The "pharma shill" gambit

i-e7a12c3d2598161273c9ed31d61fe694-ClassicInsolence.jpgOver the last couple of days, I've been discussing How "They" See "Us," which is basically that "they" see "us" as pure evil. Well, maybe not always sheer evil, but certainly not good, and even more certainly as having ulterior motives, the most common of which is filthy pharma lucre. So it seemed appropriate, as a grant deadline fast approaches and constrains my time, to revisit a topic that comes up here from time to time. Basically, every so often, my day job intrudes on my blogging hobby, preventing the creation of fresh Insolence, at least Insolence of the quality that you've come to expect. This is one of those times, thanks to a grant deadline. So enjoy this bit of Classic Insolence from way back near the beginning of this blog, when I first coined the term "pharma shill gambit" to describe a very common gambit used by quacks. At least, I think I was the first to coin this term. I haven't been able to find a reference to the "pharma shill gambit" dating before I wrote the original version of this post way back in 2005. In any case, if there are any really "classic" posts on this blog (which, I'll concede, is debatable, this is one, IMHO, and I haven't reposted it here in over five years; so it's time. If some of the verbiage seems a little dated, that's because the original post is well over seven years old, and I've only touched it up.. Maybe I should do a more substantial revision and update it. When I have the time. You know what that means.

I've mentioned before on this blog at least once that I cut my skeptical teeth, so to speak, on Usenet, that vast untamed and largely unmoderated territory full of tens of thousands of discussion newsgroups which used to be a lot more active before the rise of the World Wide Web and then later blogs. These days, few ISPs even offer much in the way of Usenet access; it's become pretty much irrelevant since Google archived Usenet in the form of Google Groups. My forays into skepticism started out with combatting Holocaust denial on a newsgroup known as alt.revisionism (as good an excuse as any to remind you that nearly all Holocaust "revisionism" isn't historical revisionism but is actually denial) and then branched out into more general skepticism, particularly about the claims of creationists and, of course, promoters of "alternative" medicine, the latter of which ultimately led me to being the editor of this wild and woolly thing I call Respectful Insolence. After I began to participate in the debates in the main newsgroup where alternative medicine is discussed, misc.health.alternative, it didn't take me long to encounter a favorite tactic of promoters of alt-med who were not happy with one who insists on evidence-based medicine and who therefore questions claims that are obviously not based in valid science: The "Pharma Shill" Gambit. This is a technique of ad hominem attack in which a defender of "alternative" medicine, offended by your questioning of, for instance, his/her favorite herb, colon or liver flush technique, zapper, or cancer "cure," tries to "poison the well" by implying or outright stating you must be in the pay of a pharmaceutical company, hired for nefarious purposes.

Since I entered the blogosphere several years ago under another guise, I've only occasionally checked back at my old stomping ground, mainly because blogging is so much less constraining than posting to Usenet, where mostly I used to respond to the posts of others, rather than writing about what I wanted to write about. A while back, though, out of curiosity I checked back and found this interesting little tidbit from a poster calling himself PeterB that demonstrated such a perfect example of the "pharma shill" gambit that I thought it might serve as a perfect example of the sort of thing I've had to put up with ever since I started speaking out against quackery:

To : All participants and readers of misc.health.alternative + other health-related newsgroups

Please be aware that many comments and responses posted to this forum are not those of casual posters interested in an honest exchange. A number of individuals with ties to industry are engaging an effort to shape public sentiment about the risks of mainstream medicine while denigrating the benefits and validity of natural medicine. I refer to these individuals broadly as "Pharma Bloggers"(*). Pharma Bloggers on usenet don't promote a specific company or product, as might be the case with standard "blogging" on a weblog. Most of these people are likely to have an association with a PR campaign whose "blogging" efforts are underwritten by the media and marketing groups of industry. They are not difficult to identify due to specific patterns of behaviour in posting.

Here are a few points to remember while participating in usenet newsgroups:

  1. Pharma Bloggers on usenet use intimidation, mockery, and insults to silence those who express belief or interest in natural medicine.
  2. Pharma Bloggers on usenet attack those who question the effectiveness of mainstream medicine and defend disease-management "healthcare" as the only viable form of medicine.
  3. Pharma Bloggers on usenet post the majority of their responses simply to bury the comments of others; they also strive obsessively to have the last word.
  4. Pharma Bloggers on usenet are much faster at posting than casual participants; they almost always respond first to a new thread, question, or observation.
  5. Pharma Bloggers on usenet use multiple "bloggers" in a swap-&-relay fashion to create an aura of the "consensus view" in an effort to isolate posters who question the value of mainstream medicine. You will see this tactic used more often than any other.

Tip: If you find yourself reading a response that is unusually dramatic in tone, or inexplicably vicious toward other posters, and if that response is a defense of mainstream medicine, you can be sure you have stumbled upon a "Pharma Blogger." Unfortunately, there are more of these individuals posting to usenet on a daily basis than virtually anyone else, which is why I am posting this alert. If you find it odd that so few people on health-related usenet newsgroups are expressing an interest in natural medicine, it isn't because they aren't there, it's because they have been intimidated into silence. The Pharma Bloggers have over-run the various newsgroups with their industrial brand of dogma, mockery, and ridicule. Many casual posters are simply frightened away. That's one of the goals of Pharma Blogging.

(*) Pharma Blogger: An individual who uses the Internet to: 1) promote and defend maintstream medicine while denigrating natural medicine approaches; 2) attack others who express a preference for natural medicine, or who question the value of mainstream medicine; and 3) cite a variety of "junk medical science" funded by industry for the purpose of establishing markets for marginally effective, and often dangerous, medical products and devices.

PeterB

See what I had to deal with? First, let me just mention that I realize that astroturf campaigns do exist, but, quite frankly, die-hard defenders of alt-med on Usenet like PeterB tend to be interested in such Internet PR efforts only as a means of smearing those who criticize them for their claims or who have the temerity to ask them to provide scientific studies to back up their assertions. To them, everyone who questions them is probably part of an astroturf campaign. It goes with the conspiracy-mongering proclivities so common among cranks.

This sort of obvious pre-emptive ad hominem attack (again, a.k.a. the logical fallacy of poisoning the well) would be utterly laughable if it were not so common. I sometimes get the impression that PeterB and his compatriots must think that there are hordes of "pharma shills" sitting behind banks of computers (remember the claim "more of these individuals posting to Usenet than anyone else"), waiting to pounce the instant anyone like PeterB starts posting critiques of big pharma or praising herbal "cures." (Yes, that they seem to think they are worth that sort of effort implies PeterB and others like them do seem to have an inflated view of their own importance.) My usual first response to such gambits tends to be facetious and runs along the lines of asking, "Where do I sign up to become a pharma shill? How do I get me a piece of that action? After all, why should I waste my time seeing patients and working like a dog to do science, publish papers, and write grants and then only having a couple of hours in the evenings to blog, when I could make big bucks ruthlessly mocking online dissent against big pharma full time while sitting back in my pajamas and sipping a big hot mug of coffee? Count me in!" (Expect to see my words posted somewhere out of context to make it seem as though I was being serious about this.)

However, facetiousness usually just infuriates people like PeterB to new heights of "pharma shill" accusations. At that point, it's time to try to be rational, hard as it may be in the face of such provocation, but I try. First, a lot of this smear tends to be a case of projection, of the pot calling the kettle black. For example, #1, #2, and #3 are more typical of supporters of alt-med than of anyone who questions alt-med claims. Indeed, the denizens of misc.health.alternative who are most pro-alternative medicine tend to react quite defensively to questioning of their assertions. They are often like a group of Cyber Sisters (except that they are comprised of both men and women) ruthlessly descending upon anyone who questions the dogma of their favorite alternative medicine, criticizes their behavior, or suggests that maybe, just maybe, conventional medicine might have value. (No, those on "our side" are not entirely innocent, but in my experience the certain promoters of alt-med tend to be quicker with the ad hominem.) One reason for this, I suspect, is that many of them are also active on moderated groups such as CureZone.com, where anyone questioning the alt-med treatment du jour too long or too vigorously will be banned from the discussion groups, thus providing a nice, safe, cuddly environment, where never is heard a discouraging word towards quackery. #4 and #5 are clearly designed to imply that the so-called "Pharma Bloggers" either don't have a regular job (why else would they have so much time?) or that they are working for big pharma. Of course, they never provide any evidence to support their accusations. In fact, they almost never provide even any reasoning to support their accusations more substantive than variations on "he's criticizing alternative medicine a lot so he must be a pharma shill."

The "pharma shill" gambit, like other varieties of ad hominem or well-poisoning rhetoric, conveniently frees defenders of "alternative" medicine from having to argue for their favorite remedies on the science and clinical studies supporting them (which in most cases tend to be badly designed or nonexistent). It's a technique that's not just limited to them, either. Anti-vaccination cranks and mercury/autism conspiracy theorists like it too, and, indeed, I have been the subject of some particularly vicious attacks over the years at the hands of the anti-vaccine movement1,2, Generation Rescue and its founder J. B. Handley in particular3,4,5, all of whom appear to be trying very hard to poison my Google reputation. (Indeed, another such attack rolled in just today, courtesy of AoA hanger-on Harold Doherty.) Moreover, J.B. Handley, in particular, has also attacked our very own Steve Novella. More recently, the late Hulda Clark's former attack Chihuahua Tim Bolen appears to have decided for some reason that I have been named the heir apparent to Dr. Stephen Barrett. While I'm flattered that he somehow seems to think this, I'll have to be at this for many more years and become much more effective even to approach Barrett's legacy. Be that as it may, you have to have a tough skin if you're going to try to combat the infiltration of pseudoscience into medicine.

Skeptico pointed out, even if a newsgroup denizen were a pharma shill, that wouldn't necessarily invalidate his argument. Yes, in the case of a true "shill" who does not reveal that he works for a pharmaceutical company and pretends to be "objective," it would be entirely appropriate to "out" that person with extreme prejudice, so that his bias could be taken into account. That being said, I'll take this opportunity to point out that I have never over the last decade observed such a person in action, which tells me that they are probably a lot less common than people like PeterB like to claim. Even in the case of a real shill, however, this sort of "outing" is not a refutation of that person's arguments; it merely serves to increase appropriately the level of skepticism about what that person is saying. Such an "outing" still leaves the task of actually using evidence, logic, and sound arguments to refute what that person is saying, something boosters of alt-med rarely even attempt to do. It's far easier to fling the accusation of "pharma shill" about and see if they can get it to stick, as PeterB and his ilk do.

No doubt, may of our readers here at SBM have heard of Godwin's Law, which states:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

Over the years, an assumed corollary to Godwin's Law has become commonly accepted that in essence states that once such an "argumentum ad Nazium" is made, the discussion thread is over, and whoever brought up the Hitler or Nazi analogy first automatically loses the debate. Recently, this corollary was the basis of Scopie's Law, which is more relevant to the topics covered on this blog and states:

In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing Whale.to as a credible source loses you the argument immediately ...and gets you laughed out of the room.

Over time, I and others have suggested that, although Whale.to is clearly The One Quack Site To Rule Them All, there are at least a few other sites whose promotion of pseudoscience lead them to deserve to be included in Scopie's Law, such as NaturalNews.com, Mercola.com, and the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism. However, I think that there's another law, a law similar to the original formulation of Godwin's Law, that applies to virtually any online discussion of anything resembling alternative medicine. Perhaps we could dub it "Gorski's Law," and this is what I propose it to say:

As an online discussion of health, in particular vaccines or alternative medicine, grows longer, the probability of the invocation of the 'pharma shill gambit' approaches one.

If there's an exception to this law, other than in moderated forums and (usually but not always) here at SBM, I haven't found it yet.

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I would add a number 6 to the Pharma Blogger points-
They never, ever give one inch in terms of vaccines (they're all good, all the time- narcolepsy with H1N1 in kids? No probs, Gardasil and neuro problems? No way! Even Liz Ditz summarily wrote off the Chad Menafrivac kids as being a 'made up' problem- and this very soon after it happened. The fact is, Orac, you do take pharma monies for the blog and in many earlier instances you have really got involved with the thread and directed the talking points of the debate or conversation. Just my 2 cents.

The longer any conspiracy theory thread goes on, the more likely a believer will call nonsubscribers to his / her view a "sheep" or "sheeple". It's virtually guaranteed. I've see it a few times with alt health too, in particular whenever the FDA or "big pharma" is dragged into the discussion.

Part of the reflex accusation Orac describes sounds like shutting down with an over simple, formulaic rejection. I see some similar behavior here too.

Another part is probably a wariness that their/everyone's medical information chain is full of ubiquitous distortions and manipulation where they are short on details, and likely, skills that would allow a more refined identification and placement. "useful idiot", "ad", "rep", "wannabe employee", "grantee", "idealogue", "quackbuster", "mossback MD" etc

As for potential conflicts of interest or biased sources, it is amazing the pockets that substantial pharma marketing funds find their way into. High schoolers, early college years, med school, labs, med journals, news media, etc.

So, how much did they pay you to coin the phrase "pharma shill gambit"? :-)

By I. Rony Meter (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Jen says

They never, ever give one inch in terms of vaccines (they’re all good, all the time...)

I disagree. I have never heard anyone on this blog or any other, nor any vaccine maunfacturer, any medical professional, or any government agency deny that vacciines can have risk or side effects.

The question (and it isn't much of a question) is 'are vaccines worth the risk?', and the answer is 'for most people, yes'.

The risks and side effects if vaccines are reasonably well known and understood, and do not include autism. Some people should not receive vaccines, and those contraindications are widly available. But for most people, most of the time, vaccines are safer than the diseases they protect against.

The only medical intervention that has no side effects is homeopathy. It also has no effects.

@jen

Thank you for the example of the pharma shill gambit.

You have proven that you have no argument to stand on and that you have to rely on lies to carry on your pseudoscience.

Just my $0.02.

Jen,

They never, ever give one inch in terms of vaccines (they’re all good, all the time- narcolepsy with H1N1 in kids? No probs,

I have never seen anyone suggest that vaccines never have side effects, as any effective treatment has side effects on occasion. I have very rarely seen any convincing evidence of a vaccine that has side effects that come even close to outweighing the reduction in risk of VPDs they provide. The increased risk of narcolepsy in Finland was an additional 3-4 narcolepsy cases per 100,000 vaccinated subjects, hugely outweighed by the reduced risk of flu and possible serious sequelae such as pneumonia, encephalitis or death:

The US CDC (Centres for Disease Control) announced in October, 2009 that thus far 86 US children had died of H1N1 with most being in the 5 to 17-year old age group and in severe cases, patients deteriorate in around three to five days following symptoms with deterioration being rapid, many progressing to respiratory failure within 24 hours.

How many people died of side effects of the H1N1 vaccine?

Gardasil and neuro problems? No way!

Active surveillance of the millions of people given Gardasil has found no evidence of any problems, apart from fainting and a possible small increase in blood clots. It isn't as if no one is looking, they are, and the evidence just isn't there.

Even Liz Ditz summarily wrote off the Chad Menafrivac kids as being a ‘made up’ problem- and this very soon after it happened.

The most recent information on that incident suggests that it was unconnected to the meningitis vaccine which has been given to hundreds of millions of children across Africa with no reported problems.

The fact is, Orac, you do take pharma monies for the blog

National Geographic is Big Pharma funded? That's news to me.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

As people grow up, they have less of a tendency to believe that others would be motivated just as they themselves would be. In other words, these scoffers may be unable to concieve of anyone doing this without pay.

I do this while I do my "other job"- managing my own money and advising a few others, I watch financial reports in order to discern if I need to move assets and to warn others ( the latter service is gratis). Thus, I am being 'paid' already.

Why do it then? I enjoy writing, having had to write occasionally for a non-profit position I had. I possess the educational background and an odd skill set that are useful in 'getting through' to people, or so I've heard. At least, I cherish that anxious hope.

I have heard and read alt med material that I believe borders on the criminal because it frightens people away from SBM in order to sell mostly useless products, thus enriching charlatans.

The entire *pharma shill* concept revolves upon a competitive business plan: its perpetrators want a piece of that "pharma action" themselves. Here are a few examples:

chemotherapy can be replaced by ANP or vitamins or cancer can be prevented altogether by ingesting green stuff;
the MMR is dangerous, try the new single vax by Andy;
Monsanto makes money off deadly GMOs: you can buy totally organic, non-GMO foods, through our new company ( Mike Adams, Natural News, today);
herbals and homeopathy replace most meds which are dangerous... various web sites;
psychiatric meds don't work and can lead to suicide and violence UNLIKE vitamins, herbs, meditation and life coaching say the people who sell... vitamins, herbs, meditation and life coaching.

Why me? Why not. I've had incredibly diverse studies in the liberal arts, economics and psych and experiences that helped me work towards understanding people. I have enough money so that I don't have to work a great deal with clients or take a more stressful, difficult job in the field or in advertising- which I've done

Also, being a sceptic as a hobby is a lot cheaper than my other hobby, tennis..

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Oh, Jen. How much more stuff will you make up? Really, don't you ever get tired of making up lies about people and sliming them? Or are you really that despicable a person in real life?

@MI Dawn

We need not assume malice where delusion will suffice. Granted, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Jen, your comment was already dismantled in the thread above by those far more educated in the sciences than I, but let me agree with one thing, the monetary value you assigned to it in closing.

By Pareidolius (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Of _course_. Excessive drama and viciousness in response to disagreement are defining characteristics of skeptics.

As is projection, no doubt. :)

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ jened/jen: Why don't you "share" with us how you and cronies from AoA spread your FUD about the meningitis vaccine causing severe reactions in Africa on Kirby's latest swill on the Ho-Po?

At that time I posted back at you and your cronies and asked you if you would apologize to parents who denied their children the meningitis vaccine, and whose children died, as a result of your FUD-spreading activities. I also asked you if you would apologize to the health care workers who immunize African kids and young adults against the deadly disease, if, as a result of your activities, they were subjected to violent attacks. Will you now publicly apologize, jened/jen?

How about AoA's support of Desiree Jennings' conversion disorder, when she claimed she was injured by influenza vaccine...or that awful *study* conducted by *Blaxsted* regarding the Leroy New York schoolgirls' *tics* and what was later determined to be "mass hysteria"?

Our critics who cry, " Conflict of interest!" usually fail to disclose their own - which are not all financial but include psychological bents, hero worship and general axe-grinding.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

MESSAGE BEGINS------------------

Shills and Minions All:

Like so many other overlords and oligarchs, I have to find something to do with all this dirty money. The Baroness de Rothschild has found us a lovely spread in the Napa Valley where, I am assured, will eventually get warm enough to live without heat lamps all the time. As I sit here looking out over the valley sipping a lovely Merlot the color of dried blood, I find my mind drifting to thoughts philosophical: Who am I really? Why am I here? What is my purpose in the galaxy? Surely I'm more than just an analogy, an inflated, theatrical, parody of the most ridiculous, paranoid burblings of the fearful among your foes? Or am I?

As the great philosoraptor Sauromenidies once said "The more unintelligent a lizard is, the less mysterious existence seems to him." I should think this applies to your species as well. Indeed, your world teems with vast masses swimming in an endless variety of conflicting certainties.

I think I have realized why I exist after all, or maybe it's just the Merlot. May the great Egg Mother have mercy on us all . . .

Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihl

Foreward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Pharmaca Magna of Terra, Fermenter of the Grapes of Wrath

Glaxxon Estate Vineyards
Rutherford, CA

00101011101010111101010

--------------------MESSAGE ENDS

By Glaxxon Estate… (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Or are you really that despicable a person in real life?

Definitely that despicable; after all Jen is one who calls autists and others with neurological disorders, "brain damaged". I wonder if she has the ovaries to say that out loud to her charges and/or their parents. Somehow I doubt it.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Not long ago I had the unpleasant experience of participating in a discussion about genetically modified (GM) crops. It came up because someone mentioned how Monsanto routinely sues small farmers because the farmers' crops have been contaminated with Monsanto's patented GM crops. I pointed out that this is a myth and backed up my assertion with considerable supporting evidence (newspaper articles, court judgements, etc). (Yes, Monsanto has sued some farmers but in every case where the details are available, the farmer knowingly used or reused Monsanto's GM seeds, in violation of contracts and/or Monsanto's patent rights. But I digress).

Upon analyzing the supporting documentation that I presented, the person with whom I was debating this said something to the effect of, "The people who authored these papers and articles must be getting paid by Monsanto to write this stuff."

So, it would appear that the "Pharma Shill Gambit" is really only a specialized case of the more generic "Shill Gambit", which I guess is a favorite tool of deniers of all walks of life.

MI Dawn:

Oh, Jen. How much more stuff will you make up? Really, don’t you ever get tired of making up lies about people and sliming them? Or are you really that despicable a person in real life?

One bit of language I'd advise you to be careful about: The internet is a part of real life. Trolls like to pretend or assert that despicable behavior on the internet "doesn't count" because it's allegedly not real. When facing consequences, they often whine about us taking their anti-social behavior seriously and at face value instead of treating blogs and fora like MMORPGs like they do.

The distinction I prefer to make for non-internet behavior is "meatspace" or "offline" behavior, and yes, I suspect Jen is likely just as despicable offline as she is online.

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

What Jen and her ilk will never mention in their rants about how bad vaccines are is the proportion of adverse events to total doses given compared to adverse events to total infections. For example, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). It happens, and it happens whether or not you get vaccinated. It's more a result of your immune system acting against a virus than of the vaccine triggering it. Anyway, people like Jen will never tell you that the 1976 swine flu vaccine only increased the chance of GBS by one per million. She will also never tell you that thousands of people die from complications of the flu compared to the handful that die from GBS, let alone contract it and get better.

A friend of mine told me never to take antivaxers to Vegas because they cannot play the odds. Jen, you see, would put it all on Black 20 thinking it's a likelier outcome than just putting it all on Black.

The fact is, Orac, you do take pharma monies for the blog

Let's see something resembling proof that this statement actually is fact, Jen.

dandover@#17:
Besides, there are more than enough reasons to be upset with Monsanto even without talking about GM crops; they have a long history of actively hiding pollution caused by their various activities and treating fines as a cost of doing business because it's cheaper to pay the fine than to actually fix the problem.

Also, despite what the 'anti-shills' think, Monsanto is not equivalent to GM foods, in either direction: there are non-Monsanto companies doing work in the field, and Monsanto does other things.

(But yes, you're right in that the suits I've heard of them launching against farmers have usually demonstrated that the farmers in question have been less innocent than they try to paint themselves.)

By Jenora Feuer (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Just my 2 cents.

You only got 2 cents for that? As opposed to the loadsadough I got from the Big Farmer Overlords for my contribution?

No wonder you're so pissed off.

Ren:

She will also never tell you that thousands of people die from complications of the flu compared to the handful that die from GBS, let alone contract it and get better.

Indeed. I have been asking some of her friends elsewhere to provide the evidence that the flu vaccines have killed as many as the number of pediatric influenza deaths this year. It started out with about twenty, and last time I checked it was almost sixty kids have died from actually getting flu.

@Bronze Dog: You are right. I should have said "off line" or "in meatspace" instead of real life.

Comment #1 is further evidence for the theory that someone's operating the 'Jen' persona as a false-flag operation to discredit anti-vaxxers.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Astroturfing definitely does exist.

I was involved in a twitter campaign unrelated to medicine. And I can tell you - Those with the $$$ can and will get your account suspended if you mention them in a comment (twitter calls "unsolicited mentions" sometimes even in the case that you are trying to engage dialogue). Basically what happens, is that big industry and government tries to control social media such as twitter by causing annoyances and censorship by getting accounts suspended. They hire people all over the world so there are different IP addresses and locations so it doesn't look suspicious to the Twitter algorithm. Then if you post something they really don't like (or god forbid mention them via an @ symbol), and you can see your account suspended within minutes as their army marks your tweets as spam. And then you can go on another twitter account, post something similar and reproduce same result.

Some think this type of activity couldn't be common. Their arguments are usually something like "they wouldn't do that" or the the government/companies learned from history and wouldn't do that stuff anymore (as if we evolved into better beings and censorship an act that has only existed in the past).

And while small companies and organizations can be involved in astroturfing as well, it's likely their campaigns would be a lot less effective as they have limited resources. Those that have more resources, and can afford the resources, can, and often will engage in astroturfing activities if they think it would help their public image, shape the public view, or lead to greater profits.

Twitter has become an antisocial network because of astroturfing activity that I have personally experienced. I sent all the info to the consumerist, and they were very interested in the story. But unfortunately, the organizations that were involved claimed they do and did no such thing. Twitter wouldn't comment. So without companies admitting these activities, whistleblowers such as the consumerists can't blow their whistle.

And I would place bets that pharmaceutical companies do this activity. Why? The answer is easy. Because it benefits them, is unlikely to hurt them, and they have the money and resources to.

By The Analyst (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

Kind of on topic, Natural News today resurrects the nauseating claim that often, shaken baby syndrome is really vaccine damage.

At least some of the commenters seem to have a shred of rationality as they called BS on this.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ JGC:

I wonder how that 'pharma money ' idea about Orac's "friend", the Doctor, got around the woo-esphere? On whose authority or research?

Hint: possibly a little article that has appeared and re-appeared @ AoA and more recently @ the Gary Null Blog, by none other than he wot will appear for the first time as a solo act @ AutismOne ( see speakers' list- Saturday-, Autism One 2013) and has already appeared as questioner-at-large at Yale, U Penn, etc etc etc.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

On another 'side' note; QI tonight actually featured a bit about Godwin's Law.

I immediately chimed in with the definition, before Stephen Fry, and my better half just looked at me and said, "You scare me, honey."

@DW, are you speaking about JC?

Alain

attack Chihuahua

LOL! I can't get this picture out of my head.

@8 Denice,
chemotherapy can be replaced by..vitamins ...
herbals ... replace most meds which are dangerous…
uh, Denice, you are aware that a vitamin can be major part of standard chemotherapy, like folinic acid (a B9) with 5FU, right?

If 5 cents of tart cherry extract, a natural COX2 inhibitor, saves me $5 on celecoxib with demonstrated vascular risks, for my aching knee, that's not too crazy is it, huh?

@ prn:

That's not what I'm talking about: rather, it's the extreme position that pharmaceuticals themselves are the problem, are to be feared and should be REPLACED by diets, supplements and herbs. ( see prn.fm; natural news et al)

These people never met a pharmaceutical that they didn't hate. This is especially true for anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and other meds for psychological problems.

If an inexpensive herb or supplement or food can solve the problem, that's fine. Usually, there isn't the same effect.-btw- someone in my family used a low sodium diet ( with a calcium channel blocker ) rather than diuretics for a CV condition for 7 or 8 years until he needed a drug.

If a fruit extract could accomplish the same function, there's no problem. But what if a person's arthritis is NOT helped by OTC meds or natural products? I have gone through this with elderly people who tried everything before resorting to meds.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ Alain:
Oui, c'est vrai!

Avec ses 'amis' Blaxill, Hooker et Bolen!
Comment dit-on 'woo fight' en francais?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

What I find comical about many that throw out the "pharma shill" line will point you to their favorite guru's website, which will invariably either have a book or video to sell, or loads of ads for various alt-med products, or even a "store" right on the site. Andrew Weil even has his own brand of vitamins with his mug prominently emblazoned on the box.

By Tom Herling (not verified) on 14 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ Denice,

For some reason, my previous 2 attempts at posting an answer did not work so I'm trying with this one:

Woo fight, there's no direct translation but the best I can come with is "mettre la lumière sur les médecine douce" (shed light on alties medicine). It doesn't have the same connotation as woo fight but it can be dropped in an uppity conversation :)

Alain

@Alain

I kind of like bagarre de woo, myself.

@Shay,

Yeah that's a good one too.

Alain

@Tom Herling: yes, well, most of these people think "irony" is just something you take in supplementies.

I like *bagerre*. I'm trying to think of a really good Gaelic word- there has to be one.

Because of the internal conflict @ AoA, recently covered here, I expect that their conference might include a *bagerre* or two..
Of course,there's always the possibility that they're mend fences... although I wouldn't count on it.
More than one loose cannon on that deck.

At any rate, Jake is listed as a speaker.
So are Blaxill, Olmstead, Kim, Hooker, Bolen, Scott Bell, AJW, Rivera (MMS) and too much woo gathered together in one place for anyone's comfort.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Basically what happens, is that big industry and government tries to control social media such as twitter by causing annoyances and censorship by getting accounts suspended. They hire people all over the world so there are different IP addresses and locations so it doesn’t look suspicious to the Twitter algorithm.

I wouldn't say this sort of astroturfing doesn't happen, but there are easier and cheaper ways of hiding IP addresses.
Do you have a real, identifiable example of what you're alleging?

I wouldn't be surprised companies do stuff like that, but I would appreciate an example.

As for IP addresses, large companies could probably assign existing workers from different office branches to do it, assuming they're afraid of getting caught bouncing their messages through other IP addresses. But they probably aren't that afraid of getting caught.

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Hey, enough of this "I'm working on a grant application" excuse.

Orac needs to get back up to his mom's attic and crank out some new posts.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Work on the catalogue raisonée has stalled while I transcribe a talk, in which I am threatened with bodily harm for being a "bimbo skeptic"! Fun! Illustrious company!

So I better get it done before A1, right?

Maybe Jen thinks Orac is a pharma shill because he gets a pittance in revenue from advertisements (the content of which are beyond his control, I might add)?

Anyway, IMO knowing that people are shilling is useful as a forensic tool - to figure out why people make consistently wrong, or cranky, or denialist, arguments or claims, when such a pattern becomes clear. (Obviously not everyone with such a habit is a financial shill.)

But otherwise it really doesn't matter. If Orac was an employee of Merck, it wouldn't matter as long as his arguments were still constructed using sold evidence and valid inferences.

By Composer99 (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Perhaps I can clear up the "Orac is a Pharma Shill" nonsense. A while back, ace cub reporter, Jake Crosby, uncovered the shocking truth! Let me explain: Orac works at a university. This university has received charitable donations and grants from pharmaceutical companies. Ergo: Pharma Shill. Only problem is that Orac doesn't see any of that money, but who cares about pesky little details like that?

@ Todd W.

That's what I alluded to in # 28.
Skimming over Jake's 90 (!!!!!!) posts listed at AoA, an errant thought crossed my mind, he's like a gossip columnist gone bad: he ties together random, loosely related bits of information about individuals' secrets and manages to NOT create salacious- and interesting- fictional scenarios: rather, he drones on and on about minute details in "he said- she said" fashion.
He's invented a new genre: boring gossip.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Denice

Yeah. But people were still speculating, so I thought I'd just cut to the point. Not one for subtlety, me.

I imagine that Jake could take a wonderful story like the Scarlet Pimpernel (nice reference in the other thread, btw) and make it read like a statistics textbook (apologies to statisticians out there). Prose is certainly not his forte.

Haha, Ren, I always knew my grandmother was one in a million! The weird thing is, according to what a lot of those who say vaccine' s benefits outweigh safety concerns, point out that those people would likely have got GB anyways. Well no family member has ever had flu shots since then and yet probably we have had the 'flu' - funny, no GB for us- just the one who got that flu shot almost 4 decades ago. Of course that is anecdotal.
I still see that the vaccine 'safety' studies (epidemiological and most poorly done) aren't convincing many in the science field (a recent survey shows one in 3 docs question them). I can't link now but it was at AoA and it's from a medical journal. BTW, I don't think there's been much of any reporting on exactly what happened in Chad (one mention - maybe at Ditz's site-about how one of the affected kids hadn't had the vaccine?) that isn't convincing.

Also, I can't speak for all of those parents, but I bet they would be happy to trade back their decision to get their child's flu shot and resulting narcolepsy for the chance that their child might have got the flu or any flu complications.

@ Todd W.

And merci beaucoup.

I am imagining a short story called "Scoot!" about an irate, fashionable columnist stamping her Jimmy Choos about the brash new, badly dressed reporter who not only makes up stories BUT manages to make them boring: a disgrace to the profession. However, he becomes very popular because many older people read his work instead of taking meds to induce sleep.

She thinks up a plan to get him fired from his position by introducing him to REAL life through set-up run-ins with various members of her entourage: his writing should then
reflect exciting rendezvous and late night * tete a tetes* with urban wildlife's sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll AND thus keep the readers awake.
Her plan works. He goes back to his tried and true method and gets hired by an internet blog.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Jen, Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it. If we could somehow only vaccinate those people who would have caught a vaccine preventable disease and suffered significant harm without it, that would truly maximize benefit while minimizing risk.

Any thoughts on how to do that?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Real safety trials would be a great start. I will try and link to that study on 1 in 3 docs being concerned about vaccine trials.

What exactly would a 'real' safety trial look like, Jen? How would they differ from the safety trial designs currently in use?

Blaxill, Olmstead, Kim, Hooker, Bolen, Scott Bell, AJW, Rivera (MMS) and too much woo gathered together in one place for anyone’s comfort.

Are you worried about the quantity of woo reaching uncritical mass?

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Woo-kuler melt down...

JGC, I am not a science researcher - if you are then maybe you can come up with something involving biomarkers and looking at the children for longer than 2-4 weeks post- vaccine (many involve series of shots, anyways)
Study on Jan 15, 2013, Journal of Preventive Medicine, Colorado). 'One in three family doctors have little confidence in vaccine safety studies.'
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23333206:

What exactly would a ‘real’ safety trial look like, Jen? How would they differ from the safety trial designs currently in use?

Repeated for emphasis. It's easy to claim there's a better way. What's not so easy is actually coming up with one.

Of course, this is a typical empty assertion about science in general. They say science can't detect X, or that a test protocol can't detect X. So, how do they propose to detect X?

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

From Jen's link:

RESULTS:

One in three family physicians compared to one in ten pediatricians in both surveys reported little or no confidence in pre-licensure vaccine safety studies (p<0.001). Compared to pre-licensure studies, higher percentages of both specialties reported a great deal of confidence in post-licensure vaccine safety studies in both years, and more physicians from both specialties reported a great deal of confidence in 2010/11 than in 2007.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

You've cherry-picked you own link Jen. See how different that citation is when you don't lie and make sh!t up.

"Physicians' confidence in vaccine safety studies.
O'Leary ST, Allison MA, Stokley S, Crane LA, Hurley LP, Beaty B, Kempe A.
Source

Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, USA; The Children's Outcomes Research Program, Children's Hospital Colorado, Aurora, CO, USA. Electronic address: sean.o'leary@childrenscolorado.org.
Abstract
OBJECTIVES:

To ascertain, through two separate surveys among nationally representative networks of pediatricians (Peds) and family physicians (FM): 1) physicians' reported level of confidence in pre- and post-licensure vaccine safety studies; and 2) changes in reported level of confidence from 2007 to 2010/11.
METHODS:

Two surveys were conducted in August to October 2007 and in November 2010 to January 2011. The survey response rates were 81% (FM, 79%, Peds, 84%, p=0.07) for the 2007 survey (691/848) and 66% (FM, 61%, Peds, 70%, p=0.003) for the 2010/11 survey (532/811).
RESULTS:

One in three family physicians compared to one in ten pediatricians in both surveys reported little or no confidence in pre-licensure vaccine safety studies (p<0.001). Compared to pre-licensure studies, higher percentages of both specialties reported a great deal of confidence in post-licensure vaccine safety studies in both years, and more physicians from both specialties reported a great deal of confidence in 2010/11 than in 2007.
CONCLUSION:

While most family physicians and pediatricians report confidence in post-licensure vaccine safety studies, one third of family physicians report little or no confidence in pre-licensure studies. More research is needed to better understand the reasons behind some physicians' lack of confidence in vaccine safety studies."

You do know the difference between 5 clinical trials with 21,480 participants who received the HPV vaccine...and the post licensing safety studies where 25,000,000 doses of the HPV vaccine were administered...don't you Jen?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19952863

Jen, nice try trying to twist that article.

One in three family doctors have little confidence in pre-licensure vaccine safety studies.

I notice you failed to mention that this number is 1 in 10 for pediatricians, and goes way down to 1 in 10 when asking family doctors about their confidence in post-licensure studies.

It takes some serious blinders to claim that this paper shows that "one in 3 docs question [vaccine safety studies]".

So your response takes the form "Since I'm not a science researcher so I have no idea what might be wrong with the current study protocols--I just somehow, some way, know something is"?

Have i got that right?

And that last sentence from Jen's cite bears repeating:

More research is needed to better understand the reasons behind some physicians' lack of confidence in vaccine safety studies.

The author's aren't calling for more research to improve pre-licensure safety studies, but instead for more research to understand why some physicians fail to accept the findings of pre-licensure vaccine safety studies.

@ JGC:

"

So your response takes the form “Since I’m not a science researcher so I have no idea what might be wrong with the current study protocols–I just somehow, some way, know something is”?

Have i got that right?"

Spot on JGC: What more should we expect from a teacher's aide who regards her special needs students as "vaccine damaged" and who is anti-vaccine and anti-science to the core of her being?

See, Lilady, that's the problem with cites. Some smart alec science-type is going to follow the link and actually read it.

"What exactly would a ‘real’ safety trial look like, Jen?"

Obviously, one which confirms antivaxer fantasies about vaccines.

Since that hasn't happened, the reason must be that they weren't "real" safety trials.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Question: do alties ever say things like "Oh yeah, I didn't notice that. You're right" when confronted with conflicting information?

I was arguing on another blog with someone claiming that a doctor was "shooting baking soda into tumours and making them go away." I told her the doctor in question has been stripped of his license and convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced to jail (but didn't serve time due to a general amnesty in Italy). Do you think she said "Oh wow, I didn't know that?" No, she continued her diatribe against Big Pharma.

When I'm corrected I acknowledge my error and apologize if necessary. I make my share of mistakes but always appreciate learning more. Alties, not so much.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Question: do alties ever say things like “Oh yeah, I didn’t notice that. You’re right” when confronted with conflicting information?

Jen's specific MO appears to be to outright vanish when she's presented with conflicting evidence, then reappears a few days later as if nothing had happened. I suspect that's precisely what's just happened on this thread.

@ MSII and Adam? O.k. It's "pre- licensure" confidence that they are talking about. Thank you for clarifying some of that and as JGCI pointed out, the last sentence does simply state that "more research is needed to better understand the reasons behind some physician's lack of confidence in vaccine safety studies."
lilady, that's pretty much bordering on slander to say that I "view my special needs students as vaccine damaged." (all is implied). I work with children who have all sorts of difficulties- kids with cerebral palsey as well as specifically identified syndromes. You are one really disturbed, miserable person in how you come across -not someone who will help to inspire trust toward vaccine safety.
I give up- vaccine safety is all great, no room for improvement even! And any problems which may come along such as narcolepsy are all worth it and better than any complications from the actual disease (assuming one gets all these diseases).
Wow, Bronze Dog, I was going to thank you for being civil in your response (58) but then I went higher up and I saw # 18 ("meatspace", despicable). I'm not up for this kind of abuse.

Um, on what planet is "meatspace" a pejorative term?

Oh, nevermind, now I see what you were saying. Hardly an uncivil response though...

vaccine safety is all great, no room for improvement even!

Obvious strawman. Once again Jen is all "I have no idea what might be wrong with the current study protocols–I just somehow, some way, know something is"

Fun. I get to see Jen fixate on civility and whine that I was uncivil because I called her uncivil, evasive, dishonest behavior "despicable."

This childish obsession with politeness is a tool of tyrants, bigots, and the status quo. They frame any dissent or criticism as "impolite" according to personal convenience, no matter how well it's phrased. They demand that we talk about tone instead of the core issues. It's how they distract people and justify their closed-mindedness to themselves. It's how they justify inaction in the face of suffering.

Grow up, Jen.

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Oh, and to reiterate AdamG's incredulity, what's wrong with "meatspace?" How's that any worse than "in the flesh?" The latter is arguably the progenitor of the former.

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Heh, heh Jen...

"lilady, that’s pretty much bordering on slander to say that I “view my special needs students as vaccine damaged.” (all is implied)."

Gee Jen, you really are a dullard...slander is spoken defamation and libel is written defamation. Now you can go back to your pals at AoA and post how "lilady" is a meanie...and libel me once again.

"I work with children who have all sorts of difficulties- kids with cerebral palsey (sic) as well as specifically identified syndromes. You are one really disturbed, miserable person in how you come across -not someone who will help to inspire trust toward vaccine safety."

Wouldn't you think that a teacher's aide would know how cerebral palsy is spelled...even if that person is from Canada?

You're a lost cause Jen and I am certainly not trying to disabuse you of your ignorance when it comes to vaccine safety. Aren't you upset that I called you a cherry-picking liar who makes sh!t up?

Nice try Bronze Dog, you stated that I was likely as "despicable"off- line. I in fact did acknowledge my too narrow interpretation of the study. Thanks again.

Hey lilady, I made a spelling mistake and used the term slander rather than libel. At least I'm not miserable!

Nice try Bronze Dog, you stated that I was likely as “despicable”off- line.

Yeah, I did. ...What's your point?

I in fact did acknowledge my too narrow interpretation of the study. Thanks again.

At least that's something.

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

I like *bagerre*. I’m trying to think of a really good Gaelic word- there has to be one.

My Old Irish is very, very rusty. (OK, it was never any good to start with, but at least I got what I have from the top of the heap.) I'm thinking that the mixture of nuances in bruiden might work well here. It would take me a while to assemble a coherent offering, though.

Hey Jen, you continually "make mistakes" and I'm not miserable...especially when you come to post your crap here.

I have the respect of family, friends and my colleagues in the science community. You're still a cherry picking liar who makes sh!t up and who only has a modicum of respect from your pals at AoA and the other crank blogs you post on.

Sometimes I wonder if we ARE too rough on those who *follow* alt med proselytisers and woo-meisters and here's why:
they may be merely be repeating what they are TAUGHT by their leaders who interpret research or create their own.
They may trust those who inform them about science because they assume that they themselves understand little ; perhaps they don't suspect their instructors' paucity of information, vested interests or outright prevarication- or appreciate how they are being manipulated by these groups.

I hear trusting souls question an altie "expert" who tells them that there is NO research that shows vaccines to be "safe and effective" and that there is "proof" positive that governments "fixed" data and that braves mavericks like
AJW were "set up" as frauds.

Sites like AoA, AVN, JABS, Natural News, prn, others set themselves up as ultimate authorities on vacciines: they explain how governmental agencies lie and they inform readers/ listeners that pharmaceutical companies cheat ( with examples of malfeasance) and then, parents talk about the "damage" done to their children by vaccines.

All of this is showcased in an engineered and finely honed message tailored to PERSAUDE other parents through emotional material presented histrionically. To be BELIEVABLE.

It wasn't just ANDY that fixed data: the entire movement is a FIX.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

@80, Denice - Sometimes people are just too ill to do any research and they just follow what appears to be the best advice available from doctors. There are quacks with valid medical licenses 'disguised' in white coats at leading hospitals. Disputing what is being taught by leading institutions with an ill patient is difficult, as they will defend what the experts have taught them.

"Sometimes people are just too ill to do any research and they just follow what appears to be the best advice available from doctors...(who) will defend what the experts have taught them."

Don't let yourself be fooled, sheeple! Never trust the "experts" or those quacks 'disguised' in white coats!

Have I got a website for you...

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Never trust the “experts” or those quacks ‘disguised’ in white coats!

@DB - So now you tell me.

What's the website or are you messing with me?

Don’t let yourself be fooled, sheeple! Never trust the “experts”....

I'll say (MP3).

@ Naead:
Thanks for the word... I have a suspicion that I will find it very useful amongst the Gaelic speakers.
Better than 'ri ra'.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

OOOps.. NARAD

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

OOOps.. NARAD

Yah, people say that to me a lot.

I can't recall which author came up with this thought, which I'm paraphrasing: "There are just some people who are too stupid to realize there may be people smarter than they are."

I've had conversations with alt-med believers that remind me of that phrase, and no matter how much you counter their erroneous statements with facts, they just refuse to believe they could be wrong, or avoid responding by bringing out the "big Pharma/government/etc". conspiracy theories.

By Tom Herling (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Denice Walter,

I try to be civil to everyone - at first.

Mephistopheles O'Brien
Shill, Class II, with clusters, keeper of the Great Echidna of Office, grub gatherer (by appointment)

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

Longtime lurker, first-time poster...mostly because I WAS a pharma shill. I worked as a ghostwriter writer of continuing medical education articles that were paid for by pharmaceutical companies. I took presentations by researchers and turned them into articles, and in the fine print of the article it would say "supported by a grant from BMS/Glaxo/Janssen/etc."

Let me tell you, it made my job so much easier when the researchers would throw in a reference to some kind of alternative medicine. Most of our articles were explanation of why drug X was better than drug Y. When we could mention herbal supplements, chelation therapy, or other junk, we were always happy to put it in there because we could point to it and say "See, we're neutral! We're supporting a product by someone other than the pharma company!"

The thing is, though, being a shill doesn't pay as well as you think. It costs a lot of money to pay all those researchers to sign their names to crap. Plus, there's the whole NIH-cracking-down-on-conflicts-of-interest thing...it's not a good time to be a shill.

By Sadie Burke (not verified) on 15 Feb 2013 #permalink

@lilady, you forgot that in my haste (I don't devote my entire existence to this as you would seem to) I typed JGCI, instead of 'JGC' - another mistake! You say you have the respect of your friends and family but your behavior shows a deeply hateful personality. Oh and your comment, "even if that person is from Canada?" really shows you up for what you are. I will not be drawn into any kind of predjudiced comments; you represent your side very poorly. Oh, and a cackle is usually spelled, "hee, hee, hee."

Jen,

One might reasonably suspect that you are a pharma shill, trying to make antivaccinationists look bad....

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

Alain, I wasn't going to post again but I hope you feel better soon. At leastit sounds like you have found some useful information.
Sadie Burke- thanks for posting. If it's hard to be a shill these days, then good! Hopefully we all just want the truth about medical interventions and thanks for stating your experience with ghostwriting for pharmaceutical companies.
In terms of MS research these days, I fear there is a lot of BS going on.
"MS" has very recently been confirmed to be highly associated with CCSVI (chronic cerobrospinal venous insufficiency). This very recent study by Lanzilo, Mancini et al followed Zamboni protocals unlike some of the other studies and found that 76% of those with "MS" had CCSVI, compared to 16% of controls. It was found to be more associated with age than clinical course of disease, showing cumulative effects. So 76% VS 16%!

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2377/13/20/abstract

MS drugs like Novartis' Gilenya (which disingenuously states it should not be used in people who have a history of cerebrovascular disease- per above study which shows that most with "MS" have!) and Biogen's Tysabri (highly associated with PML that has killed at least 70 of 323 people so far) have been allowed to continue. All this and the neuros will point to the maybe 3 deaths from angioplasty (I believe 2 related to stent use, which is not done anymore). There must be some furious ghost writing going on in these companies!

MOB, why are you wasting time on petty comments toward me rather than asking Sadie Burke some things? Don't you want to hear? Funny how silent you all are now.

@Jen: "MOB, why are you wasting time on petty comments toward me rather than asking Sadie Burke some things? Don’t you want to hear? Funny how silent you all are now."

Why don't you ask? We don't know exactly what questions you have. She acknowledges ghost-writing articles. Orac has blogged about that before so it's not news to the regulars. So what questions should we have?

You're right, LW. 2 and 3 years ago Orac did write about pharma ghost writing- a threat to SBM. I found 2 articles that only drew (combined) 55 comments. Most were appalled by it, then others resorted into jokes and such. Bronze Dog astutely noted that this "would give alties more ammo." One poster asked specifically about vaccines and this was quickly rebuffed.
Sadie- do you know of any ghost writing or pharma shill activity specifically to do with vaccines?

LW: The AoA mole has already posted about Sadie Burke's "confession":

"FYI, on "Orac's" site now there is an article on "shills" and a Sadie Burke showed up as a first time poster who actually claims to be a former ghost writer for pharma. Of course the posters there are doing their best to just ignore her and hope she goes away. It's pretty funny!

Posted by: Jen | February 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM"

How disingenuous of you Jen, when most of the editors, contributing editors and posters at AoA resort to bizarre biomedical ***treatments/cures* for their autistic kids.

***Chelation, chemical castration, industrial bleach enemas, intrathecal IV stem cell transplants at offshore unregulated clinics, etc.

"Of course the posters there are doing their best to just ignore her and hope she goes away. It’s pretty funny!"

How would Jen know what anyone's hoping? Maybe nobody has much to say. Jen herself didn't ask a question until I prompted her to do so. Maybe she was hoping Sadie would go away?

Jen, remember when you declared that you had washed your hands of "creepy Skeptic places"? Think. It wasn't too long ago.

Wow, I think someone really missed my point. Mole, take this back to Age of Autism: I was a pharma shill, and I loved to write about alternative treatments for autism, because it gave me plausible deniability. Think about that.

No, there are no hidden shills for vaccine promotion, because there's no market share to be gained there. Parents aren't going to request a certain brand of vaccine because they saw it on TV. As far as I know there's no giant argument about one company's vaccines being safer for kids than others...because they're all safe. And yes, I'm a parent, and yes, my child is vaccinated.

Also, the main offenders--the researchers I worked with--have already been sanctioned. I'm not revealing anything new. Google "Dr Joseph Biederman" at Mass General. He's already been investigated by 20/20 and Frontline, ie, real journalists.

By Sadie Burke (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

MOB, why are you wasting time on petty comments toward me rather than asking Sadie Burke some things? Don’t you want to hear? Funny how silent you all are now.

Gosh Jen, projecting your ignorance? I don't know of a single biomedical researcher who doesn't know about pharmaceutical ghost-writing. And it's very frowned upon even though it still happens.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

Sadie, Sadie, former "pharma shill" lady, welcome aboard!

“MS” has very recently been confirmed to be highly associated with CCSVI (chronic cerobrospinal venous insufficiency). This very recent study by Lanzilo, Mancini et al followed Zamboni protocals [sic] unlike some of the other studies

Coincidentally, I have a friend who was the first female Zamboni operator (strict protocol) at a large, high-quality state university. In other news, the other Zamboni isn't panning out.

Jen, seriously. Do you never listen to Canadian radio? CBC to the uninitiated. The Newfoundland government abandoned a study in CCSVI liberation as it was not working. Do try to keep up.

Jen seems very accepting of Zamboni's CCSVI disease entity (can only be diagnosed with high-tech equipment sold by Zamboni's business partners) because it is an alternative to the pharmaceutical approach where everyone has conflicts of interest.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

Sadie- "they're all safe." Well that's a relief!
Narad, I will read the link.
lilady, I really don't care what you think as per my #93 comments. I still find what Sadie says to be very interesting in terms of drugs.

I know of some studies that many in the "MS" community felt were poorly designed by the neuros and were 'designed' to fail.
Herr doc- I think the deaths by drugs used in MS patients (Tysabri and Gilenya alone) speak for themselves.
Narad, yes, I should have stuck to my plan.

In terms of MS research these days, I fear there is a lot of BS going on.

Is there any particular reason why this sudden swerve of topic occurred? Was anyone talking about MS? Had anyone betrayed an interest in MS, or in defending or criticising any of the treatments currently on offer?
Jen sees this as a stick with which to beat pharmaceutical research -- I did manage to grasp that point -- but there are a number of Underpants Gnome steps absent from the argument.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

@109 Jen
Maybe you could be more specific? Which studies/papers? What are exact criticisms of the study designs?

It is hard to discuss without these details.

By Stewartt1982 (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Jen - I found your last post on AoA to be very humorous:

FYI, on "Orac's" site now there is an article on "shills" and a Sadie Burke showed up as a first time poster who actually claims to be a former ghost writer for pharma. Of course the posters there are doing their best to just ignore her and hope she goes away. It's pretty funny!

Posted by: Jen | February 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Wow, I don't know what color the sky is on your planet, but is sure as hell isn't blue......

@Lawrence: Of course, we are all just ignoring Sadie. Not like we would be all polite and welcome her, or anything. And not like Orac hasn't written about about such ghost writing before. Cause we ALL KNOW he hasn't... (snicker)

And it's really funny that Jen has commented to Sadie and seems to ignore our comments. But then, I don't go to AOA. If I'm going to destroy brain cells it will be with alcohol, not the drivel from AOA.

I think I might know why the teacher's aide tried to pull off that sloppy diversionary tactic.

There's a troll and her sockies that posts on science blogs, who claims her infant had vaccine-induced encephalitis from the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine. She also claims her MS was caused by a Td booster shot. Bring it on home now, Lawrence. :-)

I wonder how Jen thinks we should react? I am not under the illusion that pharmaceutical companies always act in a pure and angelic manner. Is anyone? (probably only the straw-men that Jen creates).

BTW Jen, this article is not about 'shills' exactly, but about how those who question alt-med claims are automatically labelled as a 'pharma shill'.

By Stewartt1982 (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

Narad, I will read the link.

Do so with the knowledge that Zivadinov was initially a proponent of Zamboni's hypothesis.

Jen's comment was so poorly written that I thought initially she was complaining about ghostwritten "BS" articles about MS:

Sadie Burke- thanks for posting. If it’s hard to be a shill these days, then good! Hopefully we all just want the truth about medical interventions and thanks for stating your experience with ghostwriting for pharmaceutical companies.
In terms of MS research these days, I fear there is a lot of BS going on.
“MS” has very recently been confirmed to be highly associated with CCSVI (chronic cerobrospinal venous insufficiency). This very recent study by Lanzilo, Mancini et al followed Zamboni protocals unlike some of the other studies and found that 76% of those with “MS” had CCSVI, compared to 16% of controls.

@ MI Dawn:

"And it’s really funny that Jen has commented to Sadie and seems to ignore our comments. But then, I don’t go to AOA. If I’m going to destroy brain cells it will be with alcohol, not the drivel from AOA."

What...you can't *multi-task"? I'm perfectly capable of destroying my brain cells by *slumming* at AoA, while throwing back some booze.

(I lost you email address MI Dawn...I'd love to hear from you.)

I wondered whether Jen's MS comment had wandered in from an argument with someone else. I couldn't see how an attack on the credibility of pharma shills is made more convincing by shilling for a surgical treatment.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

Sadie,

Do you have a list of academic psychiatrist & researchers working on any medication for mental illnesses or closely related that you have worked with?

It's just that I want to work on my filters at pubmed not to include these authors.

Thanks
Alain

@herr doktor bimler

Maybe Jen is in the pay of big surgery?

By Stewartt1982 (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

Big Surgery? I believe the politically correct term is Bariatric.

By ThickSantorum (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

@122 - See comment @107. Big Pharma (vaccines) vs. Big Surgery (CCSVI liberation surgery for MS).

Stewartt1982:

Maybe Jen is in the pay of big surgery?

I have often asked her if she was in the pay of Big Hospital Supply. She did not like that.

Still on the subject of "chronic cerobrospinal venous insufficiency" and surgical intervention for MS, I have no strong views on the topic, so my opinions are up for auction.

As a generalisation, if the crank-magnetism crowd are siding with a new Paradigm-Changing approach to an illness -- and especially if they're conjuring up conspiracies to explain why tests of the theory are reporting negative results ("poorly designed by the neuros and were ‘designed’ to fail"), then the approach is probably a steaming pile of Fail. But even a blind squirrel is right twice a day, and even a roomful of monkeys at typewriters will find a truffle given enough time.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

And what about the legal liability of pseudo-journalists who promote fear of effective medicines? Or who promote "therapies" which have no scientific support? Are they not liable?

By I. Rony Meter (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

And what about the legal liability of pseudo-journalists who promote fear of effective medicines? Or who promote “therapies” which have no scientific support? Are they not liable?

Under what theory would liability arise? I'm just scanning the PLoS entry, but it's going to require running down the references to make sense of. The text on its face does not strike me as promising.

May I, please? (Mom said to always say please when cookies are around.)

By Bill Price (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

S@123 - I think your joke detection lobe needs to be recalibrated.

Don't worry, Jen's appearance used to destroy my joke lobe too. Now, before coming to RI, I simply ingest InsaniShield. It's a homeopathic preparation made from distilled AoA posts and extract of Danus Ullmanius. It promotes lobe health and resilience, and prevents implosion upon reading statements like:

"Shaken baby syndrome is vaccine damage"

or

"Sadie Burke showed up as a first time poster who actually claims to be a former ghost writer for pharma. Of course the posters there are doing their best to just ignore her and hope she goes away*. It’s pretty funny!"

Don't delay, get some InsaniShield today!

*Apparently she's telepathetic. There's no end to her "talents".

When I read Zamboni, my first association was this

Precisely my reference above.

I'd like to welcome Sadie and The Analyst and thank them for their contributions; I hope we can look forward to you becoming regulars.

Believe me, it isn't your fault that Jen is radically misinterpreting what you wrote. Any reasonable person understands there's a vast evidentiary gap between "Pharma ghostwriters and astroturfers exist" and "Every person who agrees with the general medical consensus must be being paid to say so," but Jen is not part of the population of reasonable people.

(You surely already noticed that, what with her making a direct, blunt accusation that Orac is taking "pharma monies" to blog, an accusation she has refused to even tell us why she believes it to be true... and then acting as though she's been subjected to horrid harrasment which she could not possibly have brought on herself when someone describes her behavior as "despicable." Obviously Jen subscribes to the Fool's Gold Rule of "treat only yourself as you would like to be treated, and whine about others not treating you with the same kid gloves; meanwhile, treat others as if they were born for you to take out your fears and angers on.")

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

The thing aboot the Liberation Treatment for MS is there are people with MS who do not have the narrowing of the neck veins and there are people without MS who do...

By al kimeea (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

@elburto #131, I would like some InsaniShield! One day I, too, would like to be able to wade through AoA like Denice and Lilady and others and come out un-traumatized!

By Melissa G (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ Melissa G:

I think that my own arcane abilites are the result of my ancestors' genetic capacity to tolerate huge amounts of nonsense- which has been very useful in the business world- and the resultant traditions that have evolved surrounding it.

While I don't take anything to augment my tolerance but I do imagine that one of the reasons my ancestor created a very potent gin may have been to bolster his own ability to deal with stupidity and idiocy on a large scale.

May I suggest taking a drink prior to reading this ...literature, then?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

ENCODED MESSAGE BEGINS------------------

Shills and Minions:

Well, I am actually looking forward to getting back into orbit on Tuesday. This gentlelizard of the vineyards gig isn't exactly a life of luxury and sloth, is it? Prune. Cut. Plant. Harvest. Crush. Bottle. I imagine that I shall especially enjoy the "crush" part. The relentlessly bossy Baroness de Rothschild tells me I should have lackeys performing these tasks for me, but you all know that I'm a micromanager from way back. As usual, I digress, and after all, we have a long lost guest . . .

Now, dear Sadie</b, my hearts are breaking to see you leave us. Do come back to our cold embrace, all of that business about you betraying our secrets is forgiven. You really must learn that treachery and deceit are résumé gold in the empire. How the functionaries and paper-pushers (probably some Squanzog temp, a Glaxxon would know better) ever let you go is a mystery to me. Do contact Miss Flinders directly (Sponder code 098T8503950394850345849) and we'll get this all cleared up at once.

Esteemed and honored Shill O'Brien, I've been remiss in checking in with you to see how the Great Echidna of Office is doing. The fearsome beast hasn't been too much trouble I trust? Your exploits and feats of derring-do have not gone unnoticed in the halls of power on the homeworld. Expect that promition at any time. I do hope you have room for a larger companion. And thicker gloves.

And last, but certainly not least, I turn to you dear Minion Specialist First Class, ElBurto. I do hope you've read your Shills and Minions Manual VII and realize that InsaniShield™ is available free of charge to all who do our evil bidding. Just another perquisite for those willing to betray their species for the "greater good" of the Glaxxon Empire!

Oh, and I almost forgot. Cadre Leader Walter, we missed you at the Glaxxon Interspecies HoloTennis Invitational on Saturday last. The Grand Vitara of Eminiar VII was very disappointed. Astra suspects he continues to pine for you. You must have received his many gifts. Evidently, your combination of tactical prowess, athletic skills, intellect and joie de vivre continues to hold what passes for his heart captive.

Well, it's back to work my malevolent monkeys, there are Jens everywhere undoing everything we've worked so hard for.

Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihl

Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Pharmaca Magna of Terra, Hero of the Rutherford Merlot Offensive

Glaxxon Estate Vineyards
0000000010001000101010101110100

--------------------ENCODED MESSAGE ENDS

By Glaxxon Estate… (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

ENCODED MESSAGE BEGINS--------------------

LFMAOIZG at the epic boldfail!
Someone might be totes able to kill a M'vesh Pit Constrictor with his bare claws, but dude still can't get the hang of HTML. Your worshipfulness had better lay off the Merlot when layin' down the law to the Shills and MInions. Just sayin'

Astra: Girlfriend, guess who cracked 500,000 on the Asteroids scoreboard? Totes moi! Oh, and I hope old dragonpants isn't sore about that Russia thing. The Rooskis are still cleaning up the glass! But really, it was an accident. My bad.

See ya on Tuedsay!

Cindy Flinders, M99302VihL
Personal Assistant to the Forward Mavoon, Triple Skull Clusters Award: Tactical Gunnery, Order of the Battleclaw, Best Apple Pie: Kansas State Fair

Glaxxon PharmaCOM Orbital
000111010111010101110010

----------------ENCODED MESSAGE ENDS

By Glaxxon Pharma… (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

This was entertaining, in comment #95:
All this and the neuros will point to the maybe 3 deaths from angioplasty (I believe 2 related to stent use, which is not done anymore).

"The number of deaths from invasive surgery for MS has been vastly exaggerated, and anyway no-one is carrying out the totally-not-dangerous operation any more."

This from someone who in #1 was accusing vaccine advocates of minimising and denying the potential side-effects thereof. Two of our cats have more insight than that. I am leaning further towards the "parody troll intended to discredit anti-vaxxers" theory.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

This from someone who in #1 was accusing vaccine advocates of minimising and denying the potential side-effects thereof. Two of our cats have more insight than that.

I imagine that herding said cats is very much like dealing with the likes of Jen. Futile, exhausting, and likely to end with fur flying, and piercing yowls of indignation.

I'd love for her to be a troll, but let's face it, that would be some Inception-level trolling. She'd. have to be like a troll within a troll within a troll, as she appears to have the self-awareness of a pineapple. If it's merely a performance then it's a truly astonishing one.

Herr doctor, Orac included a quote from me that mentioned MS- admittedly it was not in this particular article but the 'how they view us' one. I have quite a few friends with MS and yes, they strongly feel CCSVI has been quickly maligned in favour of meds/ genetic explanations. I know many of them feel some of the Canadian CCSVI trials were poorly designed but it would perhaps be better for them to speak on this. I had thought to link to Scienceblogs for them to discuss this - there is an older article by Novella on this issue, but then it occurred to me that people with MS or CCSVI or whatever have it rough enough. Although it certainly isn't the way everyone communicates here I wouldn't want them to be exposed to ridicule, jokes.

@jen - perhaps you could explain to me how I was treated at AoA was any "better?" I attempted to find a middle ground & instead was accused of being a "pharma-shill," insulted personally, and banned from the site........nice group of people you associate with over there.

Jen, if you'd pay attention to why we're rude instead of apparently assuming that we'll automatically be rude in all circumstances, you might learn something about maturity. For starters, rudeness generally isn't an inherent trait, but a circumstantial one. Frankly, I find that the people who regularly complain about rudeness are generally oblivious to their own rude behavior.

Oh, and talking about ableism, there's far too much rhetoric from the antivaxxers characterizing autistic children as inherently broken, worthless, and even false with talk about autism taking away their child and leaving them with an empty shell. It doesn't help that that sort of language makes it all about the parents and their dream child rather than about what's best for the very real autistic one.

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 18 Feb 2013 #permalink

*raises hand* I actually defended Jen once, when she said something intelligent and on-topic that I thought was worth a considerate hearing. In her very next post she verbally ripped my head off. So, yeah, I'd second the recommendation she examine her own behavior to determine when the rudeness started.

By Melissa G (not verified) on 18 Feb 2013 #permalink

Lectures on civility are always enjoyable when the source is an internet persona who is perhaps best-known for accusing the entire commentariat at 'Respectful Insolence' of being vile subhuman scum (because Meryl Dorey had complained of some unknown person sending her a death threat).

Perhaps Jen is confusing 'insight' with 'incite'.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 18 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Bronze Dog - Hear hear! The "better dead (of VPD) than damaged" rhetoric is incredibly upsetting.

Also, when I've brought up the fact that something as simple as flu or chickenpox could kill me and people like me, who are disabled/chronically ill but unable to be vaccinated, I've been the target of some utterly disgusting responses from anti-vaxxers. Usually they're somewhat along the lines of "That's how nature cleans the gene pool". and the old ~purity~ schtick about not polluting the bodies of their precious offspring to save "defective" people.

Their movement is built on ableism and neurotypical superiority.

I want to say that I just found your blog today when searching for information about Duesberg for a "Chemistry for the Health Professions II " course I am taking.
Our instructor has a portion of our course dedicated to CAM studies with the intention of teaching us how to begin to sort the good from the bad when reading research articles.
I think I have learned more in 3 hours on your blog than I have learned so far this semester.
I posted this on this particular post because I have already seen examples of your "pharma shill" statement in action -- within the first week of class students who were pro-CAM (in general) were talking of the big pharmacy money that keeps "natural medicine" information out of the average person's reach.

Welcome Valanda! Stick around, there is much to learn here. There's another great blog that you'll find helpful for its in-depth deconstruction of CAM: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/

Hope it helps with your studies, best of luck!

Glad to have you aboard, Valanda.

---

elburto:

Also, when I’ve brought up the fact that something as simple as flu or chickenpox could kill me and people like me, who are disabled/chronically ill but unable to be vaccinated, I’ve been the target of some utterly disgusting responses from anti-vaxxers. Usually they’re somewhat along the lines of “That’s how nature cleans the gene pool”. and the old ~purity~ schtick about not polluting the bodies of their precious offspring to save “defective” people.

Their movement is built on ableism and neurotypical superiority.

Yeah, I'm remembering some of that, now. Some take it far enough to effectively reject the concept of medicine as undermining the gene pool. Some mix it with the Disneyfication of nature to tell themselves they or their children are so genetically superior that they'll naturally adapt to anything. It also conveniently fits with blaming the victim: If you get sick, it's because your inferiority made you deserve sickness.

By Bronze Dog (not verified) on 20 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Valanda

Welcome! You could blow the minds of some of your classmates by talking about Seven Seas and their "natural supplements". Once everyone's nice an supportive of them, reveal that Seven Seas is owned by Merck.

Hooray, Valanda! Welcome! Or should I say, "WELLCOME"? ;D

...'cause we're all pharma shills an' there's the Wellcome Trust... and... I'll get my coat.

By Melissa G (not verified) on 20 Feb 2013 #permalink

The world of CAM and "alternative medicine" (including supplements, and pseudoscience such as homeopathy) is a wild and wonderful world.

My own journey from a naive believer in "natural medicine", through to shruggie, to being a rather vehement lay supporter of skepticism took several decades.

Hot of the presses today, courtesy of our own Ren, PublicHealth-PhD-in-training:

At Lifehacker: How to Conduct Scientific Research On the Internet (Without Getting Duped) by Alan Henry

You know how to tell if something controversial is actually true, but what if you want to read up on something without stumbling into half-truths and pseudoscience? Here's how to use the internet as a powerful research tool without being led astray.

Enjoy.

Does Valanda get the Pharma Tart hat and shillelagh right away?

Thank you for the link, Liz. Adding this one to my arsenal.

@Shay, I'm definitely not one to go around thinking about 'Tarts', but I can't get thoughts of Pharma Tart out of my head.

Yes, a hat and a shillelagh for Valanda!

By Melissa G (not verified) on 20 Feb 2013 #permalink

Hello Valanda - glad to have you aboard. I too found RI while doing research for work (for info about "EMF poisoning") and spent several months reading back posts - I don't have a science background so it took me a while to get up to speed. You will find excellent discussion here that should help inform your studies - and it is very heartening to see someone educating themselves about CAM at the beginning of their career instead of having to play catch-up later. Good luck with your studies and I hope you continue to comment.

By Edith Prickly (not verified) on 21 Feb 2013 #permalink

@ Valanda: Welcome aboard. I'm sure our overload, Lord Draconis, will be here shortly to formally welcome you into our group of *Big Pharma Shills*. :-)

To my dearest and most dread Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihl, Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Pharmaca Magna of Terra, Galactic Ping-Pong Champ 2000-2001 (inclusive, spanning two millennia),

I trust that this message finds you well, that the sand pits have been warm, and that the hand, foot, and tentacle maidens willing.

It is your servant's hope that you will be pleased to hear that the Great Echidna has thrived since his arrival. Apparently my 23 room pharma-hovel suffered from a previously unknown termite issue, and the echidna (bless its spines) accepted these as the treat that your servant would have prepared if, indeed, your servant had expected such a great honor. Needless to say, the Great Echidna has doubled in girth while saving a tidy sum to the Orkin man. But as they say, a fat echidna is a happy echidna, and it is an ill termite infestation that blows no one good.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 21 Feb 2013 #permalink

Thank you for all the warm welcome!
I was wondering if there is a database somewhere for author's qualifications? I found a link through here to the list of predatory publishers. That was very helpful.

When this class started, our instructor had us pick two CAM research articles without telling us what we were going to do with them. Through the semester, we are going to look at various aspects of these articles. Both of my articles came from the same journal: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This week, we are supposed to look at our authors: education, background, affiliations - do they seem qualified to do this research? I'm not finding much about any of the authors of the articles I chose. All I have been able to find is what university they are with and other articles they have authored. Can anyone give me some suggestions on where to look?

@ Valanda: I went to PubMed to *search* for a respected doctor who has published many articles about CAM. I keyed in "Kimball Atwood" on the search line of PubMed...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=kimball+atwood

The fourth article listed under Dr. Atwood's name brought me to this complete article, where you can see Dr. Atwood's credentials and affiliations...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2438277/

@Valanda - You can check their associated professional licensing authorities, such as the medical licensing boards, to see if they have any board actions against them which have been made available to the public. That may raise some questions as to the integrity of their research and other matters.

@Jen

We don't need your 2 cents, the Order pays us far more through Glaxoogle MoneyNET Services, whose interest rates are, as His Reptilian Mastermind Lt. Colonel Mnz'ahn-Taw Bayer bin Hubbard would say, "really frajjzkh'zzng sweet, pardon my Draconian".

All Hail Lord Draconis Zeneca!

By The Typical Ph… (not verified) on 26 Feb 2013 #permalink

Orac is funded by Sanofi (Sanofi Pasteur, major vaccine manufacturer), is it so ?

@Chemist: "Orac is funded by Sanofi (Sanofi Pasteur, major vaccine manufacturer), is it so ?"

No, that is not so, as has been explained repeatedly.

Here, Chemist, just for you.

Here is, I believe a href="http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/02/18/as-josh-duhamel-shills-for…">the most recent debunking of that falsehood, on Feb 18:

... no doubt Merola is referring to this bit of yellow journalism in 2010 from an antivaccine propagandist named Jake Crosby. Crosby’s entire chain of logic can be summarized in a brief, blisteringly dumb thesis: My university has received grants from Sanofi-Aventis. I also work on the repurposing of a drug originally used to treat amyotropic lateral sclerosis that has anticancer properties that apparently Sanofi-Aventis markets. Even though I haven’t received a penny from Sanofi-Aventis to work on that drug, Crosby inferred that because my university apparently got a significant grant from Sanofi-Aventis my working on that particular drug must indicate a quid pro quo. (Never mind that I didn’t even know my university had gotten any funding from Sanofi-Aventis).

OK. Thanks for clarification. Keep the good work.

Cookie

By Niche Geek (not verified) on 09 Mar 2013 #permalink

Just curious, has anyone here read Pharmageddon?

What comes to mind after reading "Pharmageddon" is not that doctors like Orac are "pharma shills", but that they are "pharma dupes". They have been duped, conned, bamboozled, beguiled and spun into playing the game and have no interest in stopping it because they benefit handsomely from the crumbs that fall from Big Pharma's table.

Orac is a surgeon. Sandrop, do you want him to just not let the anesthesiologist use any pharmaceutical products?

Oh, and I have never heard of the book.

Where's my crumb?

By I. Rony Meter (not verified) on 13 Mar 2013 #permalink

Healy's book (here's a sympathetic review PDF) warns that pharmaceutical companies can be unscrupulous and dishonest in their desire to make profits. I don't think any of us would deny that is true; we need better regulation of large multinational corporations in many areas, it's a problem that seems to be an intrinsic element of capitalism. I think that means that medicine should be based on better scientific evidence, not that we should embrace naturopathy or homeopathy. "The game" needs to be played better, not abandoned altogether.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 13 Mar 2013 #permalink

I think it's very presumptuous of Sandrop to a.) not know Orac's prescribing habits and b.) not know that Orac has been critical of pharmaceutical practices and make the claims that s/he does. I'm always amused when trolls read a book (probably not even that much) and suddenly become authorities. Here's a clue for you Sandrop; criticising those who make blanket accusations about being in the thrall of pharma doesn't mean they are in the thrall of pharma.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 13 Mar 2013 #permalink

Oh, come on, Science Mom! Anesthesia is part of Big Pharma. If Abigail Adams, the daughter, f the second USA president (John Adams), can have a double mascetomy without drugs, then modern women should too!

I really don't think Sandrop really thought it through.

Oops, I mean "mastectomy." In a hurry to finish I forgot spell-check.

@ Krebiozen:

He has a blog: davidhealy.org also.

-btw- Critics of SBM assume that there can be no criticism of pharmaceutical companies because they envision that the two parties are interchangeable.
This illustrates their own black and white thinking- not what occurs in the real world.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Mar 2013 #permalink

And how well would Leonid Rogozov have done without pharmaceuticals?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 13 Mar 2013 #permalink

@Science Mom
I am sure Orac's prescribing habits are dictated by the HMOs and the information (mis-information) helpfully fed to him by Big Pharma. That is why is a Pharma Dupe, rather than a Pharma Shill, although some people would call him the latter because of his loose ties to a pharmaceutical company. Read Pharmageddon and make up your own mind. Reviews don't count. But of course you won't read it because it goes against the grain of your cherished beliefs. Newsflash: pharmaceutical companies make a mockery of science.

@Science Mom
And I am being sympathetic to Orac, because neither he nor any of his colleagues can know with any certainty whether the pharmaceutical industry is telling them the truth about anything they subscribe.

"about anything they prescribe". Not subscribe.

And I am being sympathetic to Orac, because neither he nor any of his colleagues can know with any certainty whether the pharmaceutical industry is telling them the truth about anything they subscribe.

Pompous, passive-aggressive, patronising posturing. Somehow, I highly doubt you are in a position of such transcending authority and expertise on the subject that anyone would give a rat's bum about your "sympathy".

By Science Mom (not verified) on 16 Mar 2013 #permalink

@Science Mom
I am basing my opinion on Dr. David Healy's comprehensive and damning book about what has happened to medicine. Also, on the published statistic that prescription medicines are among the highest contributors to death in America. May I turn the mirror on you? Pompous, passive-aggressive, patronising -- I highly doubt that you are in a position of such transcending authority and expertise on the subject that you can refute me. As I said, read the book.

Sandrop, do you think that surgeons should insist that the anesthesiologists not bother showing up? Surely if Abigail Adams could have a double mastectomy without Big Pharma, modern women can also!

Also, on the published statistic that prescription medicines are among the highest contributors to death in America

Where are you getting this? I'm pretty sure I know, and it doesn't say what you think it does.

Honest question, Sandrop: Why do you trust Healy's interpretations of the data and evidence?

Sandrop,

the published statistic that prescription medicines are among the highest contributors to death in America

Where precisely is this statistic published? I hope you aren't referring to Gary Null's 'Death By Medicine', which it is deeply flawed in several ways.
Here are the 15 most common causes of death in the US according to the CDC with the annual death rate per 100,000.
Diseases of heart 193.6
Malignant neoplasms 186.2
Chronic lower respiratory diseases 44.7
Cerebrovascular diseases 41.9
Accidents (unintentional injuries) 39.1
Alzheimer's disease 27.0
Diabetes mellitus 22.4
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis 16.3
Influenza and pneumonia 16.2
Intentional self-harm (suicide) 12.4
Septicemia 11.3
Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 10.3
Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease 8.6
Parkinson's disease 7.1
Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids 5.5

The annual death rate due to adverse drug reactions is 0.08 to 0.12 per 100,000 according to this study published last year. Something doesn't add up, does it?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 16 Mar 2013 #permalink

Oops, sorry. The links in the above mess are intact.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 16 Mar 2013 #permalink

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2898%292…

Are The Lancet and JAMA sufficiently authoritative ?

@AdamG
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Healy_%28psychiatrist%29

Yes.

@Chris
Healy's argument is that many extremely valuable drugs were developed in the twentieth century in a kind of golden age of pharmaceutical development. I would class anasthesia agents among them. But more recently as these drugs came off patent, pharmaceutical companies have been trying to develop new ones, particularly block busters, that would be more profitable for them. Healy's claim is that the new drugs are inferior to the old and carry a greater burden of side effects, and that the pharmaceutical industry is sacrificing the well being of patients to its bottom line.

Sandrop:

The lancet and jama papers are out if date, and have some methodological problems as well. The study at Krebiozen's link was published last year and uses far more accurate data.

As for Healy, throwing a wiki link out doesn't answer my question. Why do you trust Healy's interpretation of the data?

Read the book and decide whether you trust the data. And it's not just about the data; it's about what the pharmaceutical companies are doing behind the scenes that occasionally comes to light.

E.g., study 329, the 1997 trial on Paxil, which found that Paxil was no more effective but more dangerous than a placebo. GSK then decided to cherry-pick the data and conceal the finding that six times as many participants became suicidal on Paxil than on the placebo. The article was written by a ghostwriter and published in the Journal of the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. And, BTW, the study subjects who became suicidal on Paxil were children, although the book doesn't say how young. There is a copy of an an internal memo from GSK from 1998 showing that the company decided to withhold data from the regulator and to publish "the good bits" of Study 329. It is also known that in one of the centers that participated in the study "children who deteriorated on treatment and dropped out" were labeled as non-compliant. The resulting study claimed that Paxil was safe and effective and featured 22 authors, some with very distinguished names, whereas the study was ghostwritten by a woman named Sally Laden, whose name did not appear on the paper. BTW the first subjects of the study were children in foster care in the US, and then they recruited children in South America and South Africa. Can you imagine a more vulnerable population, other than perhaps babies and the very old?

BTW all this was brought to light by investigative journalists from the BBC. You are d*mn right I trust them more than I trust GSK. I certainly trust Dr. Healy and his similarly outspoken colleague Dr. Ben Goldacre more than any pharmaceutical company.

Healy's book is extensively footnoted.

Krebiozen's link shows an under-reporting of adverse events. According to the FDA only one in 100 adverse drug reactions are reported.

Sandrop, do you really think surgical oncologist like Orac prescribes Paxil? You are claiming he is being duped, yet your examples are way out of his field. You may note I did not accuse him of being in charge of surgical anesthesia.

Sandrop:

Read the book and decide whether you trust the data. And it’s not just about the data; it’s about what the pharmaceutical companies are doing behind the scenes that occasionally comes to light.

How about you compare it to Protecting America's Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation? If you really want examples of pharmaceutical skullduggery, that book has it!

@Chris
Paxil is just one example. Orac prescribes far worse things than Paxil.

@Chris
Actually, Healy has some interesting things to say about the FDA too.

Sandrop: Surgeons have no authority to prescribe anything, as far as I know. And even if Orac does prescribe medications, do you know what those are? I'd bet, no.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 16 Mar 2013 #permalink

And, BTW, the study subjects who became suicidal on Paxil were children, although the book doesn’t say how young.

"BTW"? That's the whole freaking point. And they weren't "children," they were adolescents. This generally means 13–19 years of age. By leading with an attack on Paxil per se, you are putting the cart well before the horse.

Surgeons have no authority to prescribe anything, as far as I know.

PGP, an MD (which naturally includes surgeons) can write a script for anything they think is warranted. For that matter, so can a dentist. The question one gets into is normal scope of practice and whether the prescriptions are as a matter of course out of line with it.

(The "study 329" item in question is here, for convenience. I don't have full-text access. I presume that it's well known.)

Sandrop,
I suspect you are mistaking criticism of the pharmaceutical industry for wholesale condemnation of conventional medicine. As I wrote before, I don't think anyone would deny that pharmaceutical companies can be unscrupulous and dishonest in their desire to make profits. I think it's a mistake to link this with deaths due to adverse drug reactions. The study I linked to above found that:

The most common drug classes associated with death were anticoagulants, opioids, and immunosuppressants.

Anticoagulants save the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of patients with clotting disorders every year, but their therapeutic range is very close to the level that is dangerous so they require close monitoring, and unfortunately patients sometimes die because they have over or under-dosed. Far more would die if anticoagulants were unavailable. That's why pharmaceutical companies have developed safer anticoagulants with a wider therapeutic range.

Immunosuppressant drugs save the lives of countless thousands of people who have had transplant surgery, or who suffer from autoimmune disorders, but they can have similarly lethal side effects.

Opioids are indispensable for the treatment of severe pain, but often contribute to the deaths of those treated with them, for example cancer patients at the end of their lives.

NSAIDs are another class drug with a high rate of lethal adverse effects but they can transform the life of a patient with arthritis (even bête noire Vioxx is very effective), but they can also have serious adverse cardiovascular or gastrointestinal effects.

Balancing risks against benefits is a large part of what medicine is all about. Are you suggesting that we would be better off without these drugs?

I think it would be better to find safer ways of using these drugs and, where necessary, to develop new and safer drugs, and to introduce better regulation of drug companies. That is what is slowly happening thanks, partly, to the efforts of people like Healy and Goldacre.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

I am basing my opinion on Dr. David Healy’s comprehensive and damning book about what has happened to medicine. Also, on the published statistic that prescription medicines are among the highest contributors to death in America. May I turn the mirror on you? Pompous, passive-aggressive, patronising — I highly doubt that you are in a position of such transcending authority and expertise on the subject that you can refute me. As I said, read the book.

Exactly, you read a damn book; that doesn't make you an authority on the matter. The fact that you can come here with your faux "sympathy" for a physician whom you have no knowledge of and consider him a dupe of the industry is a stunning display of arrogant ignorance because you read a book.

There are very dubious practices in the pharmaceutical industry and regulatory agencies are also not lily white. And as Krebiozen mentioned, the light of day is being shone on these dodgy dealings. That doesn't mean that you have any authority nor expertise to criticise physicians you neither know nor have any requisite education yourself to understand the practise of medicine.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

@Science Mom
As a consumer of healthcare and a citizen of a country with free speech I absolutely have the authority to criticise physicians when they are potentially harming people. You, however, seem to be living in a totalitarian country of some sort where free speech in not permitted.

@Krebiozen

I think it would be better to find safer ways of using these drugs and, where necessary, to develop new and safer drugs, and to introduce better regulation of drug companies. That is what is slowly happening thanks, partly, to the efforts of people like Healy and Goldacre.

I am in absolute agreement with you on all these points.

@Krebiozen
Healy doesn't condemn the medical profession. He seems to imply that they have unwittingly become the victims of Big Pharma, bedazzled by studies that have no bearing on reality and targeted by such intense marketing from the very beginning of their medical education that it is very difficult for them to make truly informed decisions (esp. given that the information they are provided with to make those decisions is often flawed). The ones who see adverse effects and stand up for their patients do so at considerable risk to themselves -- they can be fired and ostracized, or lose their medical privileges. If they try to publish an article about adverse events, the medical journals won't publish them out of fear of legal reprisal from the pharmaceutical companies. And if they deviate from current pharmaceutical guidelines on prescription, they can be accused of not providing adequate care and slapped with a malpractice suit. Healy advocates greater power for physicians to use their eyes and ears, and to have more effective input into how drugs are used and developed, and I absolutely agree with him on that.

The trick as always is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

@Sandrop:

As a consumer of healthcare and a citizen of a country with free speech I absolutely have the authority to criticise physicians when they are potentially harming people.

You have the right to criticize, but not the authority which you can gain only by thorough study,  a point you seemed to recognize in addressing Science Mom but have since forgotten.

The ones who see adverse effects and stand up for their patients do so at considerable risk to themselves — they can be fired and ostracized, or lose their medical privileges. If they try to publish an article about adverse events, the medical journals won’t publish them out of fear of legal reprisal from the pharmaceutical companies.

Hmm, that's funny. I wonder how it is that we know about all those adverse effects that you cited. I wonder where those long lists of adverse effects that accompany each prescription might have come from. I wonder where the anti-SBM bloggers get their examples. 

@LW
I believe it's called anecdotal evidence.

@LW
An authority @Science Mom also seems to lack. So we are back to the free speech argument. I also believe that those who have been harmed or have seen others harmed do have the authority to speak up, otherwise we become little more than sheep in thrall to the greatness of a very fallible professional class. Repeat with me please, and @Science Mom is free to join in, baaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Sandrop,

Unfortunately, anecdotes are subject to substantial error. Just as people use them to show that homeopathy works, they may also use them to invent dangers in various medicines.

This is not to downplay the actual risks of medicines, nor to discount the fact that some drug studies have been spun in a way to make a drug appear safer or more effective than in reality. Anyone who's read Ben Goldacre's blog will know that not all drug test results get published, and this very likely skews the data in favor of the drug company. An answer is better tests and publishing all the data.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

Sandrop:

Orac prescribes far worse things than Paxil.

You just made a statement that indicates you know his exact prescribing habits. Now you must prove with evidence that Orac prescribes worse things than Paxil.

You might do yourself a favor and actually read some of Orac's articles (you can start with the one that starts at the top of this page):

The saga of Avastin and breast cancer

New cancer drugs: Fitter, happier, more productive? Or not?

Also next on your reading list should be The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Well, again, Sandrop, it would seem that perhaps you don't work in the health care field. I do, and I can tell you that the vast majority of patients in hospital are over the age of 70. Many over 80. What does that mean to your argument? That they are overdosed and killed? Maybe, but most of them arrive in hospital with multiple comorbidities that make fine tuning medications extremely difficult but to undermedicate is equally dangerous. You tell me how to treat an 85 year old with heart failure, diabetes, kidney failure and perhaps a fractured hip. So many people forget that they are the worried well where medicine is dealing with the very ill and frail. Difficult, to say the absolute least.

@Sandrop: "I believe it’s called anecdotal evidence."

Yeah, but it's published. You said doctors didn't dare try to report adverse effects and their reports wouldn't be published if they tried. So how do such anecdotes come to be immortalized in the literature supplied with each filled prescription?

Narad: I stand corrected. I've only had surgery to get my wisdom teeth removed, so I wasn't aware that surgeons could prescribe medication.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

@LW
That is an excellent question. I will have to ask Dr. Healy.

The ones who see adverse effects and stand up for their patients do so at considerable risk to themselves — they can be fired and ostracized, or lose their medical privileges. If they try to publish an article about adverse events, the medical journals won’t publish them out of fear of legal reprisal from the pharmaceutical companies. And if they deviate from current pharmaceutical guidelines on prescription, they can be accused of not providing adequate care and slapped with a malpractice suit.

I'll repeat what LW has asked and that is, how do we know about so many adverse events, dodgy studies and sleazy pharma tactics if not for those who are clearly able to publish studies and other forms of media to inform? How are Cochrane reviews and other systematic reviews and meta-analyses published that do not shed a positive light on pharmaceutical products get published? You'd do much better leaving the histrionics and conspiracy-theory posturing aside and stick to the known problems.

An authority @Science Mom also seems to lack. So we are back to the free speech argument. I also believe that those who have been harmed or have seen others harmed do have the authority to speak up, otherwise we become little more than sheep in thrall to the greatness of a very fallible professional class. Repeat with me please, and @Science Mom is free to join in, baaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

In addition to being clueless about what kind of physician the blog author is, you are also clueless about the difference between "free speech" and presenting oneself as an authority. You have the complete right to act like a moron and we have the complete right to call you one. You see, I haven't deigned to present myself as an authority on pharma shenanigans because I'm not one and I daresay have probably read more on the subject than you ever will. Reading a book doesn't make one an authority on a subject. It's fine to be curious and discuss it; it's certainly a subject which is of interest to this crowd and a problem that should be brought out into the light. But don't be a pompous jerk about it and whine about your "free speech" rights if you want to be taken seriously.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

As a consumer of healthcare and a citizen of a country with free speech I absolutely have the authority to criticise physicians when they are potentially harming people. You, however, seem to be living in a totalitarian country of some sort where free speech in not permitted.

I do so love it when people invoke the First Amendment and promptly demonstrate a wholesale lack of understanding of it.

If they try to publish an article about adverse events, the medical journals won’t publish them out of fear of legal reprisal from the pharmaceutical companies.

I, for one, would certainly be interested in examples of journals being sued by pharmaceutical companies for publishing results on adverse effects of drugs. I trust that you have these to hand.

Narad @214

[tinfoil hat]The lack of examples only proves that the journals are so scared that they never take the risk [/tinfoil hat]

There are however plenty of examples of quacks suing SBM advocates.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

Read Dr. Healy's book and take it up with him. He is the one who makes the allegation.

Read Dr. Healy’s book and take it up with him. He is the one who makes the allegation.

No, you invoked it, so you get to defend it.

Sandrop,

The trick as always is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Precisely. It did look to me as if there were quite a number of babies in the bathwater you were enthusiastically emptying earlier. In the examples of drug companies' dishonesty I am aware of, they have manipulated data to make their product look less dangerous, more effective, or indicated in more patients than a rival company's product, when there is really little difference. That is very different to bringing dangerous, ineffective or unnecessary drugs to market and killing large numbers of people as a result, as you seem to be claiming.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

@ Sandrop # 170...

"Just curious, has anyone here read Pharmageddon?"

No Sandrop, I've never read "Pharmageddon"...but I've read some reviews of the book, including this one, that appears on Dr. Healy's website...

http://davidhealy.org/books/pharmageddon-is-the-story-of-a-tragedy/

Am I right, that Dr. Healy is using Thalidomide an OTC treatment for "morning sickness and then *touted* as a sedative, developed in Germany, and available/taken by pregnant women in Europe and in the U.K. is Dr. Healy's *shtick*.?

How many pregnant women in the United States were prescribed Thalidomide or were able to purchase the drug without prescription, in the United States?

How did Sherri Finkbine obtain the drug?

Was it prescribed by her obstetrician in Arizona?

Was Thalidomide ever licensed by the FDA as an anti-emetic drug or as a sedative for anyone in the United States?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherri_Finkbine

Sandrop, I’m kind of curious. What’s your purpose in posting here? Did you hope for some discussion of Healey’s book? If so, including a link or at least the author’s name in your first post ( http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/02/14/the-pharma-shill-gambit/#c… ) would have been helpful. Instead, you left other posters to do your heavy lifting (Krebiozen @174 and Denise Walter @177).

Are you here hoping to use these blog comments as your own soapbox, to thump the idea that the pharmaceutical industry is evil? If so, others have done a better job of it than you are right now.

Or are you promoting the book? In about 36 hours (if I’m counting correctly without time stamps), you’ve posted “read the book” or its equivalent four times (comments #182, #186, #193, and #218). Honestly, if you are, you’re doing a remarkably poor job (see my opening paragraph). And I was more interested in reading it before your attempt at explaining it devolved into your one-phrase refrain.

I’ll also echo Chris’s suggestion that you read some more of this blog, as well as the comments sections. You might actually learn something, and I suspect our interactions with you might become more productive if you get a better idea of not only about the blog author’s ideas, but also kind of discussions that go on, and what types of people regularly comment here.

Ah. Having looked at Dr Healy's site, I now understand why sandrop has no understanding of Orac's profession. After all, physicians and surgeons are 2 very different classes in the UK. But I'll be honest...I don't think a book by a psychiatrist with a possible bone to pick is something I'd read about pharmacological issues. I'd rather read one by a licensed pharmacist - some one who really understands how drugs act. (And maybe Dr Healy does. But from the little I read of his book, it is more Eurocentric with fewer controls than the US, and he doesn't seem to understand how the FDA works, nor how prescribing patterns in the US occur and have changed over the years.)

Whenever I hear criticisms of pharmaceutical products, a few alarm bells go off, if:
- the first ( or only) products mentioned are either anti-depressants and/or chemotherapy
- a list of side effects is presented without the prior mention of the relief that these products offer ( why would anyone take a product with side effects if it didn't relieve symptoms?)
- no one mentions that patients may demand products for disturbing/ uncomfortable/ painful conditions
- no one mentions that physicians later ask patients how they're doing with the product and may dis-continue it if there are problems,

So this presentation looks biased from the start. Amongst the alt med providers I survey, SSRIs are the jewell in the crown of pharmaphobia; while these products are far from perfect, they do offer relief of serious symptoms of depression ( and sometimes other conditions) for many people. In fact, perhaps alt med scare mongering hurts people as well because they are then afraid to try meds that might help them-
unfortunately, there are no warning labels that caution patients about alt med criticisms,
"Paying attention to this information can be deleterious to your health and well being".

A person can simultaneously recognise that pharmaceuticals can have both useful and worrisome effects: adults usually learn to weigh and measure risks and benefits. Whenever one side is presented first and accentuated, I am suspicious whether it comes from alt med critics or pharmaceutical companies.
Black and white, it ain't.

-

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

Apologies to Denice for misspelling your name again, and to everyone else for thenrandom grammatical errors in my last paragraph. Posting on teh patio facing the sun makes it even harder than normal to proofread.

thenrandom

teh

D'oh!

Am I right, that Dr. Healy is using Thalidomide an OTC treatment for “morning sickness and then *touted* as a sedative, developed in Germany, and available/taken by pregnant women in Europe and in the U.K. is Dr. Healy’s *shtick*.?

I don't know about that, but the review that Krebiozen posted at #174 above seems to suggest that Healy is in favor of some sort of truly bizarre libertarian approach:

Healy to recommend that patients would be better off if fewer drugs required prescriptions. Of course, ads would endlessly tell patients why they needed to take a certain drug, but then they do that already. However, patients might be more self-protective instead of uncritically trusting their physicians and basking in the benefits of the placebo effect.

@ Chemmomo:

Thanks.
re the heavy lifting**:
for a period of time, I travelled a great deal and thus, have learned how to pack and hoist my own carry on. It looks like a very, very large shoulder bag.

**I know , it's a metaphor. That too.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

I'm wondering why Dr. Healy ever agreed to be interviewed by Dr. Joe Mercola...perhaps "Sandrop" will invite Dr. Healy to come and post here?

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/02/pharmaceu…

Dr. Healy also *mentioned* that SSRIs and other psychotropic drugs are the the most *commonly prescribed medications during pregnancy"....which flies in the face of a recent report from the CDC NCBDDD (National Center for Birth Defects
and Developmental Disabilities) and the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists):

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/aboutus/birthdefects-bd-maternal.html

In other Internecine War News:

The battle rages on @ AoA, with a return of Barry and Jake..
I have a feeling that settling personal dis-agreements and negotiating conflicting demands are not strong suits there.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

@lilady: wow. Just....wow. Perhaps as a psychiatrist, DR HEALY uses 'SSRIs and other psychotropic drugs are the the most *commonly prescribed medications during pregnancy'” for the patients HE saw but here in the USA, most providers (doctors, nurse-midwives) caring for pregnant woman (or women who plan to become pregnant discuss the use and need for any medication VERY carefully, changing to less dangerous (for the fetus) drugs when possible if the woman really needs them for her health and wellbeing; preferably, when possible, weaning the woman off the medication.

But then, I don't know a lot of doctors who toss around antipsychotropic drugs on a whim. Most of the ones I know and hear of from friends are reluctant to give drugs unless it's found that the patient really needs them. And then it's at the lowest effective dose (starting very low dose and titrating upwards until the desired response is noted). And even then, the need for the drugs is re-evaluated often.

I have to wonder about Dr Healy's practice, to be honest. He doesn't sound like a doctor who uses ALL the tools at hand when needed. He sounds like the kind of guy who told a college friend to "buck up, be happy. You have everything to live for" just a few weeks before my friend committed suicide (he never had a diagnosis, thanks to the doc...but I suspect some sort of schizophrenia/bipolor issues - meaning both, not one or the other).

This is not meant as an ad hominem, as I assume Healy raises some valid points, but this rambling entry suggesting pHARMa intervention in his landing a gig I find curious.

I see that Healy is now involved in an ersatz adverse-event reporting system, courtesy of his blog. That should represent some solid data.

In other news from RxISK, doxycycline causes suicide.

lilady,

How many pregnant women in the United States were prescribed Thalidomide or were able to purchase the drug without prescription, in the United States?

As an aside, my mother told me that she had Thalidomide on her bedside table throughout her pregnancy with me (in the UK), though thankfully she never took it; my sister-in-law is now taking it to treat her multiple myeloma.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

I do love it when people come here and insist that books are always necessary to be read. Despite the fact that there are many reasons why they're not preferable to peer-reviewed papers in science journals. But no no, a single book will counteract thousands of papers, and at any rate, the book is written by a doctor.

Is there a name for this kind of logical fallacy? Argumentum ex libro perhaps?

@Sandrop

And, BTW, the study subjects who became suicidal on Paxil were children, although the book doesn’t say how young.

Ah, yet another mental illness denier. Fun...

lilady:

How many pregnant women in the United States were prescribed Thalidomide or were able to purchase the drug without prescription, in the United States?

I just did a search on Dr. Kelsey on the book at Amazon. Dr. Healy only mentions that she caused a "bureaucratic delay" in approval. Either he is being a sexist pig, or he really does not know what she did.

(There is a more complete story in the book about the FDA I mentioned, it turns out she was insisting on specific animal testing for teratogenic effects, something she had discovered in her research before joining the FDA)

Is there a name for this kind of logical fallacy? Argumentum ex libro perhaps?

Argumentum a pontonem, perhaps.

Narad, even with Google I do not get the joke.

Sandrop, you have not responded with evidence to answer this: "You just made a statement that indicates you know his exact prescribing habits. Now you must prove with evidence that Orac prescribes worse things than Paxil."

Do it. Show with evidence that Orac prescribes without proper scientific evidence something worse than Paxil.

I am now convinced you did not read the article on this page, or anything written by Orac in the past eight years.

Narad, even with Google I do not get the joke.

The etymology of the current sense of "punt" goes back to Latin 'ponto'. There is of course the related pons asinorum, but the (admittedly weak) suggestion was one of "argument" that boils down to nothing but a ferry to the bookseller's shop.

@ Chris

Narad, even with Google I do not get the joke.

I think I am doing well if I get half of Narad's references. Perhaps we should follow Herr Doktor Bimler's advice and spend more time on the elliptic trainer.

I followed Narad's RxISK link and discovered the website has an Interaction Checker and 5 "zones"

Hair Zone for side effects affecting hair
Violence Zone for drugs causing violent behaviour
Sex Zone for sex related side effects
Suicide Zone for suicidal side effects
Skin and Nail Zone for side effects involving skin and nails.

This strikes me as an odd combination. Apparently side effects that eff up your heart, digestive system, muscles etc. are not a concern. Outside of psychological side effects involving self harm or harm to others, the most important concerns are that the men sport wood and the women look good.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 17 Mar 2013 #permalink

Militant Agnostic,

Outside of psychological side effects involving self harm or harm to others, the most important concerns are that the men sport wood and the women look good.

That's psychiatrists for you ;-)

More seriously, it is odd how often people who make a valid point then pick it up and go running off over the horizon with it.

We clearly do need better regulation of large companies (you only have to look at the environmental records of some of the big petrochemical companies to see that). That said, no drug company wants to be found guilty of skullduggery, it's very bad for business, though not half as bad as having to yank a drug off the market and pay compensation for the damage it has caused. Also, the people who run drug companies have loved ones who get sick, and get sick themselves, so this idea of Big Pharma deliberately producing deadly and ineffective pharmaceuticals for invented medical conditions, and recruiting dumb doctors to market them doesn't really work.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Mar 2013 #permalink

Here's how monitoring of "Revlimid" (an analog of Thalidomide), for the treatment of multiple myeloma and other myelodysplastic diseases, is done. Revlimid is also undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, CLL and carcinoma of the pancreas:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenalidomide

I remember looking into Revlimid ~ 3 years ago when a close friend was prescribed the drug for treatment of multiple myeloma.

You guys had all the fun last night, after I conked out from indulging in my St. Patrick's Day corned beef and all the fixin's. :-)

Ben Goldacre is on UK BBC1 right now, talking about publication bias!

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Mar 2013 #permalink

That ejaculation was simply an expression of my pleasure at seeing human funnel-plot Dr. Goldacre get some prime-time exposure.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Mar 2013 #permalink

Hee, Ben Goldacre is awesome!!! And still looks 12. And talks like an encyclopedic font of epidemiology with a sense of humor. How I would love for him and our esteemed host to get a Pub Night together!

SSRIs do certainly draw the ire, don't they. Personally, I love mine. As I've said before, about a jillion times. ;) I've written a sonnet...

But seriously, Krebiozen, yes to this-- "Also, the people who run drug companies have loved ones who get sick, and get sick themselves, so this idea of Big Pharma deliberately producing deadly and ineffective pharmaceuticals for invented medical conditions, and recruiting dumb doctors to market them doesn’t really work." Quoted for truth! It cannot be said enough. Funny how the humanity of doctors and even executives seems to escape the conspiracy-minded. No one lives in a vacuum! We all have loved ones.

By Melissa G (not verified) on 18 Mar 2013 #permalink

There are two pro over at mothering.com Rrrrrachel & Prosciencemum and the BOTH meet all 5 area and the #6 that was also mentioned - if anyone wants to see what these are all about, everyday - all day, they work the vaccine threads! must be good money

I have seen two in action as the PP states. They must be getting paid, how do you post 24-7 and not be paid to post. They give new meaning to troll. The Rrrrachels is the meanest and only spouts pro vaccine no matter what.

You've seen people posting 24-7, matk? You'd be talking about posting the equivalent of a couple of good-sized novels each week.

On the other hand, it isn't hard to find time to post multiple replies throughout a day without being paid to do so, particularl yif addressingto anti-vax claims, since they typically consist of the same falsehoods repeated over and over again (too many too soon; it's the 'mercury', or it's the aluminum, or it's the formaldehyde or squalene, etc.; it's dead fetuses; the Amish don't vaccinate or the Amish don't develop autism, etc.)

You dosn't have to spend any time crafting a response to these anymore: you can just cut and paste a boiler-plate response.

BTW, the whole "people who post in support of vaccine's proven safety and efficacy must be paid pharma shills"? that itself is one of those anti-vax falsehoods I mentioned above,but I'm giving you the courtesy of a novel response (and no, I've not been paid to do so).

Hi everyone, I just spent the last day reading this whole thread. I wanted to give my input because I'm an "altie"? that's what I saw us called here. Acupuncture (TCM) and yoga instructor. I want to caution the world that alties ddo not know anything about vaccines. I am firmly pro vaccines, the childhood ones. Optional seasonal vaccines are, well, optional, and as we know less effective. I don't know who in their right mind wants to bring back preventable diseases, but a sadist, who thinks it's better to suffer. If any parent out there is worried about vaccinating their child, please ask the right person. Do not ask a homeopath, do not ask an acupuncturist, do not ask a dietitian. We do not learn about vaccines or immunology, other than very briefly. Do yourself a favor and learn how to ask the right person the right question. Vaccinate your children, it is very safe. History and research tells us that. Learn how to use pubmed, that is where you look for research, not youtube etc. Ciao !

@Anna

I may disagree with you on TCM and alt-med, but I just wanted to say a big thumbs up and thank you for encouraging vaccines! It's a nice change from the rabid anti-vax attitude coming from alt-medders.

Anna, I would like to say how much your comment has made my day. I'll join flip in a big thumbs-up! :)

By Melissa G (not verified) on 04 Apr 2013 #permalink

Pharma trolls/shills are real, and like the PP stated, certain sites do have them, and yes they do post 24/7. If they aren't being paid they should be, it all corporate line. I've been to the site mentioned (mothering) and saw the posters that were called out- either paid or these two have real problems that prevent them from having a life given the number and subject matter they post.

By snakeyear (not verified) on 06 Apr 2013 #permalink

@Snakeyear

Pharma trolls/shills are real

Feel free to post the evidence to back that up. You know, like pay slips, cheque stubs, documents or memos discussing hiring shills, contracts with shills, etc.

I have seen two in action as the PP states. They must be getting paid, how do you post 24-7 and not be paid to post.

First of all, you can drop the "PP" lingo, as you're not at MDC. Second, it's rather trivial to check the posting frequency of the two commenters there that you are claiming to be posting "24-7" and being paid for it:

Prosciencemum is here.

Rrrrachel is here.

Neither is posting "24-7." Moreover, I would note that it's quite easy to take a non-antivax stance at MDC so long as one minds the general standards of etiquette that prevail. Indeed, I wonder why you lot have felt the need to start bitching about MDC commenters here, of all places, unless it's because you know you couldn't get away with this sort of crap over there.

So I'm reading more internet stuff about vaccines..who knew that I'd be doing that. I came across this study, and I was hoping that I can get help interpreting it's findings here. I'll paste a link, and if anyone wants to read it and let me know what they think, that would be awesome.
http://www.ane.pl/pdf/7020.pdf

Anna, if you go to the search box on the upper right of this page and put in the primary author of that paper you will get more information, here is the more pertinent discussion:
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/07/16/too-much-vaccineautism-mon…

Also, if you look up the paper on PubMed you will see there is a comment on it by an "S. Novella", who is Dr. Steven Novella. He also wrote about the paper on his blog:
http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/terrible-anti-vaccine-stud…

The main take-away is that it a tiny study, and it is not normal for infants to have their amygdala shrink, which is what happened to the unvaccinated monkeys (or human infants).

I forgot to add, Dr. Novella is a neurologist. He knows quite a bit about brain development. He concludes:

This current study, as well as the entire macaque research program by Hewitson, is a good example of terrible research. The subject numbers are far too small for any meaningful statistics, and the outcomes being followed are numerous and tricky with a random scatter of results not even consistent between different publications of the same research.

Thanks Chris, I'll take a look at that. I appreciate it!

The main take-away is that it a tiny study

With nine test monkeys and two controls.
TWO controls.
I am surprised there were controls at all, since the purpose of the experiment was to obtain interesting scary anecdotes rather than evidence. Some of the test monkeys showed larger amygdalas in their brains, therefore vaccine injury; others showed smaller amygdalas, therefore vaccine injury.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 07 Apr 2013 #permalink

herr doktor bimler, I stand corrected. I guess the thing that stood out to me was the shrinking of the brain bit. It was, after all, over two years ago. Also that it was an awful waste of animal research studies.

Why is it coming up again? Has someone written about as "proof" again?

It's only coming up again because I've been reading everything I can find on the anti-vax pages. I found this as a link from one of the Swedish anti-vax pages, and it was the only link to an actual study so I read it, or some of it. Instead of researching on my own, I asked you guys.

Chris, Well I have know idea, you might have seen it somewhere else, there's an abundance of crap out there so quite possibly you have. Thanks for helping though, I'm a little worried about all this crazy information.

I was recently on another website, shotofprevention, where a few anti-vax folks kept throwing random sites and studies at us, and that might have been one of them. One of them likes to push his website that often has more than a hundred links on them.

My daughter is taking Swedish in college right now. I'd point it out to her but she is studying for her sociolinguistics class at the moment (it is late evening here).

#252 Not everyone has the same definition of "life." Not everyone is an extrovert. Not everyone has children. Not everyone has a spouse and not everyone has exactly the same hobbies.

People are very diverse in their interests. Isn't that nice?

Yeah that about sums it up. 0 links to scientific studies, I was recently in an argument with a homeopath who pushes homeopathic "vaccinations", whatever that is. She had absolutely no information to give me as to how that works, but she did emphasize that she didn't have to prove anything..? Hmmm.

Maybe your daughter can help you translate that page, but really it isn't worth the trouble, it's just a copy of a bunch of brittish and american rubbish.

Anna:

copy of a bunch of brittish and american rubbish.

Yep. That pretty much sums it up. Though occasionally you'll find a German homeopath in the mix, there is also one guy from New Zealand (formally from Germany), and one loony in Australia (formally from the USA). Sorry, about that.

Though in our "defense" the British Empire got around, and the USA has the third largest population on this planet. I thought it was weird when I looked it up. It is right after India, which is right after China. Though it is almost the same as all of Europe.

One link I gave does lead you to the Swedish skeptic group. And there is apparently a skeptic meeting there this summer which will include Hans Rosling (I love his videos).

What is awesome is that you found our little corner of "teh internets." Welcome, I hope you stick around.

Thanks, I will definitely stick around, I found you after way too much searching after validity of bizarre claims, I think it was shaken baby syndrome, but at this point I can't remember. (vaccine injured my memory)

All populations on the planet have their special way of believing woo woo stuff, and there is generally no harm in that, except when there is harm in that.

One of the things that really stood out on that study (or at least one of the papers from the same experiment), Anna, was that the MRI of one of the control monkeys showed significant abnormalities in brain development. It looked (to the untrained eye) like the skull had been bashed in and parts of the brain in that hemisphere were underdeveloped or simply missing. It was pretty stark.

By W. Kevin Vicklund (not verified) on 07 Apr 2013 #permalink

Anna:

I think it was shaken baby syndrome, but at this point I can’t remember. (vaccine injured my memory)

Heh! Now I know I like you.

Beware of the micropaleontologist!

the MRI of one of the control monkeys showed significant abnormalities in brain development

IIRC they started out with 4 control monkeys... obviously the researchers were not interested in what the normal range of variation might be. One of those was excluded because "experimental protocol was not followed" -- perhaps they gave it the wrong injection. Another just disappeared off the scene (abducted by aliens or something), and at that point the researchers realised that they could not afford to lose any more monkeys, because a N=1 control group is going to raise even the least skeptical eyebrow. So one of them fell off a building or had its skull smashed in a fight with its cage-mate? No matter!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 07 Apr 2013 #permalink

Chris,

You wrote: "one guy from New Zealand (formally from Germany)"

Not Erwin Alber by chance? (Can't see a page you're referring to, to check it out myself - have tried a couple of links here, but no NZers in them AFAICS.)

@ Anna:

Welcome!
re shaken baby syndrome:
a few of the idiots... I mean, alt med proselytisers I survey go along with the myth that SBS is a "vaccine injury"- I've run into that at Natural News and it is prominently featured in one of Gary Null's so-called documentaries "Vaccine Nation" where a well-known culprit is lionised.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 08 Apr 2013 #permalink

@Denise, I am disgusted and ashamed of those in in alt med who go along with this, just know that it is a small fraction of alt med who are complete idiots. There are many who support vaccines and proper health care, mostly we understand that the alternative part is meant in "addition too", and not "in exclusion of". Unfortunately the complete idiots appear to be the loudest...I apologize on behalf of alternative medicine.

@anna - congrats on being grounded.....and you're always welcome.

@Chris - I know (of) Erwin… he has occasionally written on our blogs at sciblogs.co.nz. I rarely visit VINE - too much of the same inanities repeatedly endlessly. I’ve seen him write worse than what he said about Jenner and company, though. Most memorable would be last year him writing in comments on a Pakistani newspaper website. Their article mentioned in passing that the polio vaccine workers would be wearing hi-visibility vest. Erwin wrote in to say that was good as it'd enable to more easily be shot.

Grant, Erwin sounds like a real "winner" (in the Charlie Sheen version of the word).

Most memorable would be last year him writing in comments on a Pakistani newspaper website.

This?

Poor Erwin seems confused, as he simultaneously made the following remarks shortly thereafter:

Vaccination programmes are part ot the global population reduction agenda and a gigantic medical experiment unflicted on the human race without informed consent and in direct violation of the Nuremberg Code. Nazi doctors were hanged for what is being done now by health professionals and vaccinators in the name of public health.

Shooting vaccinators is a bit harsh - educating them that vaccination is an organised criminal enterprise dressed up as disease prevention by means of junk science would be better.

Narad, yes - just didn't particular want to draw attention to page. The other quote follows familiar lines (for him).

Nitpick: "simultaneously" and "shortly therefore" :-D (I'm guessing like me you write on-the-fly!)

Speaking of which, that should be to the page. Sigh.

can't comment on your attack of Burzynski in the article, I'm sure you are paid big for the bs article you wrote. I personally know people who have lived because of this fine doctor. Big Pharma hates him because they want to continue to fry people with radiation and chemo, it's the humane way to kill them, and cull the masses. You Suck!! you and the Shills that speak bad about people saving lives, lives that they don't want saved. Big Pharma represents the real 'useless' eaters.

By donna castlegrant (not verified) on 10 Apr 2013 #permalink

@donna castlegrant

You are not making any sense. Why would Big Pharma want to "cull the masses"? Wouldn't that reduce their profit base?

Do you have any substantive argument to make, or are you simply going to fling insults around?

Big Pharma ... want to continue to fry people with radiation and chemo, it’s the humane way to kill them, and cull the masses

Donna, if the goal was to kill people and cull the masses, I assure you that there are more humane ways. Faster, too, without the individualised treatment.
But I have said too much already...

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 10 Apr 2013 #permalink

@#286 -- have a look at this blog: http://theotherburzynskipatientgroup.wordpress.com

then come back and tell us again what a great human being Scammislaw Burzynski is. BTW, I think you've got your posts mixed up - there are multiple posts about that despicable con man who masquerades as a doctor on this blog, but this isn't one of them.

OTOH, you did provide a textbook example of the subject of this post, namely the Pharma Shill gambit. I think you can do better though - more New World Order, Illuminati and lizard people next time, please.

By Edith Prickly (not verified) on 10 Apr 2013 #permalink

@donna

Thank you for representing the typical mindset of the burzynski fan.

I assure you, your craziness and outright idiocy will be a good example of why one should avoid treatment from him.

Also, your rant is rather quite funny. Please keep posting, goodness knows we need more entertainment from the likes of you.

donna castlegrant:

can’t comment on your attack of Burzynski in the article, I’m sure you are paid big for the bs article you wrote.

The most obvious reason is that Orac did not even mention Burzynski in this article. So it looks like you did not even read it.

Donna says

can’t comment on your attack of Burzynski in the article, I’m sure you are paid big for the bs article you wrote.

Translated:

"I don't understand anything about the criticisms made here, but that doesn't matter because I just *know* you're wrong".

Perfect example not just of the pharma shill gambit, but also of being close-minded and hypocritical.