Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Science, Greed And Bias

Avoiding the temptation to ponder why he was blogging at 10pm on Valentine's Day (mustn't pry), The Salted Slug has posted an eloquent article, nicely roughing up MMR vaccine scaremonger Andrew Wakefield, whose greed led to a massive increase in measles, and at least two child deaths.

Anyway, it turns out that whilst some have given Wakefield the benefit of the doubt regarding whether he was incompetent or knowingly fraudulent about his 'study', Brian Deer at the Times has found out that his biased and bullshit study results might have been fiddled to suit his scaremongering.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal.

This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.
If true, this would lend credence to the theory that he was less misguided as he was a lying murdering bastard spreading anxiety in the minds of concerned parents everywhere in order to turn a buck.

This is all after he discovered that Wakefield had patented his own 'alternative' MMR vaccine prior to conducting his research, and would stand to make a massive profit if he could reduce confidence enough in the existing vaccine. After this was revealed all his co-authors disowned the paper and the Lancet printed a retraction. But the damage has been done now.

But hey, at least Andy is alright.

Meanwhile, in less outright fucking stupid places, Measles has been eliminated altogether.

What is damaging about shits like Wakefield is that they further taint the battered integrity of medical science. At least in this case, once his financial interest had been identified, his 'research' was unceremoniously dumped. However, his greed has already added more weight to those who increasingly argue that we are being fed junk stats on a regular basis. In other areas, of course, such conflicting interests are routinely ignored, and even used aggressively by weak government to promote their own particular one-sided agenda.

The only solution would be a completely independent research facility to produce medical statistics and science, but then, who would fund it? No matter where the money comes from, those producing the information are beholden to whomsoever is responsible for providing the grants.

It's a toughie, isn't it?


Sue said...

You cannot just dismiss parents' fears like that though. At the risk of sounding alarmist, my children's cousin became very sick and finally suffered brain damage after the triple vaccine and I refused to let them have it afterwards.

A few months later, a friends child contracted the measles and phoned her Doctor panicking. He more or less told her she was being over-reactive and stupid as it was only measles.

Whichever way you want to look at it, it cannot possibly be a good thing injecting a tiny baby with 3 separate diseases in one go.

SaltedSlug said...

Whichever way you want to look at it, it cannot possibly be a good thing injecting a tiny baby with 3 separate diseases in one go.

Erm, why not? Because you don't like the sound of it?
Beats the shit out of catching the disease as I'm sure your friend's child can attest.

I'm not dismissing parents' fears, but that doesn't mean those fears have any basis in reality. You can pull out as many anecdotes as you like about kids who got sick after they'd been vaccinated, that doesn't create a causal relationship, that just means kids get ill sometimes. And I would suggest that you would be much less likely to make that connection if the likes of Wakefield hadn't placed that seed of doubt in your mind to start with.

Don't get me wrong, vaccines are not without fault (indeed medical science isn't perfect by any means and Big Pharma don't help the argument by often being morally reprehensible), but the risks involved are tiny. The worst risk from MMR, for example, is that the child is allergic and suffers anaphylactic shock - but this is true of a plethora of things which the child may come in to contact with.

My point is, big pharma wouldn't be able to cover up the problems with a vaccination used in over ninety countries, to millions of kids if in fact there was an obvious threat to their health; the combined epidemiological data would be damning. It isn't.

Sue said...

You can criticise till the cows come home. I am a mother and my sole purpose in life is protecting my children.

The world is filled with lying, cheating, greedy pharmaceutical companies all clambering to sell their wares. They don't care if the odd child has a reaction! They can soon wriggle their way out of that one with some help from the politicians.

What if it's YOUR child that has the reaction, what's if it's life threatening?

We are basically aware that with proper care, these diseases can be nasty but they are not normally life threatening (I had them all as a child and I remember having them).

So, who do we trust? Governments?

Remember, when the controversy came to its peak, it was the PM that refused to divulge whether his children had had the triple vaccine or not.

Meanwhile a couple of parents are left with a child that was born perfectly normal until they had this vaccine. They won't get compensation and they have an extremely difficult life ahead.

Why couldn't they offer single ones?

Scientists, don't care about feelings, just about figures, a bit like politicians!

They either treat us like imbecilic idiots or patronise us and that's when they lose our support.

In answer to your question.

No, I don't like the sound of injecting a 3 month baby with three nasty diseases but then I'm just a mum!

banned said...

Everyone got measles, chicken pox and whatever when I were a lad, never did us any harm.

wv = 'wifazapa' honest !

Dick Puddlecote said...

Sue, love you to pieces, you know that, and you make some very good points. As always.

I purposely didn't judge either way about the science as I am well aware it's an emotive subject. What I do object to is the fact that it was produced by someone who had a motive for being alarmist, which is ever more prevalent and just serves to confuse and destroy the very point of its existence. This one was found out, many others aren't (ASH and pharma buddies, take a bow).

As Slug says, there are so many confounders with medical science, and pharma are the biggest Hoons of the lot in that respect. The government can't be trusted either as we both well know. The problem in my mind is that Wakefield was corrupt and didn't show any causal relationship. This led to an anecdotal correlation by those that believed it. It was, quite simply, bad medical science which has caused a lot of damage.

We've seen this before in many areas. So-called scientists manipulating confirmation bias for their own ends. Correlation is a different thing to a causal relationship.

You're very correct that the NHS should have offered individual vaccines for those who were worried. My kid was at that age at the time and I seem to remember that the charge was £60. It should have been free.

It still doesn't hide the fact that this guy caused the problem. He has since been demonstrably proven to be wrong, and not only that, a corrupt fucker too.

Slug is on our side, he is a proper scientist, and agrees with us on just about everything.

It's a toughie, as I said, but with a corrupt twat pushing his pharma product on one side, and shit government on the other, there's not a lot of choice. I'd tend to side with the expert opinion of a libertarian with a firm foot in the science camp though.

Can't fault anything about your concerns at all, Sue, but do you not see the similarities in this bad science and other 'studies' that have turned our government into illiberal drones at the behest of vested interests?

I bet you're a bloody good Mum too, by the way. :-)

Sue said...

I know Dick and I appreciate your input but when "scientists" are talking AT parents about their kids, there is no room for manoeuvrability, WE have to determine our children's fates on the word of people that have previously deceived us.

What we decide at the end of the day, is what we believe is in the best interests of our children given those uncertain circumstances.

Sue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

Unfortunately, the single vaccine idea has several very serious & real problems associated with it:

Six separate injections have to be given over a long period of time;

There would be a fall in vaccine coverage as children may not complete the course of injections;

Even children who complete the course are left without protection in the
gaps between injections;

As a result babies may catch the disease from their older brothers and sisters who are unprotected between the separate injections;

Children who cannot have the MMR vaccine, such as those having treatment for cancer, would be more exposed to infection; and

Pregant women will be at a greater risk of rubella infection from their own unprotected children and the children of their friends.

I am about to become a father myself & have a medical background, having trained & practised as a radiation therapist for several years. I would have no hesitaion in my child having the MMR, because I am well aware of the terrible damage that these diseases can potentially do to unprotected children. Andrew Wakefield's research was deeply flawed & poor basic research. Not only that, but he had patented a single measles vaccine prior to the publication of his paper, which he mysteriously failed to mention during his attempt to diminish the credibility of the pre-eminent competitor of that single vaccine. The man has a lot to answer for.