Politics

Category archives for Politics

Yesterday, I wrote about how right-to-try and an unethical offshore vaccine trial are part of free market fundamentalists’ attack on the FDA. Here’s another example, the “right to choose medicine.”

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.

There was a rumbling in the antivaccine underground a week ago about a recent ruling by the Vaccine Court compensating parents of a child who died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In a confused and scientifically highly flawed decision, the Special Master Thomas Gowen didn’t rule that vaccines cause SIDS, but did rule that they contributed to SIDS in this one case. Soon, the message will be that vaccines cause SIDS. They don’t. The Vaccine Court screwed up.

American antivaccine activists have contributed to a massive measles outbreak among the Minnesota Somali immigrant community by spreading Andrew Wakefield’s misinformation. In the wake of the harm they’ve caused, they’re not apologetic. They’re doubling down.

In January, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. bragged about having met with President-Elect Donald Trump about chairing a presidential commission on vaccine safety. In the intervening eight months, no commission has materialized, but, if you can believe his account, Kennedy has been meeting with government officials to promote his antivaccine views at the behest of the Trump administration. As long as that continues, pro-science advocates can’t afford to rest easy.

California’s new law that eliminates personal belief exemptions has been a success, increasing vaccine uptake after just one year. That isn’t to say that there aren’t problems. One potential problem is the increasing number of medical exemptions, likely fueled by doctors willing to write letters of support for them based on reasons that are not science-based.

Naturopaths are fake doctors who fancy themselves to be real doctors, so much so that they call themselves “physicians” even when explicitly barred from doing so by law.

On July 3, an antivaxer named Kent Heckenlively posted a WhiteHouse.gov petition demanding a five year moratorium on childhood vaccines. It failed. Did that stop Mr. Heckenlively? Of course not, and this time he has help from über-crank Mike Adams, who is whining about being “censored” by Facebook over it. The hilarity continues to ensue

So-called “right-to-try” is a cruel sham that holds out the mostly false hope of survival to terminally ill patients and their families. In return, all they have to give up is patient protections and agree to pay to be guinea pigs to test a drug company’s product. The product of an ideology that uses the terminally ill as shields to hide the ideological motives behind the law, which are to hobble the FDA, right-to-try is a terrible idea. It’s bad for patients, but it just passed the Senate and could well become the law of the land when the House reconvenes in September if it isn’t stopped.

Although it’s not uncommon for there to be conspiracy theories about police shootings, it is unusual for such a conspiracy theory to touch upon topics covered right here on this blog. Sadly, it’s happened in the wake of the police shooting of Justine Damond in Minneapolis.

“Right-to-try” laws claim to help terminally patients by allowing them access to experimental drugs before they are approved, when, in fact, their purpose is to undermine and weaken the FDA and such laws strip legal and regulatory protections from patients using such drugs. Now advocates are making a new push to pass right-to-try by embedding it in the very law that funds the FDA. They might succeed if they encounter no opposition from constituents.

I’ve been warning about how school vaccine mandates have become increasingly politicized. HBO’s. VICE agrees.

An old “friend” of the blog, Kent Heckenlively, has started a WhiteHouse.gov petition for a five year moratorium on childhood vaccines, until the government answers his questions about vaccines that can never be answered and shows evidence of their safety that he’ll never believe. Yes, the delusion is strong in this one, but, sadly, he’s not alone.

When HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price announced that Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald would be the new CDC Director, he breathed a sigh of relief because in her previous job as Georgia Commissioner of Public Health she was suitably pro-vaccine and pro-science. He should have looked a bit closer and gone a few years further back.

The usual stereotype of an antivaxer is a hippy dippy left wing granola cruncher. The case of Texas shows that increasingly the antivaccine movement is right wing. Worse, it’s becoming more political and harder for Republican legislators to ignore. I fear vaccine science is becoming as politicized as climate science, with results disastrous for public health.

Before I delve into the next topic, I can’t help but congratulate John Oliver yet again for his excellent deconstruction of the antivaccine movement on Sunday night. As I noted on Tuesday, it clearly hit the mark, given how angry one antivax blogger got over it. As of yesterday, over at that wretched hive of…

The Court of Justice of the European Union just issued a muddled ruling being proclaimed by clickbait headlines as allowing courts to blame any disease on vaccines without evidence. It does nothing of the sort, but it is concerning nonetheless, as it is confusing and does appear to lower the bar of evidence for vaccine injury claims. That’s plenty bad enough.

A story in The Washington Free Beacon claims that Tipper Gore will be appearing at a fundraiser for Kathleen Murphy, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates running for reelection to be held by Claire and Albert Dwoskin, two rich antivaxers and donors to the Democratic Party. If the story is true and not fake news that’s bad, but even if it turns out not to be true I just had to discuss the Dwoskins, who have been funding antivaccine “studies” for several years now.

Chiropractors and acupuncturists have lobbied for a greater role in treating pain. They might well have won it. Last week, the FDA released proposed changes Wednesday to its blueprint on educating health care providers about treating pain, which now recommend that doctors learn about chiropractic care and acupuncture as therapies that might help patients avoid opioids. There’s still time to stop this, but you have to write the FDA.

Antivaxers are planning on publishing the personal information of employees of the Boston Herald because the paper published an editorial saying that promoting antivaccine misinformation among a vulnerable population should be a “hanging offense.” Meanwhile, overblown allusions to the Holocaust are going into overdrive. Same as it ever was.

Thanks for the measles yet again, Andy

Yet another population is learning why you shouldn’t trust Andrew Wakefield. There is a large Somali immigrant population in Minnesota, and unfortunately they’ve been targeted by antivaxers. As a result, their MMR uptake has plummeted, and now they’re in the midst of another measles outbreak. Andrew Wakefield screws yet another group.

This week, the FDA sent warning letters to 14 companies making unsupported claims that their products can treat cancer. Given the new administration’s determination to deregulate almost everything, but especially the FDA, is this the last time in the foreseeable future that such a crackdown will occur?

Last month, the Texas Medical Board fined Houston cancer quack Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and placed his practice under supervision. It did not strip him of his medical license, as he deserves. The result is that families of children with terminal cancer are once again raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to follow his siren song of false hope.

Naturopaths claim that licensing their profession will ensure a high standard of care and protect patients. The case of Jade Erick, who died as a result of intravenous curcumin administered by a naturopath puts the lie to that claim. We now know that the naturopath who killed Erick has pending complaints that the Naturopathic Medicine Committee has done little to act on, revealing its ineffectiveness.

Ill-advised right-to-try bills are spreading like kudzu through state legislatures. Now federal legislators want to insert right-to-try language into the bill that funds FDA drug approval. Given the support of powerful Republicans for right-to-try, is it too late to stop this juggernaut and protect patients?