cells” in vaccines. A cell line derived from an aborted fetus in 1962 did, however, lead to huge advances in vaccine technology and the prevention of many millions of deaths worldwide.

The latest study being promoted as evidence that vaccines cause autism is truly atrocious. Basically, like many epidemiological studies examining putative links between vaccines and adverse health outcomes, it’s mistaking statistical noise for signal. What’s odd about this study is that not a single statistician or epidemiologist appears to have been involved with its design or execution, although a lawyer, a health economist, and an investment banker were.

So I was distracted yesterday from what I had intended to write about by an irresistible target provided me courtesy of Toby Cosgrove, MD, CEO of The Cleveland Clinic, who bemoaned all those nasty pro-science advocates who had had the temerity to link the antivaccine rant by the director of the Clinic’s Wellness Institute to…

Well, it’s done. Today, the Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill designed to weaken the FDA and empower pharmaceutical companies, sending it to President Obama’s desk. There’s no way Obama won’t sign it, as it contains provisions funding his Precision Medicine Initiative, and he supported it all along. For all its flaws,…

One of the great things about America has been the First Amendment, particularly the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These are rights allow us to gather together to protest when we see something that we don’t think is right and want to change. Unfortunately, there is one downside to these freedoms,…

There’s a misconception that I frequently hear about evidence-based medicine (EBM), which can equally apply to science-based medicine (SBM). Actually, there are several, but they are related. These misconceptions include the idea that EBM/SBM guidelines are a straightjacket, that they are “cookbook medicine,” and that EBM/SBM should be the be-all and end-all of how to…

Whenever we discuss vaccines and vaccine hesitancy, thanks to Andrew Wakefield the one vaccine that almost always comes up is the MMR, which is the combined measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. In 1998, Wakefield published a case series of cherry-picked patients in which he strongly inferred that the MMR vaccine was associated with autism and “autistic enterocolitis.” Of…

One of the things that first led me to understand the dangers of quackademic medicine was a trial known as the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, or TACT. Chelation therapy, as you might recall, is the infusion of a chelating agent, or a chemical that binds heavy metals and makes it easier for the kidney…

I’ve been debating whether to write about this for a while now, given that the first article that I noticed about it was first published a week and a half ago. Part of the reason for my reluctance is that it would be too easy for politics to be dragged into this more than I…

One major thing that differentiated science-based medicine (SBM) from alternative medicine and quackery is that in SBM there is a generally accepted standard of care. This was even the case back in the days before the proliferation of evidence-based guidelines, in which professional societies and expert panels try their best to synthesize what is often…