Bad Science and its misuse for political ends

As an introduction to its conference on March 11th the British Society for Ecological Medicine sent out the following articles whose authors cannot guarantee to be at the conference, but do wish their views to be heard.

Vera Hassner Sharav, Alliance for Human Research Protection:

Public health officials (on both sides of the Atlantic) have lost the public trust because they have been in league with vaccine manufacturers in denying that safety problems exist. If vaccines posed no safety problems why has the US Vaccine Court awarded more than $2 billion dollars to settle 2,500 cases involving vaccine-related debilitating injuries in children?

Martin Walker – Merck's Medical Media Empire

Today the world is so big and the miasma of information so opaque that even experts have to be constantly in touch 24/7, as they say. Take your eye off the ball for a second and you might regret it for a life-time. Some information slips through the fog almost unnoticed; who, for instance, remembers reading MSD signs partnership with BMJ group in June 2008, or two years later, Univadis and the Lancet announce new partnership? Only a small number of people would have read beyond the headline, bothering to work out who MSD was and what was Univadis.

Anyone who did get further than the headline might have been shocked, for MSD is of course Merck Sharp and Dohme, the massive drug company known as Merck. And Univadis®? Yes, you've guessed they're also an aspect of Merck. Merck is one of the manufacturers of MMR II and was one of the defendants in the claim brought by UK parents against three vaccine manufacturers. In fact Merck, having taken over Aventis Pasteur, which company had previously partnered them in marketing MMR II in the UK, now constitutes two of the defendant companies in that presently defunct court case.

What does Univadis®, that part of MSD involved in both partnerships, do? Like many multinationals the ever-developing Merck is gradually building an empire that will not have to rely upon PR and information agencies outside its own corporation. Univadis® (a registered trademark of Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, USA) is the company within a company that sets out to educate doctors globally in the Merck scriptures. Merck describes the Univadis® web site as 'a non promotional medical website of MSD pharmaceuticals, providing information and interests to UK doctors.' It has developed educational programmes in both the developing and developed world that in partnership with journals and other media organisation can give the world the Merck word. Not a word you notice about influencing the content of the BMJ or the Lancet or any kind of reciprocal arrangement that will see BMJ or Lancet articles twice round the world in milliseconds.

When Brian Deer recently wrote his three slanderous articles about Dr Andrew Wakefield in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the common opinion was that the BMJ was in hoc to Big Pharma — so what did one expect. It was hard to fault this opinion even without any exact detail, after all it had been thought for some time that Deer was in league with either GSK or MSD - especially during his time attending the US cases - and with the Lancet policy having been steered for a period by a Managing Director of Elsevier who was also a non-executive board member of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK); and with Dr Richard Horton, the Lancet's editor, an enthusiastic Fellow of the drug front Academy of Medical Sciences, funded in part by MSD and GSK, and BMJ conferences supported by both GSK and MSD, it had become an oxymoron to talk of 'independent' medical journals.

Linking Univadis®/Merck with the BMJ and the Lancet inevitably links them both to Merck's VIS (Vaccine Information Service) online — 'a comprehensive source of information, especially designed to provide healthcare professionals with the answers to their questions on vaccines' — and Media Medics, a group who long ago sold their souls for the bright lights;

Media Medics has been appointed to provide new content for the Univadis® site, and each month we will be supplying four articles on topical subjects, together with regular input to the related discussion forums. The articles are opinionated (as well as factually accurate!) and comment is encouraged. We are now looking for potential contributors ...

In this plethora of manipulated global information and somewhere in the tangle of vested interests we find a rough vision of the involvement of Deer with the vaccine industry; it's still not 'smoking-gun' clear but it begins to form a picture of his involvement in the BMJ assaults on Dr Wakefield. When the BMJ signed up with univadis® Merck's global Medical Director, Dr Ottfried Zierenberg said:

Our collaboration with BMJ Group intends to ultimately increase the health outcome for patients, and strengthen the position of Univadis® as a trusted, professional and comprehensive source (of articles and information) for the medical community.

It still caused controversy, only a few years ago, when medical journals or their staff were found to be supported, linked or conjoined with pharmaceutical companies. Today the battles are over, and the dead truth lies scattered on various battlefields, the bodies looted of their ethics. In the UK, both the Lancet and the BMJ are evidently deeply compromised. But is anyone going to take any notice? Probably not, ethics has become a foreign language in the UK.

Despite the sterling work of APCO on the Rotavirus case, it seems that Merck feel the need to build a proactive media empire, with embedded medical journals, that can disappear the tragedy of damaged children and snow-out their legal responsibilities.


Dr Ellen Grant – Increases in the neurodevelopment disorder of autism linked to environmental toxins, toxic metals and oxidative stress

It is surprising that McClure's BMJ book review, "How the autism epidemic came to be" [1], does not mention the connections with increases in environmental toxins.

In contrast, DeSoto and Hitlan's helpful review paper, "Sorting out the spinning of autism: heavy metals and the question of incidence" [2], concludes that the increase in the neurodevelopmental disorder of autism can be linked to toxic exposures.

A total of 17 laboratory groups (4 or more in each case) have published that:-

1 Individuals with ASD (Autism spectrum disorders) have higher levels of neurotoxins.
2 Pockets of higher prevalence existed
3 Increased rates of ASD are associated with sources of contaminants
4 Individuals with ASD have decreased detoxifying ability.

Sajdel- Sulkowska and colleagues have recently discovered [3] brain region-specific changes in oxidative stress marker 3-NT (3-nitrotyrosine) and neurotrophin-3 levels in ASD in brain areas associated with speech processing, sensory and motor coordination, emotional and social behaviour.

Their exciting results match McLaren-Howard's routine analyses of blood from 61 autistic children [4]. He found most had deficiencies of zinc, magnesium, chromium, selenium, manganese, molybdenum, and/or B vitamins. Such deficiencies can impair EFA pathways. In addition, 26% (16) of the children had DNA-adducts to malondialdehyde (from lipid peroxidation) in their leucocytes, 20% (12) to cadmium, 15% (9) to nickel, 5% (3) to mercury and one child had DNA-adducts to lead.[3]

Modern day biochemistry is much more illuminating than historical confusions.

1. McClure I. How the autism epidemic came to be. BMJ 2011; 342:d852
2. Desoto MC, Hitlan RT. Sorting out the spinning of autism: heavy metals and the question of incidence. Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2010;70(2):165-76.
3. Sajdel-Sulkowska EM, Xu M, McGinnis W, Koibuchi N. Brain Region-Specific Changes in Oxidative Stress and Neurotrophin Levels in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Cerebellum. 2011 Mar;10(1):43-8.
4 Grant ECG. McLaren-Howard J. Re: The effects of toxic metals in autistic children, 13 Sep 2004


Beddington goes to war against Bad Science

Government Chief Scientific Adviser John Beddington is stepping up the war on pseudoscience with a call to his fellow government scientists to be "grossly intolerant" if science is being misused by religious or political groups.
In closing remarks to an annual conference of around 300 scientific civil servants on 3 February, in London, Beddington said that selective use of science ought to be treated in the same way as racism and homophobia. "We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality...We are not—and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this—grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method," he said.

For the full article see


First published in February 2011

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