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Here we go again!

good pointAfter my last post, and follow up letters in the local paper, I hoped the anti-vax loon would give in. Of course, I was wrong.

“Vaccine dogma

THIS is in reply to people who criticised my letter on the ineffectiveness of vaccines.

The history of the flu vaccine reveals some huge gaps it in current vaccination mythology, essentially proving they don’t work.

In the history of flu vaccines, there were two years in which the formulated flu vaccine was a total mismatch to the widely circulating influenza that made people sick.

These years were 1968 and 1997. In both of these years, the vaccine was a complete mismatch for the circulating virus. In effect, nobody was vaccinated! Knowing this, if the vaccine itself was effective at reducing death rates, then we should have once again seen a huge spike in the death rates during these two years, right?

Seriously, if the vaccine reduces death rates by 50 per cent as is claimed by vaccine manufacturers, then these two years in which the vaccine completely missed the mark should have seen huge spikes in the winter death rates, right?

 But what really happened was.., nothing. Not a blip. Not a spike. Nothing. The death rates didn’t rise at all.

If vaccines really worked to save lives, then the more people you vaccinate, the lower death rates you should see, right?

But that’s not the case. Back in 1989, only 15 per cent of over-65 people got vaccinated against the flu. But today, thanks to the big vaccine push, over 65 per cent are vaccinated.

And yet, amazingly, death rates among the elderly have not gone down during the flu season. In fact, they’ve gone up.

Scientists who question the vaccine mythology are routinely shunned by the medical establishment.

Tom Jefferson from the Cochrane Collaboration is an epidemiologist who questions the claimed benefits of flu vaccines.

“The reaction (against Jefferson) has been so dogmatic and even hysterical that you’d think he was advoca

ting stealing babies,” said a colleague (Majum dar).

Jefferson is one of the world’s best informed researchers on the flu vaccine. He leads a team of researchers who have examined hundreds of vaccine studies.

To quote directly from the article: the vast majority of the studies were deeply flawed, says Jefferson. “Rubbish is not a scientific term, but I think it’s the term that applies (to these studies)”.

Even the people who manufacture flu vaccinations have criticised its over- promotion and effectiveness.

Report from The Independent, November 22 2013: “the flu vaccine given to millions of people each year in Britain is “over-promoted” and “over-hyped” and the protection it offers against the seasonal illness has been exaggerated, scientists claimed.

”Flu causes thousands of deaths, mainly among the elderly, in the UK each year but the vaccine is of limited effectiveness, especially for older people.

“One expert told The Independent the Government should be held accountable for “wasting taxpayers’ money” on the annual £120m national vaccination campaign.”

I have been accused of being irresponsible and scare mongering! Tell that to all the parents who’s children are vaccine damaged and elderly people who died as a result of vaccination complications.

It is people at the top of big Pharma and the government and the medical establishment that is irresponsible, not doctors and nurses,by letting this big fraud go on.

The vaccination dogma is so deeply embedded in the minds of doctors, journalists and the public, that any time

 a communicable disease starts to spread, everybody immediately leaps to the false conclusion that “more vaccines are needed”. This is very nearly a Pavlovian reaction in the minds of the brainwashed masses. Here are some web- sites for readers who want to know more:

http://www.naturalnews.com/042864_measles out break_mumps_vaccines scientific_fraud.html#jxzz2lZ0O MTpf

http://campaign fortruth.com/charter.htm

http://www.greenmedinfo.com          http://www.natural news.com/           http://www.mercola.com

http://vactruth.com                                 http://www.whale.to                                 http://drlwil son.com

http://drlwil son.com                          

PAUL BRYANT”

someone is wrong

Well, you know me, I can’t let that lie (sic):

I was hoping not to have to respond again to Paul Bryant’s poorly written anti-vaccine nonsense, but then I read the ‘Vaccine Dogma’ letter last week.

Firstly, let me say that there were two saving graces to the published views – he has backed away from the ‘weak scientific evidence for all vaccines’ statement and most of the website links don’t actually work (but more of them later).

Mr Bryant is very good at throwing out statements as ‘facts’ without really referencing their source or country they refer to. I will assume, as the laughably biased sites he references are US based, that it is North America. So, let me try to explain the background:

1968 was the year of Hong Kong flu, so the vaccine used was ineffective. However, similarities to the 1957 pandemic virus,the fact that school children were on holiday,and improved health care/antibiotics for secondary infections all could explain the greater survival rates.(Source: http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/history/). 1997 is more of a mystery. All I could find was to do with the H5N1 (avian flu) outbreak in Hong Kong, not the USA.

In both these years, however, people did still have a degree of immunity, possibly aided by earlier vaccinations.

In terms of how effective the flu vaccine is, the Center for Disease Control (CDC – US) state a figure of about 60% for the general population (www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm). This better than halves the chance of falling victim to the virus – not to be confused with preventing deaths, a claim I find hard to find evidence for.

Like most typical ‘anti-vaxers’, he likes to exaggerate and misrepresent the views of those who have expertise in this matter (a ‘Straw Man’ fallacy). In any case, his comment “If vaccines really worked to save lives, then the more people you vaccinate, the lower death rates you should see, right? “ sort of argues against his own point. As we see across the world, vaccinations against all sorts of diseases are much more effective than doing nothing, wishful thinking or prayer.

As to his assertion about flu deaths in the elderly rising – where does that data come from? Even if true, it doesn’t necessarily mean the death rate is due to flu, it could be other factors. The data here is unclear, however we do know that although the flu vaccine is very safe, it is not nearly as effective as other vaccinations.

Paul then falls into the trap of referencing Tom Jefferson and his views (as reported on the Gary Null show – a man who is a well-known alternative medicine, anti-vax advocate).  Dr Jefferson’s statements have been generally misrepresented, even though it is true that some of the studies carried out were of a low quality (http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/01/25/cochranes-tom-jefferson-on-gary-null-show/)

The Independent article (November 21st not 22nd) does state what he quotes, but of course he ‘cherry picks’ what reinforces his prejudices. The full article can be found in their archive (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/scientists-urge-ministers-tell-truth-on-overhyped-flu-vaccine-8336184.html).

I will reiterate the fact that he is being “irresponsible and scaremongering”, and will add dishonest/deluded (delete as appropriate).  He needs to try a different search engine to get a wider view of these issues, not to rely on Google’s algorithm which feeds the user with similar sites to their earlier searches.

There will always be a risk of any medical intervention causing injury or death – the human body is a very complex biochemical organism. However, it’s all about weighing up risks against likely benefits. There is absolutely no doubt that vaccinations have saved millions of lives, and will continue to do so!

Finally, he throws out the usual conspiracy nonsense (“It is people at the top of big Pharma and the government and the medical establishment that is irresponsible… nearly a Pavlovian reaction in the minds of the brainwashed masses”). Unfortunately it is he, and those who promote those ridiculous websites he tries to reference, that are the brainwashed, deluded or dishonest. I urge you to look at them and see how many promote their own supplements, books, courses or treatments. They are all willing to take as much of your money as the ‘establishment’.

As a final comment, and a suggested exercise for the reader, you can see how many anti-vax sites also reference alternative medicine therapies, supplements, em fields, water therapy, etc,). They all reference each other, and generally have a strong anti-science agenda. I use RationalWiki (http://rationalwiki.org/) to check most of their claims.

Other references:

http://www.vaccinestoday.eu/diseases/influenza-pandemics-a-brief-history  and http://www.nhs.uk/news/2012/11November/Pages/Claims-flu-jab-is-waste-of-money-misleading.aspx

I will not be replying to any more of Mr Bryant’s anti-vaccination nonsense in the future, he will not be convinced as he does not seem to be able to apply critical thinking in this matter. Most of us involved in the Skeptical movement are very willing to accept that ‘Big Pharma’ and governments are not to be taken at face value. We are willing to do a bit more hard work in investigating these matters for ourselves.

Ben Sagan, West Cumbrian Skeptics

HPV Scare – Catholic ‘Evidence’

A link sent to me by my concerned, rational daughter today: http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/studyhpv-vaccine-linked-to-premature-menopause-in-young-girls/

nonsense

My first thoughts, purely based on the look of the website and the words it uses (think Natural News and What Doctors Don’t Tell You) was this is surely scaremongering

However, on careful reading of it and other sources, including the abstract from the published paper is that it is scaremongering, unscientific, fallacious bullshit.

The extra fact for me is the type of sources that credulously promote it.

The ‘study’ was based on three patients, and falls foul of at least a couple of basic logical fallacies. Coupled with the fact that Dr Deidre Little is a Catholic activist (I wonder why they would be against HPV 🙂 .She concludes that “The diagnostic tasks were to determine the reason for her secondary amenorrhoea and then to investigate for possible causes of the premature ovarian failure identified. Although the cause is unknown in 90% of cases, the remaining chief identifiable causes of this condition were excluded.” In other words, this young girl fits in the unknown cause group, and there was no evidence whatsoever that Gardasil was a causal factor.

Here is some more stuff – judge for yourself:
The extract of the paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23902317
(I’m not an immunologist or statistician, but THREE cases, noted after the HPV vaccine was given? Post hoc proctor hoc anyone?)

Other sources:

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/10/30/ovarian-failure-caused-by-gardasil-not-so-fast/

http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/religion-gardasil/
http://www.csicop.org/si/show/the_hpv_vaccine_controversy
http://blogorganon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/antivaccine-post-hoc-ignorant-reasoning.html
http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/16864/did-the-lead-developer-of-the-hpv-vaccine-come-out-against-it
http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/large-study-supports-safety-gardasil-hpv-vaccine/

In the October issue of The Cockermouth Post, a short and pointed letter from a local homeopath was printed on page 3.

Now, confession time. I do have a little ‘history’ with the non-medicine providing trained professional. A little while ago I responded by email to her posting an advert in the Post, which suggested homeopathic ‘remedies’ for young people. I asked her for details of what it takes to be a trained homeopath and how she could justify her generic advice when homeopathy is supposed to be aimed at the individual. The reply was simple and polite, though did not really address all my points. A short while later, another email arrived, this time asking if I’d reported the ‘clinic’ to the Advertising Standards Authority. Aparrently, the NLC website was being challenged about its claims. My reply was simple. No I hadn’t, though we’d be happy for her to either give a talk to our meeting, or meet me for a coffee and a chat. There was no further reply from her.

Then comes the letter. quack So, here is my reply (which may or maynot be published in The Cockermouth post next month). At least it has appeared here (and on the West Cumbria SitP blog)

 

Dear Editor, It was kind of Carey Blanden (homeopath at the North Lakes Clinic) to thank us last month for drawing her attention to the magazine ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ in a “recent issue” of The Post. Unfortunately, she seems to be confused on two counts. Firstly, I have only mentioned WDDTY twice since the formation of the West Cumbrian Skeptics – issue 366 (February) and issue 369 (May). I don’t consider five months ago to be particularly recent (except in geological terms). Secondly, I feel the term ‘magazine’ is overly grand for a publication that purports to give health advice, yet shamelessly promotes diets and treatments that, in some cases, border on the ill-advised or dangerous. It is produced by two, non-scientifically and non-medically trained individuals, with articles by a range of ‘experts’, most of whom have no conventional medical education. For further information, Josephine Jones has compiled a useful list of references for anyone to check through for themselves. I hope Carey enjoys the magazine subscription (I actually believe she has been a reader for a while), though hope others soon realise that the “backed up by scientific research”statement is at best hyperbole, and at worst misleading or untrue. One final point, just for the record, The Society of Homeopaths had a recent ‘pasting’ from the Advertising Standards Authority about their misleading claims on treatments. Find the details here

Ben Sagan 

West Cumbrian Skeptics

The Patients’ Guide to Magic Medicine

I recently attended a talk by David Colquhoun (professor of pharmacoloDavid_Colquhoun_smgy at University College London) at Merseyside Skeptics in the Pub.

A fairly quiet man, with very firm views on all forms of quackery, in particular those held and promoted by HRH Prince Charles and his ‘cronies’. His website is here and you can follow him on Twitter (@david_colquhoun).

charles

The title of his talk was ‘Science in an Age of Endarkenment’ (How quackery corrupts real science).

Here is a summary of his views on ‘integrated medicine’:

  • Homeopathy: giving patients medicines that contain no medicine whatsoever.
  • Herbal medicine: giving patients an unknown dose of an ill-defined drug, of unknown effectiveness and unknown safety.
  • Acupuncture: a rather theatrical placebo, with no real therapeutic benefit in most if not all cases.
  • Chiropractic: an invention of a 19th century salesmen, based on nonsensical principles, and shown to be no more effective than other manipulative therapies, but less safe.
  • Reflexology: plain old foot massage, overlaid with utter nonsense about non-existent connections between your feet and your thyroid gland.
  • Nutritional therapy: self-styled ‘nutritionists’ making untrue claims about diet in order to sell you unnecessary supplements.
  • Spiritual healing: tea and sympathy, accompanied by arm-waving.
  • Reiki: ditto.
  • Angelic Reiki. The same but with added “Angels, Ascended Masters and Galactic Healers”.  Excellent for advanced fantasists.
  • Colonic irrigation: a rectal obsession that fails to rid you of toxins which you didn’t have in the first place.
  • Anthroposophical medicine: followers of the mystic barmpot, Rudolf Steiner, for whom nothing whatsoever  seems to strain credulity
  • Alternative diagnosis: kinesiology, iridology, vega test etc,  various forms of fraud, designed to sell you cures that don’t work  for problems you haven’t got.
  • Any alternative ‘therapist’ who claims to cure AIDS or malaria: agent of culpable homicide.
  • (and this one inspired by the legal mind of Jack of Kent) Libel: A very expensive remedy, to be used only when you have no evidence. Appeals to alternative practitioners because truth is irrelevant.duck

He had some unkind words for all sorts of specific organisations, for example NHS Choices and their slowness to act on changing their description of homeopathy on their website, MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority) and the THR kite mark for echinacea and the like. He also addressed the lack of evidence for effectiveness of expectorants and cough suppressants, and even questioned the evidence for the placebo effect!

quackAcupuncture (that ancient Chinese remedy that only came to widespread knowledge after Mao reintroduced it in the early ’70s to rural China) was also given very short shrift. Using the flow of chi (sic) through the 12 meridians (based on the 12 rivers of China or the star signs), and pins in any of the 365 acupoints (I wonder where they got that number from, and would Martin acupuncturists have 669 points to play with?) is not shown to be effective. There have been over 3000 trials done to date, and still no demonstrable evidence to prove it works.

As an aside, apparently 100% of all Chinese authored studies show that acupuncture is completely effective. Wow!

However, my favourite quote of the night came from Camden & Islington NHS Trust, when challenged about their use of the company Connect Physical Health and their physiotherapy claims. Part of their response to the lack of convincing data to support its use was “Lack of evidence doesn’t mean these therapies don’t work“. WTF!snake oil

Finally, he did push part of the blame for the continued rise of these snake oil salesmen on conventional medicine and the media. There is plenty of corruption in the USA and UK when it comes to invoicing and drugs prescriptions, and not just that done by individuals. In addition, “Alternative medicine’s boom is the fault of orthodox medicine. It (and the media) allowed us to think we could be healthy and happy. That there was a pill for every problem, and if we died too early or painfully, it was an act of some agency, other than a capricious old God. We expected miracles.

A warning from the Psychic Community

Words fail me!

Weird Delusional Dishonest Tosh Y’know? Part 1

Please note: This is an opinion piece, though based on the best internet searches that money and time can buy. Do check the references for yourselves.

This is much harder than I thought! In my previous blog I commented on an email from What doctors Don’t Tell You magazine, and stated that I was about to review the current issue. Well, I’ve managed to get past the headlines on the cover, which include “Just in-case masectomy”, “The Big Cancer Cover-up” and “I said no to chemo and beat cancer”, and the ambulance chasers advert on page two.

Now came the the list of people involved in producing WDDTY. Let’s break it down:

Editors: Lynne McTaggart, Bryan Hubbard (husband of LM)

Managing Editor: Joanna Evans

Contributors: Dr Harald Gaier, Dr Rob Verkerk , Dr Patrick Kingsley, Dr Annemarie Colbin

Now, all of these names are new to me , except Lynne McTaggart, who I have previously read about and listened to. So, let’s start with her (as the magazine is basically her pet project)

Lynne McTaggart – An investigative journalist, with no/limited formal science education.Not medically trained. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynne_McTaggart. Her medical skills are such that she self diagnosed her own illness as being caused by “toxic yeast”. She is also repeatedly quoted (usually by herself and sympathetic other authors & web sites) as “award winning author” and “internationally recognized spokesperson”. It took me until page 22 of Google to find out which award it was – brace yourselves, it’s the prestigious 2008 Nautilus Award for Audio Books! Take a breath and relax. I know that was quite a shock for you, but there’s more. Initial searches show that the Nautilus Award is not for best shellfish study (though selfish could work here – more later), but a Polish Science Fiction and Fantasy award, which for technical reasons, did not award in 2008. So, I thought, gotcha! But not so fast, there’s more than one Nautilus Award, and here is the one she has a gong from (http://www.nautilusbookawards.com/Home.html). It “recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious (sic) living and positive social change” Its alumni include such purveyors of rational thought, such as Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss (medical intuitive and a mystic), Elizabeth Lesser (former midwife and co-founder of the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies) and Gail Straub (co-director of the Empowerment Institute). There are others in the list, some of whom I am sure are more or less worthy of such an award.

Bryan Hubbard – A journalist, philosopher, author (The Time-Light Program: A New Spiritual Therapy) and publisher. Not medically trained.

Joanne Evans – Apart from editorial responsibilities, is a regular contributor to WDDTY. In May 2009 she wrote a piece that asserted a link between pesticides, plastics and tobacco smoke to obesity, mostly due to parental exposure. Not medically trained.

Now we come to the main contributors.

‘Dr’ Harald Gaier – (also on the editorial board of WDDTY) is an Austrian-born British osteopath, homeopath, naturopath, master herbalist and acupuncturist. He is not registered with the GMC (http://thedailyquack.com/daily/haraldgaier). Not medically trained.

Dr Robert Verkerk – Founder of the Alliance for Natural Health (funded by various individuals and suppliers of dietary supplements) and “internationally acclaimed (sic) expert in sustainability”. He achieved  an Ecology degree, then subsequently a Masters at Imperial College on Applied Entomolgy, follwed by a PhD in 1995 on ‘Multitropic Interractions’. Not medically trained.

Dr Patrick Kingsley – A retired M.D. Worked in “Ecological Medicine” (see also Patrick Holford). Ran his own clinic of ‘Nutritional Environmental Medicine’. Medically trained.

Dr Annemarie Colbin – Has a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Wholistic (sic) Nutrition, gained in 2002 from the Union Institute and University, Ohio – WHO ONLY AWARDED SOCIAL SCIENCE AND HUMANITIES QUALIFICATIONS. The title of the thesis (brace yourselves!) was “Wholistic Nutrition: from Biochemistry to Chaos, Complexity, and Quantum Physics – applying some concepts from 20th Century Science to a new understanding of how food relates to health”. This can be downloaded for only $39.90 +tax +shipping. She has links to good old Dr Oz and Deepak Shopra. There is a nice quote where, in discussing quantum mechanics, she says “…I did not get into the math…”. Not Medically Trained.

So, that’s it for now (I’ve not even read the editorial yet!). If you think this needs a wider audience, then please pass on a link to this blog (or copy & paste the contents). Thanks.

Response from WDDTY (Weird Delusional Dishonest Tosh Y’know?)

After my previous post, I decided to send the advertising department a link to The Nightingale Collaboration’s latest review, which includes the number of ASA complaints. Here is my email and their response:

From: Ben Sagan [cumbrianskeptic@gmail.com]
Sent: 28 February 2013 17:44
To: Jenny Scott
Subject: Advertising

I wondered what your response might be to the article here:http://www.nightingale-collaboration.org/news/143-wddty-9-taking-stock.html

If you need help generating copy tag lines, I offer you this: https://benseye.wordpress.com/ where you can also find a link to download a simple spreadsheet.

Enjoy

from Jenny Scott <jenny.scott@cabbell.co.uk>
to: Ben Sagan <cumbrianskeptic@gmail.com>
date: Fri, Mar 1, 2013 at 8:52 AM
subject: RE: Advertising

Hi Ben, you are my friend. The publicity has sent our sales through the roof! Bless you : )
regards,
Jenny

Now, apart from the slight taste of bile in my throat, I had a couple of other reactions:

1) I am definitely not her friend – we have never been in contact before

2) I seriously doubt that their publicity (I assume that of The Nightingale Collaboration) had any impact on sales this quickly AND I would love to see their sales figures for the current and previous issues. My idea of “going through the roof” may differ from theirs – anyone know how I can check this ‘fact’?

So now, what to do? Well I saved one (possibly two) poor soul(s) in our town by throwing myself on the grenade buying a copy, and hiding the other one. I will now attempt to read it and produce some comments for a subsequent blog and a lengthy email to them.

P.S. I did also tweet a comment to Lynne Mcaggart who produces the dangerous rag magazine with her husband, but as yet no reply.

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