Secret cancer cure – is Big Pharma hiding it from us?

I hang around Quora, where people ask questions about just about anything, hoping experts will answer. I’ve ended up focusing on vaccine (of course) and cancer questions, both of which are so frustrating. The most annoying question that I answer is a form of the old trope “Is Big Pharma hiding a secret cancer cure just to make tons of money?” Seriously, I think a see a variation of that question every day.

Since I end up answering this question every day, I thought maybe I should put down my thoughts in an article here. Maybe some of you can find it useful.

It’s clear that a lot of the “secret cancer cure” myths arise in the pseudoscience websites. They’re pushing “natural” cures that are 100% effective in “curing” every known cancer with no side effects. What’s the vidence? You just need to trust them. Continue reading “Secret cancer cure – is Big Pharma hiding it from us?”

The myth of Big Pharma vaccine profits – it’s not what they say it is

Several of the ongoing memes, tropes and fabrications of the vaccine deniers is somehow, somewhere, in some Big Pharma boardroom, a group of men and women in suits choose the next vaccine in some magical way, and foist it upon the world just to make billions of dollars through vaccine profits. Of course, while magically concocting this vaccine brew, these pharmaceutical execs ignore ethics and morals just to make a profit on hapless vaccine-injured victims worldwide.

The Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy trope ranges across the junk medicine world. Homeopathy, for example, claims that Big Pharma suppresses the data that shows water cures all diseases. Like Ebola.

But the Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy is still one of most amusing myths of the antivaccination world.

 

Continue reading “The myth of Big Pharma vaccine profits – it’s not what they say it is”

Import Canadian drugs – another half-baked idea that won’t work

Import Canadian drugs

That old Senate gadfly, Bernie Sanders, tried to win points as the self-proclaimed leader of the Democratic party by proposing a naive and impractical amendment to the Senate health care law to allow Americans to import Canadian drugs. The amendment specifically stated that it would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to lower prescription drug prices for Americans by importing drugs from Canada.”

The Amendment failed but not in the way you could imagine. Actually, 12 Republican Senators supported it, which in this environment of politics is nearly a miracle. You’d think that it would have passed, but it didn’t. Thirteen Democrats voted against the Amendment, which caused it to fail.

The liberal internet decided to come down hard on Senator Cory Booker of NJ, because just a day before he had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the nomination of the backwards Jefferey Sessions for Attorney General, so how dare the perfect liberal not be perfect on everything. Senator Booker voted against the amendment for good reasons, though the crazy liberal media is fairly angry at him. And of course, the meme-makers had to pull out the old Big Pharma Shill Gambit, accusing all thirteen Democrats of being pawns of Big Pharma.

To be fair to Senator Booker, his office issued a statement to the media after the vote. It said he supports the importation of prescription drugs but that “any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.”

In other words Sen. Booker and others are saying that, before we import Canadian drugs, let’s make sure they are safe. Yes, Canada’s drug distribution is fairly safe, but it’s not perfect. There are a lot of issues of safety that should be considered (and Sanders did not, because I’m beginning to be convinced his analytical skills are weak). But there’s a bigger concern – would Canada allow this to happen, and why would they? And that is the concern that Sanders failed to acknowledge.

Let me be absolutely clear. The USA needs some sort of drug pricing regulation, although I doubt it will happen under the Trump administration for lots of reasons.

Setting aside the positives and negatives of this amendment, let’s take a look at whether we can or should import Canadian drugs. Continue reading “Import Canadian drugs – another half-baked idea that won’t work”

Your one stop shop for the anti-vaccine hate debate

vaccine hate debate

I and others have written several articles on this website about the anti-vaccine hate debate – discussing the atrocious and hateful behavior of a large portion of the anti vaccination cult.

This kind of “free speech” goes beyond simple mockery, ad hominem attacks, or, though it rarely happens, arguments about the science. Ad hominem attacks are, by definition, personal attacks that are used in lieu of real evidence. So, if you lack evidence to support your side of a debate (even a fake debate like what is happening with vaccines), you attack the person, rather than the evidence.

Of course, if you do lack evidence, you will be mocked mercilessly for lacking said evidence. Cherry-picked evidence doesn’t count. Appeals to authority as evidence doesn’t count. Employing the Nirvana fallacy doesn’t count. The only evidence that matters must come from high quality sources that are repeated many times and are often rolled up into a substantial meta-review.

The vaccine hate debate on exists because they have nothing – no evidence of harm, no evidence of a lack of benefit. None. Ground zero of the Facebook anti-vaccine hate crazies is The Vaccine Resistance Movement (VRM) – read their hatred and lies. Donald Trump would be proud of them.

Continue reading “Your one stop shop for the anti-vaccine hate debate”

Big Pharma vaccine profits – a myth easily debunked

vaccine profits

One of the ongoing memes, tropes and fabrications of the vaccine deniers is somehow, somewhere, in some Big Pharma boardroom, a group of men and women in suits choose the next vaccine in some magical way, and foist it upon the world just to make billions of dollars. And while magically concocting the vaccine brew, these pharmaceutical execs ignore ethics and morals just to make excessive vaccine profits from hapless vaccine-injured victims worldwide.

The Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy trope ranges across the junk medicine world. Homeopathy, for example, claims that Big Pharma suppresses the data that shows water cures all diseases. Like Ebola.

A new article published in Health Affairs (pdf) examined the actual costs of vaccine-preventable diseases. The Big Pharma vaccine profits conspiracy is still one of most amusing myths of the antivaccination world, because clearly the best economic choice for Big Pharma would be to provide medications and devices for those who are stricken by these diseases. Continue reading “Big Pharma vaccine profits – a myth easily debunked”

Internet woo – the feathery dinosaur needs your help

Internet woo

Yesterday, we mentioned how much this website has grown. We’re now getting several million hits and visits per month, which has meant that we need new enclosures (servers and web design) for the raptor. Feeding on all that internet woo and pseudoscience has contributed to this massive growth.

There is advertising on this site that pays some of the monthly costs, but with more and more people using Ad Blockers, a good 80% of the hits don’t result in views of the ads. So, the hungry, feathery internet woo attacking dinosaur can’t be fed properly.

Basically, we need to invest in the overhead to make this website work for a long time. For example, we need to do some basic website re-design, like modernize some of the code and improve the look and feel. We still haven’t been able to get a good front page that allows people to see the best articles.

W also have to improve the server. Last month, we were running at 500% of the allowed 4 cores (processors) for my website. I need to move to 10 cores ASAP. This site is supposed to run on 4GB of RAM, but last month I was running at 8-10. Those might sound like nothing for your MacBook Pro (well 10 cores is kind of massive), but the feathery dinosaur is trying to share the server with someone who might have a small internet storefront for Etsy or eBay.

The raptor may be mean to internet woo pushers, but he (or she, not sure how to check, or even if I should) is sympathetic to neighbors.

Internet woo

The internet host starts throttling back this website to keep others on the server running at full speed.  What this means is a bad experience for you the reader. There are thousands of inbound links to this website from numerous authors across the world who also attack internet woo and junk science. The raptor would like to keep those lines always working, 24/7.

We joke that we get money from Big Pharma to run these websites. We actually don’t. We do it for fun, for education, for good science. We all know that sites like this (not being modest, just factual) help all of us win the good fight against lies, misinformation and ignorance.

The raptor is appreciative of the authors, like Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, who takes time out of her incredibly busy day to write important articles about laws and vaccines. She doesn’t do it for profit, she does it to inform. And people know to visit here for the latest information from her, and the raptor needs to make certain that readers have an efficient and stress-free experience on this website. And to make sure that the links that all of you share from Professor Reiss’ articles make it out to the public.

So please contribute to the GoFundMe campaign for the feathery dinosaur. He thanks you all, because your help is appreciated. And he really needs more space to grow. There is just so much internet woo to consume.

Anti-vaccine education – ignorance and bullshit about finance

anti-vaccine education

We all  know about anti-vaccine education. They are ignorant about science. They’re unknowledgeable about clinical trials. They’re uneducated about the vaccine court. And they rely upon package inserts, written by Big Pharma of course, as their proof of whatever.

Now, it’s clear that human nature is such that when one takes a position, say on vaccines, they kind of lock in on it, despite the evidence. And the vast majority of unbiased, non-cherry-picked evidence leads to only one simple conclusion – vaccines are relatively safe and effective. A truly open-minded person, say a scaly extinct dinosaur, examines and re-examines their position in light of all of the evidence.

But it’s not just science where the anti-vaccine crowd gets it all wrong. I’ve written before about vaccine profits – if Big Pharma were as evil and nefarious as the science deniers claim, then vaccines would slowly disappear from the market. Why? Because the industry would make boatloads more money selling everything else to hospitals and physicians to treat long-disappeared vaccine preventable diseases.

And there’s more. I completely overlooked the major problem with huge epidemics, which don’t exist today – there are insufficient hospital beds in all developed countries (and it goes with out saying, it’s worse in poorer countries) to care for the hundreds of thousands or millions of kids who get sick. Every new bed in a hospital probably sends $1 million in revenues to Big Pharma (or more broadly Big Medical, which includes devices, equipment, and other products). The windfall to Big Medical/Big Pharma would be so huge that if ending vaccination were a real thing, I’d be going long in Big Pharma stocks, and waiting for the delivery of my brand new shiny Ferrari.

Related to the ignorant anti-vaccine education on Big Pharma profits, their utter lack of understanding about personal finance and investing is almost laughable. Especially, since it’s one of their core ad hominem attacks on several pro-science writers. Let’s look at one.

Continue reading “Anti-vaccine education – ignorance and bullshit about finance”

Another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits

another flu vaccine myth

There is a more general article – about the myth of Big Pharma vaccine profits – which has recently been updated and republished. 

The 2015-16 flu season is upon us, and that means it’s flu vaccine time again. And flu vaccine myth time. There is another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits – that needs to be debunked.

Despite the availability of several flu vaccines, many people think that the flu is a painless, harmless disease, a belief belied by evidence. Wrong.

To put flu in perspective, in the USA, depending on the severity of the flu season, from 3,000 (which happened 25 years ago, and hasn’t been that low since) to 49,000 people die every year. Worldwide, about 250,000 to 500,000 people die from the flu every year. A flu pandemic, like the one in 1918, killed 50-100 million humans, much more scary than Ebola.

Of course, a fairly large group of people, including some who are pro-science (read, pro-vaccine), will fall into the arms of their favorite flu vaccine myth, and then refuse to get the flu vaccine. Given the dangers of the flu, and given the loss in productivity, income, and lives, you’d think that the flu vaccine would be near the top of health care needs for the average person.

My fellow blogger, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top Myths about the flu vaccine. She debunks these myths completely out of the water. But antivaccination myths are never static, there’s always a new variant. Continue reading “Another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits”

Separating fact from fiction about the flu vaccine – 2015

This article – Separating fact from fiction about the flu vaccine – separating fact from fiction – has been reblogged with permission from Tara Haelle's Red Wine and Applesauce blog.

Editor’s Note: This article – separating fact from fiction about the flu vaccine – separating fact from fiction – has been reblogged with permission from Tara Haelle’s Red Wine and Applesauce blog. Many thanks to Tara and a host of other people for creating this list.

Note from Tara Haell: This post is co-published with NPR’s health blog Shots. Check out the story for updated information about this year’s flu shot from a CDC medical officer.

Once again, flu season is upon us — and so are all the misconceptions, excuses and worries that have kept so many people away from getting their flu vaccines. Plenty of people are fully informed about the flu vaccine’s safety and effectiveness and simply choose not to get the vaccine, as is their right (as long as they don’t work in healthcare settings where it’s required). But many others may have skipped the shot because they’ve bought into one of the many myths about the vaccine that always circulating with the influenza virus itself. Or perhaps they’ve read something unsettling about the vaccine that has a kernel of truth in it, but which has been blown out of proportion or misrepresented.

Of all the vaccines out there, the flu vaccine is unique in several ways: it’s the only one the CDC recommends for the entire (eligible) population every year, it has the most variability (and nearly always the lowest percentages) in effectiveness, and it has more tall tales told about it than Paul Bunyan. Much of the debunking and explaining you’ll find here is essentially the same as in past years’ posts, but a couple misconceptions have been rearranged, and I spent a bit more time discussing the evidence about potentially lower effectiveness of the flu vaccine in people who had gotten it the previous year.

Finally, I called these items “concerns” instead of “myths” because several of the issues discussed here are not outright “myths.” That is, some of these concerns originated from factual situations, but the details got gnarled and twisted along the way, or else the fact itself doesn’t have the implications people may expect it does. “Concerns” therefore better captures that each of these items is a legitimate concern for many people but is something that simply requires explanation, whether that’s an outright debunking or simply context and clarification.

One thing that needs a bit of clarification is last year’s vaccine’s effectiveness, as I discuss in the NPR Shots blog post that accompanies this one. The overall flu vaccine effectiveness last year was an uninspiring 23%, low enough to legitimately make you wonder why you bothered if you got the vaccine. But as I explain at NPR based on an interview with CDC influenza medical officer Lisa Grohskopf, the overall effectiveness doesn’t capture the effectiveness of each strain within the vaccine.

A poor match with the H3N2 strain — which caused the most illness and the most serious cases — was responsible for the lion’s share of that low number. Meanwhile, the match between the vaccine strains and the virus strains for B viruses, which circulated the most toward the end of the season, was good enough that the vaccine was closer to 60% effectiveness for those strains. This year, changes to the H3N2 strain for the vaccine should boost the effectiveness and offer a better showing than last year’s lousy run, according to Grohskopf.

With that info out of the way, let’s get to the flu vaccine concerns, with two important notes. First, for those who prefer to do their own research, I’ve provided all my sources in the hyperlinks. More than half of these go directly to peer-reviewed research articles, and a fair number go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.

Second, but very important: I am a science journalist but not a medical doctor or other health care professional. I’ve compiled research here to debunk common misconceptions and clarify common concerns about the flu vaccine. This post does not constitute a recommendation from me personally to each reader to get a flu vaccine. You should always consult a reliable, trusted medical professional with questions that pertain specifically to you. For the CDC recommendations on the 2015-2016 flu vaccines (including information on which vaccines pregnant women, the elderly and children under 2 should *not* get), please consult the CDC flu vaccine recommendations directly. There are indeed people who should *not* get the flu vaccine.

To make it easier to navigate, I’ve listed all 31 concerns at the top followed by the factual information below it. They hyperlinked facts will jump to that explanation. I use “flu shot” and “flu vaccine” interchangeably to refer to any type of flu vaccine, including the nasal vaccine.

Continue reading “Separating fact from fiction about the flu vaccine – 2015”

Miracle immune boosting flu protection – Big Pharma hates it

So what is this miracle immune boosting flu protection – is it being suppressed by the CDC, FDA, WHO and the Illuminati? And why does Big Pharma hate it – is it keeping them from printing money?

These are the important questions.

And of course, there are no immune boosting flu protection miracles. Well, except for the one actual miracle – the seasonal flu vaccine, and that’s not a miracle, it’s outstanding science that created it.

It is very safe, unless you ascribe to myths about flu vaccines. It is usually very effective, although the vaccine is based on reasonable and scientific estimates of what mutations will be prevalent during the flu season, and sometimes, they’re off.

Your immune system is very powerful, and, except for instances of chronic diseases or malnutrition, it is always very powerful. You cannot boost your immune system through junk science – one of the few ways to “boost” your immune system against flu is the flu vaccine.

And why does Big Pharma hate the flu vaccine? Because if more people got sick from the flu, they’d make an economic windfall from all of the stuff they’d sell to hospitals. And Big Mortuary would be just as happy. Even though flu vaccine uptake is not as high as we want, it’s still keeping the gold bars away from Big Pharma and Big Mortuary.

And that is a good thing.

Continue reading “Miracle immune boosting flu protection – Big Pharma hates it”