Part Fills for March 14

Part fills is an irregular feature bringing you updates on relevant issues, and highlights from other blogs. Enjoy!

Category: Vaccines

Last December, I recommended the book Autism’s False Prophets, which detailed the establishment of the modern antivaccination movement. Dr. Paul Offit is the book’s author, and he was subsequently profiled by Amy Wallace in Wired magazine, in an excellent article on the antivaccine movement, entitled An Epidemic of Fear. Following its publication, Barbara Loe Fischer of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) decided to sue Offit and Wallace, because of the following passage:

Fisher, who has long been the media’s go-to interview for what some in the autism arena call “parents rights,” makes him particularly nuts, as in “You just want to scream.” The reason? “She lies,” he says flatly.

In a win for science and free speech, the case has been dismissed. See the background at Neurologica and a summary of these recent developments over at Terra Sigillata and White Coat Underground. Orac at Respectful Insolence examines the judgment in some detail, and while satisfied with the outcome, is quite critical of some of the rationale.

Category: Vaccines

In another win for science, on Friday March 12, an US court concluded that the evidence supporting a causal link between thimerosal in vaccines, and autism is “scientifically unsupportable”. The court, established to examine claims of vaccine injury, reviewed three test cases, and made the following statement:

In the absence of a sound medical theory causally connecting William’s received vaccines to his autistic condition, the undersigned cannot find the proposed sequence of cause and effect to be logical or temporally appropriate. Having failed to satisfy their burden of proof under the articulated legal standard, petitioners cannot prevail on their claim of vaccine-related causation.

These rulings essentially dismiss similar cases alleging that vaccines caused autism. Once again, thimerosal in vaccines has not been accepted as a cause of autism.  And recall that despite the removal of thimerosal from the majority of vaccines, the incidence of autism has not decreased.

(Addendum, March 15: Orac’s take is here, and is highly recommended.)

Category: Vaccines

Hear me, Dr. Chris MacDonald and Dr. Nancy Walton discussing Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the retracted Lancet paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism, medical ethics, and the modern antivaccination movement over at Skeptically Speaking.

Category: Make Believe Medicine

What do Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, rainbows, vacuum cleaner dust, and “Mobile Phone 900MHz”  have in common? Give up? They’re all homeopathic remedies. As I’ve repeatedly blogged, it’s remarkable that anyone takes homeopathy seriously. Unfortunately, provinces and states facilitates the practice of homeopathy, through the licensure of alternative-health practitioners like homeopaths and naturopaths. And federal drug regulators like Health Canada, and the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, give homeopathy products a patina of legitimacy, through the licensure of of these absurd products. (Pharmacies that sell homeopathy are part of the problem, too.) The result is an elaborate collection of placebos, and advocates that think they can be used to treat real illness.

It’s one for homeopaths and naturopaths to treat the “worried well”, but it’s appalling when they prey on people in real need. Enter Haiti. The Globe and Mail’s Jessica Leeder wrote an astonishingly credulous piece about a naturopath who set himself up in Jacmel, and proceeded to hand out homeopathy.  After the first two patients realized he didn’t have any real medicine to offer, the rest disappeared. The naturopath, frustrated, destroyed his supply of injectable Vitamin C  and wondered what to do with his homeopathic ointment Traumeel. As blogger PalMD noted,

Those pesky Haitians! Coming to a medical clinic expecting medical help! You’d think centuries of crushing poverty would have sucked the hope out of them by now, but apparently they still expect medical clinics to practice medicine.

Columnist and Canadian blogger Colby Cosh, in his Macleans post Great moments in Canadian humanitarianism, also weighed in:

But homeopathy, in the form that Denis Marier practices, is what we had before real medicine: i.e., folk notions and metaphysical nonsense. Advocates of various styles of quackery always emphasize the great antiquity of their ideas, usually just as they’re about to complain that those same ideas have never been given a fair hearing by the Establishment. And characterizing something as “being in its infancy” implies that it is on course to grow into adulthood if uninterrupted by calamity. It’s precisely the kind of word choice a neutral reporter ought to avoid—I would say most especially when in the process of documenting the wasteful, possibly harmful activities of a delusional, selfish idiot.

Category: Make Believe Medicine

Homeopathy vs. Science – A Metaphor.

And from business ethics blogger Dr. Chris MacDonald:  Which Alternative Therapies is it Ethical To Sell? Yes, he’s talking about you, my pharmacist readers.

Category: Shameless Self-Promotion
Research Blogging Awards 2010 is a site for bloggers to link their writing about peer-reviewed science. As SBP’s writers turn to the primary literature frequently, we’ve linked several posts to their site. Their annual awards ceremony highlights the best blogs and posts.  Out of 1000 blogs registered, Science-Based Pharmacy has been nominated in two categories!  Best New Blog (2009) and Best Blog (Clinical Research).  While we wait for the winners to be announced, check out the other nominees!

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