HPV and HepB vaccines are not associated with multiple sclerosis

hepb-vaccine-and-cancerI didn’t know it was an issue, but apparently there was some concern that there was a small possibility that vaccines, specifically the hepatitis B (HepB) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, might increase the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) or some other acquired central nervous system demyelinating syndrome (CNS ADS). Apparently, there have been numerous studies examining the possibility that vaccines are related to these neurological disorders with mixed results. However, most of the studies showed no association between vaccines and these disorders, though most of the studies had significant limitations based on small numbers of patients included and some other factors.

If there is actually a causal relationship between vaccines and MS or CNS ADS, it could cause a sea change in the acceptance of vaccines, especially HepB and HPV, which are critical to preventing a number of serious cancers. A recent study, led by Annette Langer-Gould, M.D., Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, examined the relationship between vaccines, especially HPV and HepB, and MS and CNS ADS, using electronic data from a broad group of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members.

Dr. Langer-Gould and her colleagues conducted a nested case-control study, a type of case-control study that more carefully matches control risk factors, using that data from Kaiser. The authors identified 780 cases of CNS ADS and 3,885 control group patients; 92 cases and 459 control patients were females between the ages of 9 to 26 years, which is the indicated age range for HPV vaccination.

The researchers found that there were no associations between HepB, HPV or other vaccines and an increase risk of MS or CNS ADS, even up to three years post-vaccination. Just to be clear, vaccination of any type was associated with an increased risk of CNS ADS within the first month, but this association disappeared after one month. The researchers suggested that vaccines (like any infection) could accelerate the transition from a subclinical to clinical autoimmunity (including MS) in patients with preexisting autoimmune disease. In other words, any challenge to the immune system, whether from vaccines or from any of hundreds of infections, would have accelerated the autoimmune disorder. Let me repeat–the vaccination was irrelevant, it could have been any infection that caused it during those initial 30 days.

hpv-STD-cancerAccording to the research, “there were no associations between HepB vaccination (odds ratio [OR], 1.12; 95% CI, 0.72-1.73), HPV vaccination (OR, 1.05; 95% CI, 0.62-1.78), or any vaccination (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.86-1.22) and the risk of CNS ADS up to 3 years later.”

They concluded that, “our data do not support a causal link between current vaccines and the risk of MS or other CNS ADS. Our findings do not warrant any change in vaccine policy.”

Once again we find that vaccines are not associated with with serious neurological conditions. And the HPV vaccine, as I’ve written on numerous occasions, is incredibly safe and effective in preventing several types of cancer. This is another study in support of the safety of HPV vaccines.

 

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French court hands down a ludicrous decision about Gardasil

Marie-Oceane-Bourguignon-gardasil-France-lawsuiteA few months ago, I covered a story about a French teenager who had filed a lawsuit against a French vaccine manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur (but the patents and trademarks are owned by Merck), along with French health regulators. The lawsuit claimed that side-effects from the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, known as Gardasil (or Silgard), induced multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease that results from inflammation of neurons, in a teenage girl.

As with most of these antivaccination stories and tropes, I analyze them, debunk them, and then move on. I didn’t even bother check up to see if there was a legal decision, mainly because my French reading skills barely go beyond reading a menu and ordering a croque-monsieur at a sidewalk café in Lyon (headquarters of Sanofi Pasteur). But mostly, I just assumed it was one of those silly stories where the antivaccination cult tries to make a mountain out of a tiny pebble on the beach.

Well, I misjudged the desperation of the antivaccination world. Around 8 months ago, the court actually did hand down a decision about this case, but recently the vaccine fear mongering, anti-science websites are starting to push the story. I have no clue why these vaccine refusers are pushing this story eight months later, but it’s probably because they are desperate for anything that makes them relevant, given how irrelevant most of their ideas can be. Continue reading “French court hands down a ludicrous decision about Gardasil”

The beginning of the end of Gardasil–probably not

 

Safe. Prevents cancer.
Safe. Prevents cancer.

More fear mongering from the antivaccination forces, this time claiming that “mainstream news media is widely reporting today that a French teenager has filed a lawsuit against French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi Pasteur, and France’s health regulators, over side-effects that were caused by the Gardasil HPV vaccine.” The plaintiff is claiming that the vaccine induced multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological disease that results from inflammation of neurons. The best available evidence is that MS is caused by a virus, which someday will be prevented with a vaccine!

Formally known as the HPV quadrivalent vaccine, Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe) is a vaccine that prevents infection by the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease. The vaccine specifically targets subtypes 16 and 18, that cause not only approximately 70% of cervical cancers, but they also cause most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers. It also targets HPV6 and HPV11, which account for approximately 90% of external genital warts. The viruses are generally passed through genital contact, almost always as a result of vaginal, oral and anal sex. 

Let’s be clear here. Gardasil prevents cancers–serious, life threatening cancers.

Furthermore, the HPV quadrivalent vaccine has been shown to be extraordinarily safe in two different and large epidemiological studies, one with over 700,000 doses and the other with over 350,000 doses. The relative safety of the HPV vaccine is not in question except by those who engage in logical fallacies and anecdotes. The size of these two studies were so large, so impressive, that they would have uncovered extremely rare events, and there were none.

We  have discussed this issue before. Teenagers are at risk of many chronic diseases that are coincidental to vaccines. For example, the rate for MS in some populations in Europe is close to 200 per 100,000. Without any substantial and incontrovertible evidence that the HPV vaccine is linked to MS, and with substantial evidence that MS is caused by viruses and is fairly prevalent in Europe, one can only conclude scientifically that this child had a coincidental MS attack. That is sad, and I wish we could have prevented the disease, and someday we might–but blaming Gardasil is simply irresponsible, since we have evidence it saves lives

So, let’s debunk some of the crazy points made by the fear-mongering anti-Gardasil article:

  1. No, we have no evidence that Gardasil caused MS. In fact, we have evidence otherwise, since the background rate of MS in Europe is substantial.
  2. VAERS data (yes, the article decided to use VAERS) is merely observational. It is not controlled, it does not show causality, and it is abused by those who fail to understand the scientific and epidemiological value of the data.
  3. A lawsuit certainly does not imply causality, especially since nothing has been adjudicated so far. And even if the French legal system finds for the plaintiff, it does not provide evidence of causality. Courts are terrible evaluators of scientific data.
  4. Japan did not stop using Gardasil vaccine. The Japanese Health Ministry, under pressure from the anti-science crowd, withdrew its recommendation for the vaccine based on adverse events that were actually BELOW the rates of those same events in the general population. In other words, they failed to take any epidemiology courses.
  5. Oh, and the author blames Bill Gates in some complicated, nonsensical conspiracy theory about killing girls with HPV vaccines. It’s clear that for the vaccine deniers, since they don’t have real scientific evidence, they need to blame Bill Gates. And blame him again if that doesn’t work

Therefore, the HPV vaccine is safe, based on over 1 million doses in controlled studies. HPV vaccine prevents the virus that causes some serious, deadly cancers. Multiple sclerosis is probably not caused by the HPV vaccine (or any vaccine to be factual). Multiple sclerosis is probably caused by a virus that one day will be prevented by a vaccine developed by real scientists (and if I’m still writing then, rest assured the vaccine deniers will risk their children contracting MS to whine nonsensically about that new vaccine). 

Gardasil saves lives. And I’ve shown that scientific fact based on solid scientific, published evidence.

If you need to search for scientific information and evidence about vaccines try the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

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Ginkgo biloba and the brain–myth vs. science

ginkgo-health-benefits-bullshitGinkgo biloba is actually an interesting plant because it has been relatively unchanged for nearly 270 million years. It is considered a living fossil, an informal term used for species like G. biloba that appear to be the same as a species otherwise only known from fossils and which has no close living relatives. The genus Ginkgo was fairly widely distributed until about 100 million years ago. It slowly disappeared from the fossil record until it was found only in one small part of China about 5 million years ago, where it is found today.  

The tree is native to China and is known to have been widely cultivated early in human history. It is used as a food source by various Asian cultures, with the Chinese eating the meaty gametophytes and the Japanese the whole seed. Unfortunately, the seed also contains a chemical, 4′-O-methylpyridoxine, that can be poisonous if consumed in a sufficiently large enough quantity.  Continue reading “Ginkgo biloba and the brain–myth vs. science”

2012 Top Ten list for new drug approvals

pharmaceutical researchThe US Food and Drug Administration recently announced (pdf) that it had cleared 35 new drugs during 2012, of which 31 were novel therapies. This is in addition to the literally hundreds of approvals for changes in already approved drugs for changes in packaging, manufacturing, and dozens of other reasons. 

In no particular order, here are the top 10 most interesting of the approvals based on my subjective viewpoint, which includes innovativeness, seriousness of disease, and other random factors. In others, no different in importance than all those end-of-year top 10 movie lists. So here we go: Continue reading “2012 Top Ten list for new drug approvals”

Ginkgo biloba and neurological disorders–Myth vs. Science

I’m trying out a new series, looking at some popular myths (mostly in medicine, but maybe we’ll wander outside of it when something interesting shows up) and determining if there’s any support or not in science. I’m going to link mostly to science articles and high-quality blogs, just so you have all the back-up evidence that you need. One way or another.

Background

Ginkgo biloba is actually an interesting plant because it has been relatively unchanged for nearly 270 million years. It is considered a living fossil, an informal term used for species like G. biloba that appear to be the same as a species otherwise only known from fossils and which has no close living relatives. The genus Ginkgo was fairly widely distributed until about 100 million years ago. It slowly disappeared from the fossil record until it was found only in one small part of China about 5 million years ago, where it is found today.  

The tree is native to China and is known to have been widely cultivated early in human history. It is used as a food source by various Asian cultures, with the Chinese eating the meaty gametophytes and the Japanese the whole seed. Unfortunately, the seed contains a chemical, 4′-O-methylpyridoxine, that can be poisonous if consumed in enough quantity.  Continue reading “Ginkgo biloba and neurological disorders–Myth vs. Science”