Dr Paul Offit is the Skeptical Raptor – anti-vaccine Natural News is wrong

Dr Paul Offit

Here we go again – the pseudoscientific, conspiracy theory pushing, birther, truther, vaccine denying, woo-pushing website, Natural News, is now claiming that Dr Paul Offit is yours truly, the feathery dinosaur known as the Skeptical Raptor.

Yes, you read that right. The Donald Trump-supporting ignoramuses at Natural News think that the Skeptical Raptor is some nom de guerre for Dr Paul Offit. To quote those crackpots, “Insidious Pharma Shill #1: D. Paul Offit, a.k.a. “Skeptical Raptor” – chemical violence promoter and quack pediatrician.” Wow. The feathery dinosaur is laughing hysterically.

I was cackling so hard (it’s hard to describe this old dinosaurs laughing) when I read this that I almost choked on my dinner. Chicken wings, if you must know. Yeah, it’s hard to scroll through an article with chicken wing grease on your hands.

Let’s take a look at this Natural News “claim” – heads up, it’s lame. It’s really lame. But when has that anti-science website gotten anything right. Seriously, have they ever published anything accurate? I doubt it. Continue reading “Dr Paul Offit is the Skeptical Raptor – anti-vaccine Natural News is wrong”

Electronic cigarettes – what is science saying as of today?

electronic cigarettes

Over the past few years, electronic cigarettes (often called a personal vaporizer, e-cigarette, or many other trendy descriptions–I’ll abbreviate them as EC, just to save space) have become a popular alternative to tobacco cigarettes. They originally were developed as a tool to quit cigarette smoking, which is factually linked to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

However, ECs have become much more than a tool to end smoking, but they have evolved into popular subculture phenomenon known as the “vaping community” that, in many respects, seem to mimic the marijuana advocates. The vaping community continues to push a belief that ECs are safer than traditional cigarettes, have little health risk to the vaper (electronic cigarette smoker), and is much more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes or cigars.

One of the most ironic and amusing stories about ECs is that Jenny McCarthy, the antivaccination expert who thinks that all ingredients in vaccines are dangerous, has become an advocate for vaping. I bought a brand new, upgraded version 4.7, nuclear powered irony meter, and it just broke. It’s possible Jenny caused a nuclear accident in my house.

What are the dangers of electronic cigarettes? Are there any at all?

Continue reading “Electronic cigarettes – what is science saying as of today?”

Vaccines need Planned Parenthood – newest Natural News crackpot conspiracy

Vaccines need Planned Parenthood

I’ve been a consistent critic of Natural News, the website run by the self-proclaimed Health Ranger, Mike Adams. Without a doubt, Adams pursues pseudoscience and woo with the passion of a child chasing down the next video game for his Playstation 4. In Adam’s newest conspiracy of bad science, he claims that manufacturer of vaccines need Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care in the United States and globally. Why? Because Adams claims that vaccine manufacturers require an unending supply of aborted fetuses for testing and production.

You might not be surprised, but Adams is a fancier of incredibly inane conspiracies. For a while, he decided that David Gorski was involved in some ridiculously and massively complex scheme to do something or another, which I treated with all of the seriousness it deserved. More recently, Adams tried to convince the world his website’s delisting from Google was the result of some dark conspiracy against himself, Donald Trump, and Steve Bannon. It turns out that Natural News put some malicious code in its website, a huge no no for Google.

For those of us who are keen  observers of some of the crazy conspiracies foisted onto the internet, Mike Adams always seems to be hovering near ground zero. Adams has claimed he’s a better scientist than Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Yes, he made that claim without any sense of irony. Typical of your average everyday real scientist, Tyson thinks that evidence should lead one to a conclusion, you know, what we call the scientific method. Typical of any pseudoscientist, Adams thinks that he can invent a few lame experiments to confirm his preconceived beliefs.

Mike Adams’ anti-science beliefs includes just about every important scientific fact of our modern world. He is an AIDS denier (meaning he doesn’t think that AIDS is caused by HIV). He is anti-vaccination. In the political world, he is an 9/11 truther, and he is an Obama birther. He thinks chemtrails exist. He has advocated violence against GMO supporters.

If you have a list of nonsense conspiracies, you can tick off Mike Adams as supporting all of them. But this new one he’s pushing? It takes Adams to a whole new level of strange.

 

About that “vaccines need Planned Parenthood” scheme

Planned Parenthood is a wonderful non-profit organization that provides all kinds of health care, at little or no cost, to women across the USA (and in many cases, across the world). They provide education, birth control, and health examinations for women of all ages. They are one of the leading advocates of the HPV cancer-prevention vaccine, one of the most important tools we have to prevent certain kinds of cancer.

And yes, Planned Parenthood provides abortion to young women who have run out of options for their reproductive healthcare. They are the leading provider of abortions in the USA, filling a need in many areas where abortion advocates are threatened and terrorized by the so-called “Pro Life” movement.

In fact, Planned Parenthood provided over 9.5 million discrete health care services for women, only 3.4% (or 324,000) were abortions (pdf). In other words, Planned Parenthood serves an immense need in the country to provide high quality healthcare to women who may lack access to it. They are a wonderful organization, and in a perfect world, they would be above any criticism. And their sole reason for existence is not to perform abortions, but mainly to be a healthcare resource for women.

But the right wing hates Planned Parenthood. Donald Trump wants Planned Parenthood to stop abortions before it receives any Federal funding, even though the organization does not use Federal dollars to perform abortions. And this is where we come to our online conspiracist, Mike Adams.

Adams, relying upon the debunked story about Planned Parenthood selling aborted body parts, claimed, without evidence, that Planned Parenthood “abortion facilities (who) supply aborted fetuses to researchers are offered a fee by the research facilities so that the baby’s organs can be harvested immediately and on-site.” Adams only evidence to support this claim is the nonsense story about the selling of aborted fetuses.

Mike Adams really goes for it all by claiming that,

Most people who have seen the disturbing images of dismembered fetuses resting on blood-covered Petri dishes are able to reach the conclusion that the sale of tiny lungs, brains and limbs of babies for profit is a sick practice. The act of abortion is gruesome enough, given all of the twisted and unethical methods that are used, but to go ahead and sell the cut up remains of what once was a living and breathing form of life is borderline sociopathic.

So vaccine manufacturers put fetal material in petri dishes to grow vaccines? That would be no

Some vaccines are produced using cell culture, a method to grow cells in a culture medium independent from the original organism, from two aborted fetuses. The two cell lines used for this manufacturing are the WI-38, fetal lung fibroblasts originally cultured in the early 1960s, and the MRC-5, fetal lung fibroblasts cultured independently in 1966.

Why do we use these cell cultures for vaccine manufacturing? Well, it’s fairly simple – the viruses, say chickenpox (varicella), grow best on actual human cells. Using these cell cultures, scientists can control certain aspects of the virus. For example, to attenuate (or weaken) some of these viruses before being used in the vaccine, they grow the cells (and the infecting viruses) at a relatively low temperature. The virus then becomes adapted, through natural selection, to the low temperature culture. When the vaccine is used, and it is injected into the 37ºC body, the virus is weakened and does not replicate. So it induces the immune response without the virus become a pathogen and injuring the body.

The following vaccines are manufactured using either the WI-38 or the MRC-5 cell strains:

  • Hepatitis A vaccines
  • Rubella vaccine
  • Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
  • Zoster (shingles) vaccine
  • Adenovirus Type 4 and Type 7 oral vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine

 

Debunking Mike Adams. Again

Let’s just stick with evidence-based knowledge to list out the facts about this whole nonsensical story:

  1. There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood is selling aborted fetal tissue to vaccine manufacturers.
  2. In fact, vaccine manufacturers use two cell lines, both 50 or more years old, to produce some vaccines. Other vaccines aren’t grown on human fetal tissue, but are grown in other cell lines like chicken and other animal cells. There is no evidence, at this point in time, that vaccine manufacturing needs another human fetus cell line for new tissue, but it could happen. I can’t imagine the controversy when that day comes.
  3. The reason for using human cells is to produce safer and more effective vaccines.
  4. Sometimes, researchers avoid using animals for production of vaccines – supply of animals can be subject to a lot of issues, but more importantly, the viruses may not grow sufficiently in a non-human cell to be useful in a vaccine.

Adams claims that Christians should refuse to take vaccines that are based on human fetal cell lines. He argues that,

..people, especially Christians, should boycott the products in order to force pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines in an ethical manner instead of using cells from aborted babies.

In fact, the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) states that,

 

One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.

In other words, individuals should, when possible, use vaccines that don’t rely upon these fetal cell lines. But if it’s impossible to do so, the parents still have a “moral obligation” to protect the lives of their children. Adams is attempting to invent religious dogma, without actually considering the ethical consequences of his proclamation, to avoid vaccines.

I feel like Mike Adams is low hanging fruit for criticism. He’s basically off on another planet of verifiable information. Vaccines save lives, and sometimes to save lives, we need to use half a century old cell cultures from aborted fetal tissue – this thoroughly debunks the “vaccines need Planned Parenthood” trope.

 
 
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Starving cancer – more pseudoscientific nonsense

starving cancer

I’ve written a boatload of articles about cancer on this website. Admittedly, my interest is mainly based on the incredible harm done to people by fake cancer treatments, but others, like Science Based Medicine and the estimable Orac are experts in cancer, so I’ve just limited myself to sniping from the sidelines, like debunking the nonsense about weed cures cancer. But then I saw someone post a link to some pseudoscience about starving cancer. I just had to take a look.

I have a rule about cancer science. Anyone who oversimplifies prevention, development or treatment of cancer shall be treated with disdain unless it meets the standard of “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” If you’re going to tell me that blueberry-kale shakes™ prevent cancer, I want overwhelming evidence in the form of meta-reviews.

Why am I such an aggressive skeptic about cancer? Because, if someone says “starving cancer is better than chemotherapy,” well that means some gullible person will take that advice and forgo more aggressive, and frankly more evidence based, treatments. And that patient could die, relying upon junk medicine.

Furthermore, I need to keep reminding my readers – and various people who push this nonsense – that there are approximately 100 to over 200 different cancers– the variation in numbers is a result of different definitions. Each of those cancers have a different etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment strategy. Starving cancer may actually be a brilliant idea – some research is involved in cutting off the blood flow to cancers. But that’s at a very localized level, and changing your diet will have approximately zero effect

On the other hand, I guess you could starve a cancer by starving one’s self. But I don’t think there would be a good prognosis and outcome for the patient.

Let’s take a look at the pseudoscience of starving cancer.

Continue reading “Starving cancer – more pseudoscientific nonsense”

Another anti-vaccine article – bad journal, bad data

anti-vaccine article

Here we go again. An anti-vaccine article was published in a journal, and now every vaccine denier will use it as absolute “proof” that vaccines are evil, bad, and useless. And that means one of the pro-science community has to provide a critical analysis so that those on the fence know what is supported and not supported by real science.

The article, “New Quality-Control Investigations on Vaccines: Micro- and Nanocontamination,” published in the International Journal of Vaccines and Vaccination on 23 January 2017. I want to examine this from the meta level, discussing the quality of the journal, down to the actual data. Spoiler alert – it’s bad. Continue reading “Another anti-vaccine article – bad journal, bad data”

Cleveland Clinic physician claims vaccines cause autism – outrage ensues

Cleveland Clinic

The Cleveland Clinic is one of the more prestigious medical centers in the USA. It’s cardiology program has been ranked the best for 20 years running in the USA. Much of my career was in cardiology, and if the Cleveland Clinic rejected one of our new products, it could mean the end of careers. Most of the innovative ideas in treating cardiovascular disease came from the Cleveland Clinic.

The Cleveland Clinic has numerous other respected medical programs, but this stands in stark contrast to the Clinic’s reputation in patient safety. In a Kaiser Family Foundation review of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data for hospital acquired conditions in 2014, the Cleveland Clinic received a 8.7 score (1–10 possible, with 10 being the worst), which ranked the Clinic at the bottom 7% of hospitals. The Cleveland Clinic has instituted numerous strategies to improve its quality, but it does show some inconsistency on the management of their hospital.

Then this happened – Daniel Neides is a primary care physician and the director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, a claptrap of alternative medicine and medical woo. Dr. Neides decided to write a blog, and unsurprising internet indignation ensued as a result – he claimed that preservatives and other ingredients in vaccines are dangerous and are likely responsible for the increase in cases of neurological disorders such as autism.

And in case you think Dr. Neides has any useful words to contribute to this conversation, you would be wrong. The vast weight of real evidence supports the fact that vaccines are unrelated to autism spectrum disorders. The weight of evidence isn’t based on logical fallacies or cherry picking data, it is based on the scientific consensus.

There’s even a scientific consensus on vaccines, written by the the most prestigious scientific academy in the world, the National Academy of Sciences:

Vaccines offer the promise of protection against a variety of infectious diseases. Despite much media attention and strong opinions from many quarters, vaccines remain one of the greatest tools in the public health arsenal. Certainly, some vaccines result in adverse effects that must be acknowledged. But the latest evidence shows that few adverse effects are caused by the vaccines reviewed in this report.

Let’s look at Dr. Neides pseudoscientific nonsense essentially using the Cleveland Clinic as his own personal imprimatur of authority. Continue reading “Cleveland Clinic physician claims vaccines cause autism – outrage ensues”

HHS nominee Tom Price and a radical right-wing physician organization

Tom Price HHS nominee

Recently, president-elect Donald Trump nominated Georgia congressman Tom Price to be Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS). Price is a medical doctor whose impact on politics has been almost exclusively based on his unwavering opposition to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Once Trump was elected, along with a Republican Senate and House, most of us in healthcare knew that Obamacare was probably doomed. I don’t think it will be easy for the Republicans, now that they’re in power, to actually dismantle Obamacare, especially some of the more popular provisions such as elimination of the pre-existing conditions as a disqualification for receiving health insurance.

Also, there are over 20 million Americans who have taken advantage of health insurance from Obamacare, and I think it would be almost impossible for the Republicans to cut them off. But I may be delusional about the limits of Republican dislike of poorer Americans.

Setting aside healthcare insurance, what else may be impacted by Tom Price? Well, the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for many of the important health care institutions that matter to me and my readers. Some of the major institutions under the HHS umbrella are:

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the nucleus of biomedical and health-related research in the USA. Much of the research at NIH, which has an impressive world-wide reputation, serves as the foundation of much of what we know about human health and disease.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – if you are a reader of this website and blog for the past 5 years, you know I, and many others, have tremendous respect for the CDC. It functions as the frontline, first responders if you will, for any disease that appears in the world. It is made up of some of the leading scientists, public health specialists, and thought leaders in healthcare, who give their careers to help humanity. And, of course, they set vaccine policy for this country. The CDC has tremendous influence on public health across the globe.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the primary regulator of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food, diagnostics, supplements, and many other areas, it is one of the most powerful agencies in the world for protecting the health of consumers.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – the federal agency that administers the Medicare program along with advising the states on Medicaid and other public health care programs.

Tom Price will have significant influence on much of the science of medicine, let alone the financing of health care in the USA. There is one thing in Price’s background that give us some significant insight as to how he’ll run his department – let’s just say, it’s not good. Yeah, none of us of would have predicted this.

Continue reading “HHS nominee Tom Price and a radical right-wing physician organization”

Dr. Oz and Donald Trump – two anti-science salesmen promote each other

Dr. Oz and Donald Trump

For those of you returning from an outing to the Andromeda Galaxy, Donald Trump is the Republican candidate for President of the USA. And Dr. Oz is the medical quack who pushes pseudoscience and junk medicine. Yesterday, Dr. Oz and Donald Trump met on Oz’s TV show to talk about Trump’s health record. If you think this showed us anything useful, I’ve got some weed that will cure every cancer.

I was not surprised when, earlier this week, someone announced that Trump would discuss his health with Dr. Oz. My first thoughts were, “of course he would.” If I wanted anyone to do the least critical questioning of Trump, I’d choose Matt Lauer to ask Trump about international affairs, and Dr. Oz to ask him about medical issues.

On many levels, these two conmen are a perfect match. Trump hates real science like vaccines, or climate change. And Dr. Oz loves pseudoscience. Two peas in the same pod.

Since this feathery dinosaur loves politics and trashing junk science, it feels as though it can’t resist the opportunity for some fun. Who wouldn’t?

Continue reading “Dr. Oz and Donald Trump – two anti-science salesmen promote each other”

Medically unfit Hillary Clinton – the doctor behind the myth

Medically unfit Hillary Clinton

Since I am a political geek as much as a biomedical geek, I love it when the  two occasionally intersect. If you haven’t kept up, some right wing websites, like Breitbart, are pushing a trope that claims that a medically unfit Hillary Clinton is incapable of becoming President of the US.

I couldn’t resist commenting on this, because there’s really so much to say. Let’s start with the basics – Breitbart is a right wing website that seems to use the Natural News method of facts. You know, invent facts out of thin air.

You may not know much about Breitbart, but actually they’ve been slithering around the Donald Trump campaign for a long time. Last spring, a Breitbart reporter was actually assaulted by Trump’s then campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Eventually, Breitbart suppressed the news, because Trump was their guy, and the reporter, Michelle Fields, resigned from the website.

But the incestuous relationship between Breitbart and Trump gets even juicer. This week, Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, will become the Republican campaign’s chief executive. I’ve never heard of a chief executive in a political campaign, but I guess my feelings would be “whatever.”

If you think that Breitbart is anything but a right wing nut job website who’s in bed with Trump, you should disabuse yourself of those notions quickly. It is a right wing nut job website in bed with Trump

But back to the “medically unfit Hillary Clinton” trope. Let’s see where Breitbart got this “fact.” Because it has a something to do with Gardasil – maybe not directly, but I’m having fun here. Just go with it.

Continue reading “Medically unfit Hillary Clinton – the doctor behind the myth”

Snopes defended Jill Stein – both are wrong about vaccines

Snopes defended Jill Stein

I wish I weren’t spending this much time writing about Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President of the US. She barely breaks 2% in the latest polls, which means, it’s almost as likely as she’s at 0% than at 2%. Yesterday, I stated that she is probably anti-vaccine, but many people pointed out that the usually reliable skeptical website Snopes defended Jill Stein.

I occasionally cross-post my more political articles, along with any article that offends the anti-science left, to the Daily Kos, a liberal political blog. I posted my Jill Stein vaccine article there, where it exploded. It received over 400 comments, which is big time.

One of the comments said that Snopes, which is generally an important website for debunking nonsense, said that Jill Stein is not anti-vaccine. Basically, a few comments said that Snopes trumps the Skeptical Raptor in accuracy. This scaly reptile teared up a bit.

But then I got my mind in the right place, and thought about what I had written. All I care about is evidence, so if Snopes has it right, who am I to fight them? But let’s take a look at this evidence. Continue reading “Snopes defended Jill Stein – both are wrong about vaccines”