Salon retracts autism-vaccine link article

They should have done this a long time ago, but credit to Salon for finally retracting the report they published (jointly with Rolling Stone) in 2005 linking vaccines with autism. The report was authored by Robert F Kennedy Jr., which makes it hard for me to bite my tongue when I hear people talk (and they often do) about how great he is.

“I regret we didn’t move on this more quickly, as evidence continued to emerge debunking the vaccines and autism link,” says former Salon editor in chief Joan Walsh, now editor at large. “But continued revelations of the flaws and even fraud tainting the science behind the connection make taking down the story the right thing to do.” The story’s original URL now links to our autism topics page, which we believe now offers a strong record of clear thinking and skeptical coverage we’re proud of — including the critical pursuit of others who continue to propagate the debunked, and dangerous, autism-vaccine link.






69 replies
  1. 1
    John Cole says:

    Meanwhile, the WaPo ombudsman is putting out a letter apologizing for not linking ACORN and autism the moment wingnut blogs did.

  2. 2
    mistermix says:

    Cue the conspiracy theories. They should have kept the article up and done a paragraph-by-paragraph, inline debunking. Now the dead-enders will just use the article’s deletion as evidence that Salon can’t handle the truth.

  3. 3
    kerFuFFler says:

    Great! People need to be able to modify their thinking as new facts and information come along. Parents whose children developed autism after vaccinations need to understand that one simply cannot establish a causal connection on the basis of anecdotal evidence and isolated events. The truth is, after looking at the numbers, scientists realized that the figures simply do not suggest a connection between vaccinations and autism. In addition to the dangers of not vaccinating children, we will risk slowing down our understanding of autism if we stubbornly and irrationally insist on one faulty theory.

  4. 4
    MattF says:

    @mistermix

    Cognitive dissonance strikes again. Group loyalty beats reality, every time. Classic CD theory says that the believers will now launch a big proselytizing campaign.

  5. 5
    4tehlulz says:

    Too late. This article will show up in internet searches forever.

    Also absent from the correction is any apology for propagating a deadly hoax.

  6. 6
    Ija says:

    Maybe HuffPo will be sufficiently embarrassed to stop publishing Jenny-my-son-was-cured-of-autism-which-he-got-from-vaccine-McCarthy.

  7. 7

    This is off the topic, but it’s big, big news: Seems Mark Levin, who’s a radio talk-show dickhead whose big dream is to be even more loathesome than Rush Limbaugh has threatened to sue anybody who accuses him of inciting Jared Loughner to shoot Gabrielle Giffords! He’ll depose you under oath! He’ll take all your assets! He’ll make you cry!

    He said whoever says this, whether big-time television person or lowly blogger, will suffer his wrath in federal court! And I can’t wait! So here goes: It is my firm belief that mark Levin personally incited Jared Loughner to shoot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords through the head. I think he used a mind control ray that he got out of a box of Cap’n Crunch. Or maybe it was Lucky Charms. I’m less than clear on this part.

    There. I said it. I’ve wanted to get this off my chest for a while now, and I feel so much better for having done it. Bring it on, Mark, baby!

    I only hope John Cole gets the Mumphrey Legal Defense Fund Balloon-Juice Fundraiser going soon, since I’m going to need some crafty–and pricy–legal minds to defend me.

  8. 8
    Ija says:

    @Brisbane Belff (formerly G. Nelson Buttnergle (formerly Mumphrey (formerly Renfrew Squeevil (formerly Mumphrey Oddison Yamm (formerly Mumphrey O. Yamm (formerly Mumphrey)))))):

    Great. You realize he will now sue the founder and president as well as the whole board of your organization, right? You should have left out the link, Levin will sue John Cole instead, and I can finally see what Cole looks like.

  9. 9
    Napoleon says:

    Has Rolling Stone done something similar? I love RS, but they have had some spectacularly wrong pieces from time to time in the past, the one which really stands out for me was the one about how Ted Bundy (a Republican political operative, I should note) was innocent. You knew it was BS when you read it.

  10. 10
    SteveinSC says:

    Well, the fun part is that the Thimerasol hysteria caught Deidre Imus in its web, so some good came out of it.

    Vis-a-vis Webs, Hat’s off to the newly rolled out, New! Improved! Website design!

  11. 11
    geg6 says:

    @Napoleon:

    Rolling Stone and Salon did some sort of dual publishing thing back then and the Kennedy article ran in both.

  12. 12
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    We live in a highly complicated society, one in which there are countless things we can’t know about ourselves, because we don’t have the highly specialized and esoteric knowledge to call the shots, so we trust those who do to be honest when they call them.

    This means that there needs to be a lot of transparency for this to happen right.

    But there isn’t a lot of transparency, because a lot of people know that it’s complicated, that people can’t know, and use that to their advantage.

    Which is why, inevitably, the entire “free market” thing falls apart, because this is the same situation. The “free market”, too, relies on transparency to work…yet due to the complex nature of just about anything you buy in a supermarket, you cannot be certain unless someone else assures you that it’s safe.

    The players have to be honest and open. And more often than not, they’re not.

    The concept of the vaccine is pretty simple. The execution, however, gets complicated, fast. Which leads to all that uncertainty and doubt.

  13. 13
    Perfect Tommy says:

    RFK Jr has been a tireless advocate for the environment, and most notably, for the Hudson River. That said, his involvement with this vaccine issue is a glaring black mark on his record.

  14. 14
    Sharl says:

    @Napoleon:
    In this post at Retraction Watch, a couple of the folks who have pushed hard for the retraction say nice things about Salon for taking this action (finally). They are not so complimentary toward Rolling Stone, which responded quite differently – RS pulled the article without explanation some time last year, and links to the original article now return a ‘404’ error.

  15. 15

    @Ija:

    Hmm. Good point. As it happens, though I am the founder and president, and my budget is like $6000 a year in a good year (I’m still learning about fundraising, and I’m a slow learner).

    But I guess it just goes to show that I don’t have the cunning legal mind that Levin has. Though if I’m lucky, my user name will get him all befuddled. Well, all the more need for the Mumphrey Legal Defense Fund, I guess. Maybe I can learn to be a professional grifter like Sarah Palin.

  16. 16
    aimai says:

    @Perfect Tommy:
    People like RFK are as likely to make stupid mistakes as the rest of us–the only problem is that their fame and social position can magnify their mistakes. I guarantee you that lots of people have thought and even argued for things just absurd, in retrospect, as the autism/vaccine connection but unless they reallyfight for it, or are socially prominent, no one knows. I also suspect that a lot of rich, powerful, people are inclined to believe a wide variety of “conspiracy theories” and single bullet style arguments because they have been exposed, in real life, to the fact that lots of information is routinely hidden from the public–including decisions to which they have been privy. I’m thinking of people like Ahmenson and the Kochs and the Hunts here.

    aimai

  17. 17
  18. 18
    anthony says:

    The concept of the vaccine is pretty simple. The execution, however, gets complicated, fast. Which leads to all that uncertainty and doubt.

    No it doesn’t. It’s a bunch of BOLD THINKERS who think they somehow know the truth about medical research which has saved countless lives and prevented untold suffering. They can sod off with people with uncertainty and doubt about the moon landings.

  19. 19
    Cat Lady says:

    Anyone who’s watched their baby struggle with the temperature spikes and fussiness and other aftereffects of vaccinations can understand how this pernicious belief caught fire. It’s not like medical professionals are infallible, or aren’t in cahoots with big pharma. But now that we live in bizarro world, whooping cough and diphtheria outbreaks are preferable for some people to vaccinations. Middle Ages, here we come! Next up – bubonic plague!

  20. 20
  21. 21
    WyldPirate says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The players have to be honest and open. And more often than not, they’re not.

    This is why caveat emptor is as relevant today as it ever was.

    There is so much straight out and out bullshit floating around that one has to be a real skeptic and oftentimes that isn’t even enough.

    I’m particularly concerned that there seems to be so much bullshit floating around in the medical literature today. Not that there is willful fraud involved, but there is too much money on the line and too much influence by BigPharma in the publication of results that frankly, it is surprising that there aren’t more thimerosal-incidents.

    This article–Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Statistics–is a good overview of how even with the best of intentions, bullshit like the thimerosal hoax can enter into the mainstream.

  22. 22
    shortstop says:

    @Perfect Tommy: It looks good next to that other black mark: an environmentalist protesting a wind farm that would “ruin” the view from the Kennedy compound at Hyannis.

    I met RFK Jr. a few years back and was struck by how thoroughly disengaged he seemed from everyone around him that day. I realize that the speaking circuit is exhausting and often thoroughly monotonous, and that it’s hard to pretend you’re really interested in people who start to look and sound the same in every town, but he wasn’t even trying–in fact, he kind of had to go out of his way to be as out of it as he was. There was just nobody home. At the time, I put it down to him having a bad day, but since then, I’ve heard and read the same thing from many others. For an allegedly passionate advocate, he seems singularly without passion.

  23. 23
    KCinDC says:

    Wait, they’re removing the story and pointing the URL at their autism topics page? That doesn’t seem very transparent. We shouldn’t put these things down the memory hole and pretend they never happened. They should leave it up with a big correction paragraph at the top.

  24. 24
    eemom says:

    RFK Jr should fucking rot in hell for having lent his name and prestige to the propagation of that disgusting fraud.

    There was NO excuse for it, NONE. The supposed correlation was manufactured from the get go — and he had a responsibility to know the facts before he spoke out.

    Being a Kennedy does not immunize one from being a sensationalist, attention whoring asshole.

  25. 25
    burnspbesq says:

    @Napoleon:

    You beat me to it re the RS retraction, but I would add that I’d like to see the retraction written by Taibbi.

  26. 26
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    @Cat Lady:

    But now that we live in bizarro world, whooping cough and diphtheria outbreaks are preferable for some people to vaccinations.

    It would be criminal/cruel/fucked-up enough if it were their OWN children who got whooping cough because of their insane “preferences,” but it’s not. It’s other people’s kids. Babies who were too little to be vaccinated have gotten whooping cough from kids who were old enough but weren’t vaccinated. Herd immunity is needed to protect the teeny babies, and it fails when the rest of the herd isn’t immunized. At least 8 babies died in California alone last year from whooping cough. That’s 8 actual humans, and their heartbroken families, who were victims of this crap, and Salon should have to print that at the top of every article they publish about vaccines.

    I don’t blame Jenny McCarthy – she’s an ignorant ass. I blame her enablers.

  27. 27
    Cat Lady says:

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:

    Stupidity – not just for teatards!

  28. 28
    gnomedad says:

    @Brisbane Belff (formerly G. Nelson Buttnergle (formerly Mumphrey (formerly Renfrew Squeevil (formerly Mumphrey Oddison Yamm (formerly Mumphrey O. Yamm (formerly Mumphrey)))))):

    Mark Levin, who’s a radio talk-show dickhead whose big dream is to be even more loathesome than Rush Limbaugh has threatened to sue anybody who accuses him of inciting Jared Loughner to shoot Gabrielle Giffords!

    This so deserves its own thread. Tort reform, baby! First amendement also, too!

  29. 29

    @Comrade Colette Collaboratrice:

    I was talking to my wife about that yesterday. I was wondering about the guy who did the “study” that started all this bullshit. I just couldn’t, and can’t understand why he did it. I mean, from what I’ve read, he didn’t just make a lot of dumb mistakes or oversights; it was a fraud, full of lies. I can understand why people lie most of the time: they think it’ll get them something. But it’s hard to see what was behind this guy’s lies. It doesn’t seem like he stood to get anything from them. And it’s hard to fathom that somebody would put out a whole study like this just for the hell of it, knowing what many people’s reactions would likely be, and what would likely be the result down the line when people began to keep their children from getting shots. It seems sadistic. Maybe he is just a sadistic asshole, but these aren’t the people you’d normally think would go into medicine or science.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    JD_PhD says:

    I agree with mistermix and others: they shouldn’t (and can’t, thanks to Google caches) make the article disappear; they should label it as retracted and leave it up.

  32. 32
    Faux News says:

    Jenny McCarthy (Google University) and Jim Carrey can shove it up their ignorant asses! As stated before on this thread I wonder how many children got sick and even died due to the bullshit these two spread.

  33. 33
    aimai says:

    @Brisbane Belff (formerly G. Nelson Buttnergle (formerly Mumphrey (formerly Renfrew Squeevil (formerly Mumphrey Oddison Yamm (formerly Mumphrey O. Yamm (formerly Mumphrey)))))):

    He was paid to do it as part of a court case–by the lawyers for the plaintiff. That was in the guardian report covering the retraction.

    aimai

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @anthony:

    Anthony, I’m going to kick your ass. You just pulled a John Kyl on Sheriff Dupnik thing on me.

    I made a generic statement about how the vaccine is simple in concept but complex in execution. How many ways can a vaccine be adulterated in the manufacturing process, if the manufacturer isn’t paying close attention? You’re assuming I bought in wholesale to the Kennedy article. I’m saying that if any part of the chain is not transparent, FUD WILL HAPPEN. People will apply their life experience to some situation where it may not be fully appropriate, because they’re missing important information.

    Pharmaceutical companies, unfortunately, are like every other corporation…money first…everything else second. Which means that transparency is not one of their most treasured values. Oh, the people on the floor may be doing everything they can to insure that the vaccine is safe…but other considerations come into play as different motivations do.

  35. 35
    WyldPirate says:

    @Brisbane Belff (formerly G. Nelson Buttnergle (formerly Mumphrey (formerly Renfrew Squeevil (formerly Mumphrey Oddison Yamm (formerly Mumphrey O. Yamm (formerly Mumphrey)))))):

    I just couldn’t, and can’t understand why he did it. I mean, from what I’ve read, he didn’t just make a lot of dumb mistakes or oversights; it was a fraud, full of lies. I can understand why people lie most of the time: they think it’ll get them something. But it’s hard to see what was behind this guy’s lies. It doesn’t seem like he stood to get anything from them.

    Well, according to this, the fraud responsible for the original paper that made the false link had a lot to gain:

    In the new report, Deer describes a variety of efforts Wakefield undertook to make money from his work. For example, Wakefield and his associates predicted they could make more than $43 million a year from diagnostic kits alone for a condition he argued affected autistic children dubbed “austistic enterocolitis,” according to one 35-page document.

    Here is the link to the British Medical Journal article referenced in the WaPo link above:
    How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed

  36. 36
    drkrick says:

    @Brisbane Belff (formerly G. Nelson Buttnergle (formerly Mumphrey (formerly Renfrew Squeevil (formerly Mumphrey Oddison Yamm (formerly Mumphrey O. Yamm (formerly Mumphrey)))))):

    I was talking to my wife about that yesterday. I was wondering about the guy who did the “study” that started all this bullshit. I just couldn’t, and can’t understand why he did it.

    I can’t recite the details, but there was money in it for him somewhere. Now how you live with the completely forseeable death toll or how long you think you can pull it off (and I’m surprised it took this long to completely collapse) is still a mystery.

  37. 37
    Perfect Tommy says:

    @shortstop: I hadn’t heard of RFK Jr backing that NIMBY wind farm position. I always assumed it was only Teddy that wanted it blocked. Thanks for pointing that out shortstop.

  38. 38
    JD Rhoades says:

    @Brisbane Belff (formerly G. Nelson Buttnergle (formerly Mumphrey (formerly Renfrew Squeevil (formerly Mumphrey Oddison Yamm (formerly Mumphrey O. Yamm (formerly Mumphrey)))))):

    I would purely LOVE to get that son of a bitch on a witness stand in front of a jury. I bet I could make him leap out of the jury box and go for my throat.

  39. 39
    shortstop says:

    @drkrick:

    Now how you live with the completely forseeable death toll or how long you think you can pull it off (and I’m surprised it took this long to completely collapse) is still a mystery.

    You come to believe that the crap you’re putting out there is actually true. At this point, Wakefield probably actually believes that vaccines cause autism.

    That isn’t, by the way, an attempt to excuse him in any fashion. It’s interesting though, to think about how people who sell really big lies — from falsifying medical research to lying about WMDs to start wars — live with themselves. I don’t think that very many people are down with the idea of being monsters. I think a lot of people are good at convincing themselves that what’s false is true.

  40. 40
  41. 41
    Brachiator says:

    @Brisbane Belff (formerly G. Nelson Buttnergle (formerly Mumphrey (formerly Renfrew Squeevil (formerly Mumphrey Oddison Yamm (formerly Mumphrey O. Yamm (formerly Mumphrey)))))):

    Maybe he is just a sadistic asshole, but these aren’t the people you’d normally think would go into medicine or science.

    Sorry, it’s just a sad aspect of human nature that some medical and other researchers sometimes fake data because they believe what they want to believe, and want to hurry the data along to “prove” what they think is correct.

    There is also a huge ego boost to be the one who discovers something new or challenges medical orthodoxy. They also get thanks from families for being the only ones who could get to the bottom of a seemingly unsolvable problem.

    It’s not much different from an athlete who cheats by taking performance enhancing drugs who wins a gold medal in the Olympics or gets into the hall of fame. The thrill of recognition and attention is so great that people are willing to lie and cheat, and put peoples’ lives at risk.

    They should have done this a long time ago, but credit to Salon for finally retracting the report they published (jointly with Rolling Stone) in 2005 linking vaccines with autism.

    I can’t give Rolling Stone any credit for this. They should never have published the bullshit in the first place. There was never any reliable evidence of a vaccine to autism link. The supposed data was always weak, could never be corroborated, and there was no coherent hypothesis to support the argument. That the research behind it has now been shown to be fraudulent is the slam dunk, but from the beginning it was pseudo-science vs science.

  42. 42

    @gnomedad:

    I too think this should have its own thread. We should just fill it with outrageous and ridiculous claims and Mark Levin can bring 47 different lawsuits and kick all our asses around the block. That would be so much fun. Unless, of course, he’s full of shit, and wouldn’t bring a suit if his life depended on it, and is only trying to impress his audience of easily addled 3rd grade droputs. But I’m sure that it’s just unfair of me to even ask that.

  43. 43
    Martin says:

    RJK Jr is an idiot. There, I said it.

  44. 44
    New Yorker says:

    Why does the Huffington Post continue to publish the illiterate nonsense that Jenny McCarthy spews? They don’t publish 9/11 Truth garbage there, and I imagine they don’t publish much Birther nonsense either, so why does this bullshit conspiracy theory get a pass?

  45. 45
    Pongo says:

    One aspect of this whole debacle that is not getting as much attention as it should is the power of scientifically illiterate patient advocacy movements to push nonsense into the mainstream. I work as a patient advocate and am not a scientist, so am one of the people I am criticizing here. I see it all the time. Advocates believe their role is to demand services. Lacking the skills to evaluate initiatives for research or treatment on their actual merit, however, they make no distinction between legitimate demands and Jenny McCarthy-inspired voodoo cures (the only thing we can know for sure about Ms. McCarthy’s experience with ‘curing’ autism in her son is that her son never actually had true autism).

    What frustrates me is the enormous amount of resources dedicated to autism. Most rare disease groups would kill for 1/100 of the research dollars available for autism research. I don’t begrudge dollars spent wisely, but this is just sort of obscene. It’s sad that some autism advocates fail to grasp that Dr. Wakefield actually misdirected a lot of autism research efforts for over a decade, costing precious time and money. If there is a valid link between autism and vaccines, the ethical misbehavior of this man and his followers has pretty much ensured it will be greeted with skepticism from now on. He actively hurt the autism community, enriched himself to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars by his perfidy and yet spokespeople and leaders of various autism groups are vocally defending him. They are their own worst enemies.

    And since we’re pointing out RFK Jr.’s complicity, let’s add Bill Maher’s anti-vaccine idiocy to the list. Painful as it is to say, the anti-science, anti-vax movement is phenomenon of the left.

  46. 46
    West of the Cascades says:

    @eemom: I heard him about six months on his radio show “Ring of Fire” continuing to push the line that vaccines are dangerous and horrifically toxic, with no qualifications and no nuances. It was awful. The good work he’s done on the Hudson and with the Riverkeeper network doesn’t make up for the damage he did with that Rolling Stone/Salon article and for being a NIMBY on Cape Wind.

    I also agree with the comment that he seems totally disengaged when he’s speaking with activists – I saw him in Salt Lake City about four years ago, and, after he gave his message in his speech, he didn’t seem to care about any of the local environmentalists who went up to speak to him afterward. Yes, probably exhausting … but, at the same time, a lot of people in the environmental community do exhausting work, and still engage with each other as human beings. RFK Jr seems more of a self-promotion automaton sometimes.

  47. 47
    Pongo says:

    @shortstop: I gave him the benefit of the doubt, too–until it was revealed that he started working with lawyers interested in suing vaccine manufacturers two years prior to publishing his findings. The dude made more than $400,000 in ‘consulting fees’ from this relationship.

    There is so much wrong about this situation it is hard to believe it ever managed to have local, much less global, impact. A ‘case series’ is very low down on the credibility hierarchy of study protocols. A case series that only includes 13 cases (out of a population of affected individuals in the millions) is even less credible. To draw any conclusion, much less the dramatic, ‘game changing’ conclusion Wakefield, et al drew, from such a small sample is outrageous. This was all pointed out right away by the medical community, but by then it was too late. Lay autism patient advocacy groups got a hold of it, failed to evaluate the merit critically and a movement was born that has had tragic global impact. Dr. Wakefield’s irresponsibility and greed is at least in part responsible for the glut of vaccine-preventable deaths we now see. He has a lot more to answer for than just being a lousy scientist.

    Here is a good cartoon overview of this whole situation: http://darryl-cunningham.blogs.....field.html

  48. 48
    lacp says:

    The original story, with no corrections, is still up on RFK Jr.’s site. Guess he’s a dead-ender on this one.

  49. 49
    eemom says:

    A case series that only includes 13 cases (out of a population of affected individuals in the millions) is even less credible. To draw any conclusion, much less the dramatic, ‘game changing’ conclusion Wakefield, et al drew, from such a small sample is outrageous. This was all pointed out right away by the medical community, but by then it was too late.

    Yet another example of how a lie can get twice around the world before the truth has gotten its boots on.

    It is not at all unusual for “junk science” to be manufactured/seized upon by sleazebag lawyers, but rarely are the consequences this devastating.

    Does anyone know if this Wakefield was charged with any crime by the British govt?

  50. 50
    Joel says:

    @Cat Lady: Medical professionals are in cahoots with Big Pharma?

  51. 51
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Perfect Tommy: RFK Jr. routinely makes the short list of real progressives who should primary Obama over at DemocraticUnderground.com.

    Which goes to show something, I’m not sure what.

  52. 52
    Brachiator says:

    @Pongo:

    And since we’re pointing out RFK Jr.’s complicity, let’s add Bill Maher’s anti-vaccine idiocy to the list. Painful as it is to say, the anti-science, anti-vax movement is phenomenon of the left.

    Sad but true. Much of this seems to be built on the easy, but false idea that healthy living can eliminate a need for medicine and drugs. I guess this is the hippy dippy equivalent of believing that prayer can substitute for medicine. As a past posting on Skeptoid put it:

    Many antivaccine activists believe that a healthy diet is all that’s needed to guard against disease. Unfortunately, a healthy diet by itself does not present any immunological challenges. No antibodies are created as a result. Then when a pathogen enters the body, the pathogen wins, and the body becomes diseased. If you focus on your diet or your fitness, but ignore your immune system, expect to look slim and run marathons, but don’t expect your immune system to be well prepared should you be unlucky enough to run into polio.

  53. 53
    eemom says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    “A fool will always find a greater fool to admire him.”

    Dunno who said it, and too lazy to google, but this seems to be my day for quoting wise old adages.

  54. 54
    eemom says:

    Painful as it is to say, the anti-science, anti-vax movement is phenomenon of the left.

    Both sides do it! Both sides do it! Braaaaawk!!

  55. 55

    @WyldPirate:
    Of course the big difference with the vaccine/autism hoax is that it’s the other way around from the usual problems with the medical literature. Most of the problems are caused by Big Pharma preventing the publication of accurate results that fairly make their medicines look bad. Allowing publication of fraudulent data that unfairly makes a medicine look bad is 180° off.

  56. 56
    shortstop says:

    @Pongo: I’m really not giving him the benefit of the doubt. If anything, I have less respect for liars who sell the big lie to themselves than I do for people who defiantly own their evil.

    Not sure which category your revelation about Wakefield working with lawyers years in advance falls into — it strikes me as a possible fit in either one. Usually the thorough rationalization of one’s own bad behavior is a series of tiny steps rather than an overnight event.

  57. 57

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Pharmaceutical companies, unfortunately, are like every other corporation…money first…everything else second.

    Which is why the FDA rides their ass on QA/QC. I don’t work for Pharma directly, but my lab has done work as an outside QC contractor for FDA regulated pharma production. They seem to be much more worried about the expense of an FDA audit- which can shut down their whole production indefinitely- than the expense of doing things right the first time. It’s apparently much easier to bamboozle the FDA on issues of drug approval than drug production.

  58. 58
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, Kennedy came out with a HuffPo piece that was so riddled with (already debunked) misinformation that I lost a lot of respect for him.

  59. 59
    Randall says:

    More and more is learned about autism everyday. There are monetary and public health issues at play here and for now the default message being driven home is the opinion being expressed here. I would think the individuals on this blog would not be so trusting of their information overlords because we know they would never make an attempt to deceive the public or cloud the issue. Those who are so sure of themselves should re-visit this thread in about 5 years so they can learn not to demonize people for things they themselves know little about.

  60. 60
    eemom says:

    come full circle, so we have.

    Idiot.

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Pongo:

    (the only thing we can know for sure about Ms. McCarthy’s experience with ‘curing’ autism in her son is that her son never actually had true autism)

    This is a bit Schiavo-like diagnosis, but I’ve seen several people I trust online say that they’ve seen video of McCarthy and her son and they immediately spotted him as autistic from the way he moved and spoke.

    So I don’t think it’s that he never had true autism so much as that McCarthy is in denial, at least publicly. Fortunately for her kid, she had enough money for early and aggressive interventions to improve his symptoms.

  62. 62
    Ohio Mom says:

    As the mom of a kid on the autism spectrum, I am a little conversant on this topic (disclosure: my kid has had all his vacccines on schedule, up to and including this year’s flu shot, which as FAIK, did contain a mercury preservative).

    Please note there are 2 separate vaccines-cause-autism “theories.” One was that the MMR damaged the small intestine and in doing so, let all sorts of too-large proteins into the bloodstream and after that, into the brain. Don’t remember exactly what the too-large proteins were supposed to do once in the brain. That was the theory espoused by Andrew Wakefield. My impression is that it was never as popular a theory as the other.

    The other theory — which was endorsed by RFK, Jr., and is the one the retraction mentioned in the post refers to — is that the mercury preservative that used to be part of the formula for many vaccines (but was never in the MMR formula) caused a sort of heavy metal posioning (similar to a way another heavy metal, lead, causes developmental problems such as mental retardation/cognitive disability).

    The mercury preservative was removed from the childhood vaccines, IIRC, in 2002. It remains in some other vaccines such as the yearly flu shot. The anti-vacciners say it was removed because the vaccine makers knew the jig was up. The government and manufacturers say it was removed to end the vaccine scare.

    It’s also worth noting that the anti-mercury crowd tends to be very anti-government. Lots of them blame Hillary for a “be sure to vaccinate your kid” campaign she championed as a first-lady project.

    Anyway, pile on RFK, Jr. if you like, but don’t accuse him of being a stooge for Wakefield. That’s inaccurate and unfair.

  63. 63
    anthony says:

    @Villago Delenda Est
    When you’ve finished playing ‘I’m Dick Tracy, You’re Prune Face’ maybe you can explain where the vaccination process is dishonest and closed because that’s the accusation you worked into your generic statement.

  64. 64
    Brachiator says:

    @Ohio Mom:

    Please note there are 2 separate vaccines-cause-autism “theories.”

    Both theories are nonsense. But let’s look at the mercury issue:

    This is the most common claim, and it’s the one you’ve probably heard the most about, so I won’t spend much time on it. Some vaccines (but no scheduled childhood vaccines) are preserved with thimerosal, which contains ethylmercury. Elemental mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin, but when it’s bound as an organic ethyl, it’s easily filtered out of your body by your kidneys and is quickly discharged. This is one reason thimerosal has always been such a safe and popular preservative, and it’s still found in many products. Mercury can also be bound as a methyl, which is different, and is much harder for your body to filter out. But fear not; no vaccines or thimerosal ever contained methylmercury, and this scaremongering has no plausible foundation.

    And a fuller discussion of RFK Jrs role in this nonsense (and the related nonsense of chelation therapy):

    It doesn’t help that this misinformation is spread by celebrity activists like Robert Kennedy Jr., whose only medical experience comes from carefully making lines of cocaine with a razor blade. Kennedy wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine in 2005 charging that the government knows that vaccines cause autism and is actively covering it up. I wonder what young Abubakar’s parents think of Kennedy’s contribution to pop-culture. The online version of Kennedy’s article is followed by five paragraphs of corrections and clarifications, among them pointing out that he misstated the amount of ethylmercury received by infants at six months of age, by a factor of 133 times the actual amount. His article is bursting at the seams with flawed logic and irrelevant comparisons, such as this one: “infants routinely received three inoculations that contained a total of 62.5 micrograms of ethylmercury — a level 99 times greater than the EPA’s limit for daily exposure to methylmercury.” It’s OK though, Robert, people don’t read too closely.
    __
    Rates of vaccination have not been increasing, so why the reported skyrocketing rates of autism diagnoses? An increasingly broad array of conditions being called autism is part of the reason. Autism is not necessarily a single, well-defined disorder. There are five main Autism Spectrum Disorders, including but not limited to Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, various childhood disintegrative disorders, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, or PDD-NOS. As more of these are broadly called “autism”, obviously the rates of autism rise substantially. Between 1987 and 1998, the number of patients classified as autistic rose 273 percent.
    __
    If thimerosal were a cause of autism, then wouldn’t its removal from vaccines curb the rising rates of diagnosis? Well, obviously, yes it would. But it didn’t. The FDA removed thimerosal from childhood vaccines in the US in 1997, as a precautionary measure, partly in response to all the anti-vaccine activism. Autism diagnoses continued to rise unabated. Denmark and Sweden eliminated thimerosal five years earlier. Their rates also continued to climb.
    __
    Let’s repeat that, since apparently it’s not clear to Kennedy and the other activists still warning against vaccination. Ethylmercury-containing thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in 1997. Vaccination will not result in mercury poisoning.
    __
    Vaccinations save more lives worldwide than any other medical advance in history. Thanks to vaccination, children around the world are now safe from hepatitis A and B, polio, smallpox, measles, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, rotavirus, mumps, typhoid, and many more. Giving up all of these immunities, due only to an unfounded fear of a compound that’s no longer used and was demonstrated safe in every rigorous study ever done, is hardly the best way to serve your child. Exposing an already-vaccinated child to the dangers of chelation in a misguided effort to remove undetected poisons is just as bad. Vaccinate your children. Don’t put them or yourself through the risks of chelation therapy, unless of course your job at Three-Mile Island was to drink all the leaked cooling water.

    Credit where credit is due to the great Skeptoid site and podcasts.

  65. 65
    Ija says:

    @eemom:

    I don’t think it’s really controversial to say that the anti-vaccine crowd are mostly from the left. Not everything i is a case of people saying “both sides do it”. On balance, the right is more anti-science than the left, but in this specific case (anti-vaccine crowd), it is a phenomenon of the left.

  66. 66
    Jebediah says:

    @Joey Maloney:

    To Mark Levin: J’accuse, j’accoff!

    I love it. If I spoke French I would join you in Levin-taunting thusly.

  67. 67
    bjkeefe says:

    I think Salon should have the original URL redirect to a page that explains why they took down the RFK article and then gives a summary of why the story was junk. And then at the end of that, they could link to where they could link to their autism topics index.

    I can’t make up my mind about deleting the article itself. I hate having the misinformation there for someone to seize upon, but I also don’t like things being scrubbed from the record. I guess mistermix’s idea (comment #2) about an inline debunking would work, assuming anyone wanted to take the time to do it.

  68. 68
    Randall says:

    I would say it is a problem if people become anti-vaccine, but it is also a problem if we as individuals are forced to do something in the dark that can or cannot be very dangerous to some individuals. Even the doctors don’t know everything about this subject, hence all the studies and reports.

    Just in the age of the internet there have been many quacks and mistakes that were repeatedly emphasized to get the desired message across.

    In this case it would not be out of bounds to protect the overall public health until more is known about this subject. Everyone here knows that if they came out and said certain vaccines may cause something there would be millions forgoing vaccinations that are in no danger, putting others in harms way.

    It is funny to me that Mark Levin is mixed in with this thread because this is the one subject that causes many juicers to act similar to him.

  69. 69
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    “It’s apparently much easier to bamboozle the FDA on issues of drug approval than drug production.”

    cGMP (current good manufacturing practices) are pretty rigid, leave a pretty clear audit trail, and it’s easy to test a sample to see if there’s contamination.

    For clinical trials, there’s a lot more degrees of freedom – which countries you run your trials in, the length of the trial (knowledge of the pharmacokinetics might suggest when to end the trial to minimize observed side effects), etc. Which are harder for the FDA to audit. Plus, the increasing use of Contract Research Organization instead of Universities to run clinical trials means it’s easier to bury adverse data.

    You’d have thought, though, that the debacle with the whole COX-2 inhibitors should in theory have made Big Pharma more reluctant to push the envelope to get a particular compound approved.

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