Confessions of an Ex-Ad Woman Part III
The other day, we watched a commercial for a new drug that promised relief for neuralgia, but added that it might cause lupus, cancer, heart problems, and rashes that could indicate a life-threatening disease. As the commercial wrapped up with a warm and fuzzy moment, I pondered how big business had changed the face not only of media, but of medicine. And I thought not only about the demands of advertising (tell, tell, tell so you can sell, sell, sell), but about the way it conflicts with the essence of healing and how, once again, awareness is the true antidote.
The First Law of Healing: Primun Non Nocere
First Do No Harm. This is still the sacred oath of every medical school graduate across the country as he or she accepts the diploma, title and rank of healer. However, in a world of unreasonable speed in which new protocols and pharmaceuticals are being produced, pushed through FDA approval, and heavily promoted in measures of seconds, not years, it may be more than doctors can promise us anymore.
What Does Do-No-Harm Require?
This past year a friend of mine called to complain that he had been forced to get a vaccine at work. The alternative was being fired. He told me he was feeling sick and that his bones were aching. He had developed a slight fever which developed within 24 hours of the injection. He was not only unhappy because he was sick; he was unhappy because he'd had no choice.
Parents are faced with this difficult dilemma every day. They are being asked earlier and earlier in their child's life to vaccinate him or her for every conceivable disease. They are told (and I've seen this) that if they don't get their children vaccinated, they will be reported for child neglect and lose custody. This year, for the first time, the CDC has 'recommended' that everyone from six-months of age and older get immunized.
What are we doing to the first promise of medicine?
Beyond the obvious (deliberate misdeeds or malicious negligence), being called to "do no harm" requires at least a reasonable skepticism. This means that a professional providing medical treatment, especially a pharmaceutical one, should not be moved by media. He or she should question whether that treatment does what it's purported to do. Does it cure what it says it's going to cure? Or do people have one symptom go away only to have another (often more dangerous) one appear? Is there an actual need for the pharmaceutical or is it a drug being sold because of a massive fear campaign? Do the independently financed studies back up what the pharmaceutical company's marketing department says? Even more pointedly, have we spent enough time with the patient to find out what is really ailing him before we give him a chemical cocktail and send him on his way?
Two, the physician ought to be capable of weighing the risks and balancing the promised benefits against the delivered dangers. Does it reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, but give you a statistically significant chance to get cancer? Does it give you a longer-lasting erection, but negatively impact your cardiovascular system? Does it give you a shorter menstrual period, but lead you towards ovarian cysts or worse?
And finally, the physician MUST ask: Is this safe? Will this product or procedure actually harm my patient?
The Current State of Harm
A bit of recent history: On July 13th of 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) presented the global media with their recommendations on the H1N1 vaccines. A small part of their "guidance" as George A. Ure called it in his piece, "Calm Before the (Cytokine) Storm", were three points that are pertinent to this article:
1. All countries were called upon to forcibly immunize health care workers as a tier-one strategy to guard the infrastructure should a pandemic materialize. (This is ongoing.)
2. Since production was insufficient, they recommended a laddered approach to "immunization" starting with pregnant women, children of six months old with one of a few specific medical conditions, healthy young adults 15-49 years of age, then healthy children, then healthy adults 50-64 years of age and finally the elderly.
3. Because some of the pandemic vaccines were created with new technologies which had not yet been properly studied for their safety in certain population groups, the WHO strongly urged post-marketing surveillance.
What do these recommendations mean? How does a physician who has promised to do no harm interpret then act on this information?
Marketing Medicines with Fear
Let's take the first recommendation: "Should a pandemic materialize." That is a fair statement on the surface, but our track record on these things is not very good. Between a scandal-seized media, a fun-house communications system, and a collective tendency to panic, all Americans need to hear is "What if ... "
Unfortunately, medical practitioners have not been immunized against panic either and tend to react the way we do. If they are told there's a "dangerous" epidemic on the way and in order to save their patients they must prescribe or inject the latest rescue cocktail, they will. They do not have the time to investigate every new pharmaceutical "answer." They can't be on both ends of such a massive industry; they can't simultaneously conduct research and be responsible for patient care. It is not malevolence or indifference. It is fear-based, pharmaceutical-driven training.
I see a fair amount of anxiety in my work. And people are usually afraid of far more than they should be and do far less about the things they should be afraid of. People are afraid of ordinary household germs as if a serial killer were hiding in their basement, but they stand on rocky shorelines as hurricane-force waves batter the boulders they're standing on and drag them out to sea.
An example of this sort of misplaced anxiety is one instance in 1976 when the U.S. government vaccinated 45 million people for a swine flu outbreak that never materialized. In its wake more than 500 people developed a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome which left many people in comas and 25 dead.
Recommendations numbers two and three are important to read together because in effect it says: we are targeting specific populations, but we don't know what it's going to do to these populations because the vaccines have not been properly tested.
One epidemiological study published by Dr. Tom Jefferson (Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults, The Cochrane Collaborative, 2009), analyzed clinical trials over 40 years which involved more than 70,000 people.
What they found was stunning: They found no credible evidence that the vaccines made any significant difference in healthy adult populations. Furthermore, it afforded little if any protection against complications (e.g., pneumonia), but did increase potential side effects, which, in turn had an effect on labor downtime.
They also found something more disturbing: A systematic tendency for prestigious journals to publish and cite industry-funded studies. A full 15 of 36 trials were pharmaceutical initiatives.
The 2010 update of this study with Dr. Roger Thomas of the University of Calgary, analyzed more specifically the effects of vaccination on caregivers and the elderly. The conclusion? Absolutely no impact on the incidence of laboratory-proven influenza, pneumonia or deaths from pneumonia.
If I had taken an oath to do no harm, I would be properly worried at this point.
Read the Ingredients!
Most Americans know about Thimerosal. But few know that aluminum is now being added to a number of vaccines to make them "work better." The FDA has made the limits of ingestion clear on its website which documents aluminum toxicity from the dextrose patients receive in hospitals when they are hooked up to IVs. No studies have been done to determine what the effects of the aluminum in vaccines are, especially when given to infants.
Dr. Robert Sears, a pediatrician, researched the dearth of information in his article, "Is Aluminum the New Thimerosal?" (www.mothering.com) and what he reported was scandalous. Although the FDA requires that injectable solutions be limited to 25 mcg, the load of aluminum for infant vaccines is often 10 times as high.
In other words, a newborn who gets a Hepatitis B injection on day one of life would receive 250 mcg of aluminum. This would be repeated at one month with the next Hepatitis B shot. When at two months, a baby gets his first big round of shots, the total dose of aluminum could vary from 295 mcg to a whopping 1225 mcg.
These doses are repeated at four and six months. But the FDA recommends that premature babies and anyone with impaired kidney function receive no more than 10 to 25 mcg of injected aluminum at any one time.
He goes on:
As a medical doctor, my first instinct was to worry that these aluminum levels far exceed what may be safe ...
That instinct was correct, but because he had been trained to trust the AMA and the FDA, his second instinct, which was wrong, was to assume that the issue had been thoroughly researched and resolved. His third instinct, which proved disappointing at the least, was to search for the studies that supported that assumption. He found none.
The American Academy of Pediatrics did publish a policy statement in 1996 that alerted us to the fact that aluminum is a known danger to human neurology (and we can assume to other mammals as well) and that the threshold of aluminum is far lower than what is currently being used. But that doesn't seem to hold any sway over the pharmaceutical companies who are not only selling the product but funding the research.
Gardasil, the latest must-have vaccine for young women who are now being told to be afraid of cervical cancer, has just been forced to update their label warning to include expanded risks for those "immunized." These include seizures, miscarriages, genital warts, and Guillain-Barre syndrome. In their ads, Merck has even said it will not necessarily prevent many types of cervical cancer.
Why, if the evidence is so scanty, the research so distorted or unavailable, do we continue to vaccinate?
The Current State of Alarm
The only real virus we need to pay attention to, it seems, is the virus of fear being seeded on every form of media. There is hardly a newscast these days without some biological terror being headlined. Most frequently we are hearing about new influenza strains and their potential to reach "pandemic" levels. We are terribly worried about contracting and dying from the flu, but not terribly concerned about the proposed prophylactic treatments or how safe they are.
The CDC released statistics on the novel flu in July 2009. While it was apparently fairly transmissible with 37,246 cases reported at that time, the death toll was only 211. That's 0.56 percent. And one researcher notes (jsonline.com) that the actual mortality rate was in fact much lower than the CDC figures because almost every flu death is reported, while many illnesses that could be swine flu were going unreported.
What we might pay more careful attention to is the real, imminent and subtle danger of the prophylaxis itself.
The Canadian Vaccination Risk Awareness Network website has published information that suggests that vaccines themselves are damaging to a child's developing immune system and brain, "leading to debilitating and life-threatening disorders like autism, ADHD, asthma, peanut allergies, juvenile diabetes, SIDS" or death itself. Since the 1970's when vaccinations among infants and young children were increased, autism has increased by 6000 percent.
I can't speak for you, but that number is staggering to me. (I know that some people will point out how the big drug companies have claimed that there is no "hard proof" about the causality of these statistics. But to me that sounds something like Phillip Morris arguing that cigarettes haven't been proven to actually cause cancer.)
While there is a building demand amongst pharmaceutical companies, lobbyists, certain universities (which are amply funded by pharmaceutical companies) and public health officials for vaccination, there simply aren't very good reasons for the panic and many, many reasons NOT to vaccinate.
For true protection, many Americans might consider their diets (sugar, sugar, sugar), their sleep and rest habits (none), their exercise levels (low), the toxins they regularly ingest that inhibit immune response, and the drugs they take that make them more susceptible to disease.
The fact that no one speaks about is that there's nothing to suggest that these chemicals are in any way helping us. One study reported by Science Daily (10/2007) stated the flu vaccine was not associated with reduced hospitalizations or outpatient visits among young children. Furthermore, vaccine effectiveness couldn't be demonstrated for any season, age or setting. Were there some specific risk groups that were statistically safer for the vaccine? No.
In fact, one vaccine poster distributed by the CDC emphasized that 36,000 Americans die of flu-related illnesses every year. They imply very clearly that you could be one of the dead if you don't get the vaccine.
The question is, however, if the vaccine is already in use, why is it not preventing those deaths? Between 1980 and 1998, vaccination rates rose by 148 percent. The overall rate for death among the ill elderly had stayed the same the entire time. One study (Washington Post, 2005, S. Woloshin, L. Schwartz, and G. Welch) concluded that the reason was that most of those people (elderly and infirm) were already at high risk for many other causes of death.
True Protection: Legal Immunity for Big Business
If the pharmaceutical companies can't convince us with real facts, they set out to hire marketing giants, such as the RAND Corporation, which has recommended a redirection of research dollars from biomedical efforts to the study of social and behavioral sciences. (R. Moore, Rhinelander Daily News, 12/28/10)
Instead of focusing on better medicine, the focus is on how to better inspire fear.
And just in case that doesn't work, they set out to hire attorneys and lobbyists. The pharmaceutical industry has spared no expense or political traction to protect themselves.
Recently the Associated Press reported that a legal immunity will be set for the makers of swine flu vaccines so that any profits which proceed from making the vaccine will be unencumbered from any future claims. At the time of their report, those profits were nearing $2-billion prior to distribution and medical training, which will bring with it other costs and, naturally, other profits.
There seems to be little to say after that, except -- Praemedicatum permaneo exsisto vulnero. (Protected by medicinal charms, we forever come through undamaged.) At least some of us will be free from harm.
To see what the vaccine makers decided about being injected with their own vaccines see this video.