According to Pharma scheduling, I am guessing we will see another media push sometime later this year, but we can probably set our clocks that we will be doing the Wakefield Dance next January as well. Pharma seems to like to start off their year fresh by declaring Andy dead, as they are making a habit of it:
Feb 12, 2010
Anatomy of a Witch Hunt
Much has happened in the last few weeks surrounding Andrew Wakefield, and I have not been available to write about it. It has been truly frustrating to see this story reported as if the GMC hearing was legit and The Lancet as if it was a respectable and unbiased publication, rather than the dog fight between corporate interests and safety advocates that it actually is. Was the fact that 21 autism organizations in the US and UK filed perjury charges against the head of the Lancet for lying about Wakefield's disclosures of his conflicts in the GMC hearing not relevant to the fact that the Lancet retracted Wakefield's article the following week? Apparently the press didn't think so.
Also fascinating that they have tried to portray Wakefield as the guy that invented the autism/vaccine connection, despite the fact that Leo Kanner reported that one of his first 11 cases in the 1940's was a regression following a smallpox vaccine, the VCIP has been paying autism cases for 25 years, and I first heard about the connection in my undergrad psych program in 1988 at George Mason University, so that they can use this GMC hearing to declare the vaccine controversy over. (I have forty or so studies on my "no evidence of any link" page supporting the vaccine/autism connection and I have never even had Wakefield's MMR paper up there.
Fortunately AOA has been all over this.
Today I had an hour and started mapping out the conflicts on interests in all of the forces that are posing as unbiased sources and trashing Wakefield and his work by charging him with conflicts of interest. The irony is lost on too many people.
It is a work in progress. One of my friends in the UK is looking it over to help fill in more of the blanks, so it will be updated.
A few notes not on the chart. Judge Nigel Davis is the judge who ruled that families trying to sue GlaxoSmithKline for the damage done to their children by the MMR would not be given legal aid to do so, ending MMR litigation in the UK. His brother is Sir Crispin Davis, who was the CEO of Elsevier, publisher of The Lancet and was also on the board of GlaxoSmithKline. Additionally... Paul Offit is an industry spokes person for Merck, that was too long to fit into the chart, so I used the more pejorative, "lap dog". And there is word out this afternoon that another Elsevier journal may be trying to bury the Hep B monkey study that Wakefield worked on, although no word from the journal on this yet.
Look at the energy flow in this thing... Props to Dr. Wakefield and his compadres for not backing down under this insane amount of industrial pressure. I mean just look at this billion dollar medical/pharma/media/(arms sales?) unprincipled conglomco machine! Eliot Ness wasn't even up against this big of a beast when he took on the mob. And I have not even included any of the public health infrastructure, or the GMC in this flow chart.
Keep your head up England, and understand that you are under a blitz. They are now officially throwing everything they have at you and they are only exposing their own corruption. Never, never, never, never give up.
Problem for the beast is... they are using all their ammo, and six months from now, nothing will have changed for them. Because the public knows they are full of crap.
click to see it full size.
A friend in the UK brought something interesting to my attention. It is a flow chart done by a journalist in 1994 on how money and influence flowed around the Burroughs Wellcome pharmaceutical company and all it's satellites (foundations, trusts, doctors, medical institutions, universities, medical journals and even regulatory agencies). One of which is the Wellcome Trust.
I invite to you take a look at the amazingly, unbiased and completely free of conflicts of interesty type research that Wellcome is funding, by reading my piece on Professor Alan Emond's study that shows that kids with autism don't have bowel problems. He claims no conflicts of interest, but fails to mention that he is on the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (Britian's version of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.)
The chart certainly enhances the understanding of how the machine works, but the two facts that make this flow chart so much more interesting is that Burroughs Wellcome of course became Glaxo Wellcome, which became GlaxoSmithKline, who makes the MMR; and that the journalist that created this chart was Brian Deer.
UPDATE: One commenter was looking for a source for my 20 billion dollar figure.
Drugmakers, Doctors Rake in Billions Battling H1N1 Flu
Swine Flu Is Bad for Victims, But Good for Businesses That Cater to Expanding Market
By DALIA FAHMY
Oct. 14, 2009
Americans are still debating whether to roll up their sleeves for a swine flu shot, but companies have already figured it out: vaccines are good for business.
Drug companies have sold $1.5 billion worth of swine flu shots, in addition to the $1 billion for seasonal flu they booked earlier this year. These inoculations are part of a much wider and rapidly growing $20 billion global vaccine market.
"The vaccine market is booming," says Bruce Carlson, spokesperson at market research firm Kalorama, which publishes an annual survey of the vaccine industry. "It's an enormous growth area for pharmaceuticals at a time when other areas are not doing so well," he says, noting that the pipeline for more traditional blockbuster drugs such as Lipitor and Nexium has thinned.
As always with pandemic flus, taxpayers are footing the $1.5 billion check for the 250 million swine flu vaccines that the government has ordered so far and will be distributing free to doctors, pharmacies and schools. In addition, Congress has set aside more than $10 billion this year to research flu viruses, monitor H1N1's progress and educate the public about prevention.
Drugmakers pocket most of the revenues from flu sales, with Sanofi-Pasteur, Glaxo Smith Kline and Novartis cornering most of the market.
But some say it's not just drugmakers who stand to benefit. Doctors collect copayments for special office visits to inject shots, and there have been assertions that these doctors actually profit handsomely from these vaccinations.
It is a notion that Dr. Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Practitioners, says is simply not true.
"According to most of the physicians I have talked to, the administration of these vaccines is done for the community's benefit as opposed to anything that helps profit," she says. Heim adds that even though doctors will not have to shell out for the H1N1 vaccine, they will bear the usual costs associated with storage and administering the shots.
"There is an administration fee, for the costs that you can't get reimbursed through Medicare or Medicaid," she says. "This is usually less than, or right at the break-even point."
Still, pharmacies also charge co-payments or full price of about $25 to those without insurance and often make more money if patients end up shopping for other goods.
"Flu shots present a good opportunity to bring new customers into our stores," says Cassie Richardson, spokesperson for SUPERVALU, one of the country's largest supermarket chains. Drawing customers to the back of a store, where pharmacies are often located, offers retailers a chance to pitch products that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Even companies outside of the medical industry are benefiting: the UPS division that delivers vaccines in specially designed containers, for example, has seen a bump in business.
New Entrants in Flu Shot Business
The intensifying competition has irked some doctors.
"Retailers and other non-medical professionals have siphoned off the passive income that once helped to cover medical overhead," says Dr. Caroline Abruzese, an internist in Atlanta. "The larger retail chains can invest up front in large volumes of vaccine at low prices, and market to customers already in their stores."
The promise of profits has attracted new players into the business. Some of the world's largest drugmakers, who in the past avoided the vaccine market because of its limited scope -- its not easy to convince healthy adults to get a shot for measles -- are now jumping into the fray.
Last month alone saw three large vaccine deals. Abbott Labs bought a Belgian drug business, along with its flu vaccine facilities, for $6.6 billion. Johnson & Johnson invested $444 million in a Dutch biotech firm that makes and develops flu vaccines. Merck, which already makes vaccines for shingles and other diseases, struck a deal to distribute flu shots made by Australian CSL.
Smaller biotechs are also angling for a slice of the action, making vaccines one of the fastest-growing areas of research in the biotech industry.
Large and small drugmakers are drawn to the business largely because of scientific advances that promise to radically expand the range of health problems that vaccines can address. In addition to preventing childhood diseases such as measles and polio, vaccines can now also ward off cervical cancer, and researchers are working on vaccines for HIV and tuberculosis.
Scientists believe they can create therapeutic vaccines than treat diseases such as Alzheimers and diabetes after they have set in. (At least one company is betting on a vaccine that helps cigarette smokers quit.)
"These innovations broaden the market potential for vaccine makers and partly explained the renewed interest by drugmakers," says Anthony Cox, a professor at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business who specializes in the marketing of medical products.
But Mark Grayson, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents the country's leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, says that drugmakers are also compelled by the government to join efforts to ensure that there is enough vaccine to go around.
"Because of national security implications, the government felt that they needed to encourage and ask [vaccine manufacturers] to move much quicker," he says. Grayson adds that vaccine manufacturers also face significant costs; aside from the expense of fitting a new vaccine into a tight production schedule, drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur were forced to acquire new vaccine production facilities in recent years to keep up with demand.
Alternatives to Vaccines Are Few
While this promise of new treatments for painful diseases brings hope to many, vaccines continue to attract critics. The National Vaccine Information Center, a non-profit advocacy group, is at the forefront of a movement demanding that vaccines be tested more thoroughly before hitting the market. Although there has been little evidence to support their claim, detractors -- including the comedian Jim Carrey -- believe that vaccines are at least partly to blame for the sharp rise in autism in recent decades.
The swine flu vaccine has also attracted its share of critics. Frank Lipman, a New York-based doctor who specializes in a mix of Western and alternative medicine, points out that the swine flu is rarely fatal and that it's too early to tell if it's safe because it hasn't been widely tested.
Others argue that Americans have little choice. The cost of a widespread pandemic, similar to Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, which killed 675,000 Americans (and 50 million worldwide), would be devastating. The Trust for America's Health, a Washington-based non-profit organization, estimates that a severe pandemic could push down GDP by more than 5 percent and cost Americans $683 billion.
"We're not seeing a pandemic that's this severe," says Jeff Levi, director of Trust for Americas Health. "We've dodged a lot of bullets."