Posts Tagged ‘medicine’

My lovely lady done a thing, about vaccines and medically irresponsible idiots and stuff. Go have a read.


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– A small but probably good step has been made toward gay marriage rights and/or marriage equality, leaving only a tragically long way to go for modern society to catch up with itself.

– If you choose not to donate to a charity because you disagree with their practices or philosophy, you’re poisoning democracy.

– The placebo effect proves the existence of God. And “God” can mean whatever you need it to mean so that that first sentence is true. Hey, did you know the Huffington Post has a science section now?

This. (Though I daren’t investigate what’s kicking off down there in the comments.)

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told the mother of a child with a rare genetic disorder on Tuesday that she shouldn’t have a problem paying $1 million a year for drugs because Apple’s iPad can cost around $900.

That’s a slightly coarse summary of his recent remarks, but not nearly as coarse as his actual opinions.

My credibility is this big, and sells for this much.

See if you can follow the logic. Some people pay substantial amounts of money for non-essential electronic goods. Therefore, poor people shouldn’t complain at being expected to spend similar sums of money every month of their lives – or however much cash the market demands, which in some cases can be around a million dollars a year – on medical treatment necessary to save their life.

Where do you even start with something like that?

The problem, as this frothy mixture of callousness and self-interest describes it, is that we’re “conditioned to think health care is something you can get without having to pay for it”.

Yep, apparently I’ve been brainwashed into wanting to live in a world where we actually look after each other. Socialist propaganda has convinced me that I shouldn’t be content to watch my neighbours die from easily prevented conditions because they can’t afford basic and widely available medical treatment.

He declared that one particular sick child was “alive today because drug companies provide care”, missing the point that he could equally be dead tomorrow because drug companies only provide care if you give them thousands and thousands of dollars.

I want your son to stay alive on much-needed drugs. Fact is, we need companies to have incentives to make drugs. If they don’t have incentives, they won’t make those drugs. We either believe in markets or we don’t.

It may seem heartless, hypocritical, and downright bullshittastic for him to tell this woman that he wants her son to live, while offering no suggestion as to how the obvious barrier of the unaffordability of treatment is supposed to be overcome. But it’s possible he actually believes it. He may honestly think that his advice is the best solution for people like this.

Rick Santorum is a capitalist. As such, he believes that a free market system not entirely unlike the one currently in place, but far less cluttered by government intervention (or at least the kind that doesn’t favour it), is the best way to achieve important things, such as developing and distributing life-saving medical treatments.

So he’s extended this idea to what seems like a logical conclusion: that if families like this aren’t expected to pay whatever medical fees arise if they’re unfortunate enough to face a medical crisis, these life-saving drugs would never be created in the first place. Laying down that kind of ultimatum is the only way we can expect to get any useful work done.

It’s sad that sometimes people have to die to keep the system going, but what other way could there possibly be?

What a tragically bleak view of the world.

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Bravo, Jessica Ahlquist. If you’ve been slacking off following her story as much as I have, go read JT’s summary of events so far, and this follow-up. Oh, and these examples of religious intolerance from Christians abusing their privilege, including many actively calling for this 16-year-old girl’s murder. Stay classy.

– It sounds like this has a long way to go before we can tell whether it’ll pan out, but this potential cure for chronic pain could be a huge deal.

– You know, if shiny and rather homogeneous tits are your thing, then Zoo magazine might be for you, but it’s not the place to find “real” girls. The term “real” is perhaps unfortunate, since skinny people aren’t exactly fictional, but if you want a better representation of humanity’s natural beauty, put down the lads’ mags and visit the Adipositivity Project (NSFW) or something.

– If girls wanting to join in means that you can’t enjoy your video games any more, you’re doing it wrong.

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– A translation of the faux-controversial phrase “Merry Christmas”: “I am offering you good will in a way I know how“.

This is a very unsettling article about the not-too-distant future, and I profoundly hope it proves to be accurate.

– Good to see Obama’s not slacking off at all after winning that Nobel Peace Prize.

– Hairy comedy music god Tim Minchin wrote and performed a new song about Jesus for the Jonathan Ross show recently. It wasn’t included when the show aired. Whether or not the reason for this, as is widely suspected, was due to some ITV exec’s utterly pifflesome and bollocksful fears about offending religious people is not entirely clear. But it’s a cracking song. And you can watch it here.


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The Burzynski Clinic have issued a press release, presumably in response to the recent unflattering media attention they’ve been getting.

The first thing I notice about this official statement is that the clinic’s motto on their letterhead reads: “First, Do Not [sic] Harm!”. Which is different from the one on their website, which uses the more common “Do No Harm”. This is funny.

More pertinently, they address the issue of Marc Stephens, the bizarre presumably-not-a-lawyer who’s been harassing Rhys Morgan and intimidating other bloggers while claiming to represent the Burzynski Clinic. They describe him as an “independent contractor”, and confirm that he was working on their behalf when he sent those emails.

He now “no longer has a professional relationship with the Burzynski Clinic”. But as far as mop-ups of terrible PR messes go, they seem to have turned the taps off and declared that everything’s fine, while ignoring the water sloshing about their ankles. They’re still planning on taking legal action against bloggers who they believe have made “false and defamatory” factual statements.

Also, as I write this, Marc Stephens is still listed as the “Marketing & Sponsorship” contact for the Burzynski Patient Group (a distinct organisation from the Burzynski Clinic). The extent to which the relationship has in fact been severed seems unclear.

Orac has some comments about the irrelevant or misleading nature of the purported factual misstatements that the Clinic are concerned by. But more fascinating is Jen McCreight’s analysis of the Burzynski Clinic’s publications, as cited in support of Burzynski’s antineoplaston therapy in the press release.

There’s a long list of very official-looking formal publications, which seem to be examples of solid evidence which Burzynski has found and published, despite the claims of some of his detractors. But, as Jen has uncovered, they’re little more than blustering noise.

The first paper listed was published in a journal with no impact factor at all, which bodes ill for its credibility within the overall scientific discipline. The next one was published in an alternative medical journal with poor standing among oncology journals as a whole. These aren’t grounds to discredit both papers entirely, but they highlight the need for controversial results to be reproduced and reviewed in a more mainstream journal before we put too much trust in them. The next is from a very odd journal whose role in the medical community seems hard to pin down, and whose reputation or reliability are entirely unknown.

The remainder of the list, and the majority of the “scientific articles” the Clinic chooses to offer in support of their therapy, are, according to Jen, not even from published papers. They’re all from research presentations, where any scientist has the chance to present preliminary results, before going through any kind of peer review process. So these citations all say absolutely nothing about the quackitude or otherwise of what Burzynski chose to present. They’re not of peer-reivewed studies.

Clearly, there still hasn’t been any convincing data released by Burzynski to support his claims for cancer treatment, despite clearly having a lot of data available which he’s choosing not to share in a scientifically rigorous manner.

The press release mentions Laura Hymas, who is currently on antineoplaston treatment with the clinic. They say that she’s doing well, and “her tumor is shrinking”. Whether or not there’s credible science buried somewhere in there, I hope they’re at least right about that.

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A man named Dr Burzynski believes he can treat cancer through an entirely new form of therapy.

I don’t know if this is true, but other people have been trying to find out.

Orac has previously reported on some of the reasons why most physicians doubt that Burzynski’s method is as effective as he claims. The evidence supporting his claims appears to be mostly anecdotal, and the only results he’s published are ones which nobody else has yet been able to replicate.

When someone makes a world-changing assertion like this, good scientists will want it to be checked carefully to make sure there isn’t some mistake, before they accept that it’s true. This becomes an especially acute concern when, for instance, mainstream newspapers run full-page stories about a four-year-old girl with a rare and inoperable brain cancer, for whom a multiple-celebrity-endorsed fund has been set up to get her the help she needs.

This should not be a controversial opinion: When the parents of a young girl with cancer are trying to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to make their daughter healthy, it is the profound responsibility of everyone involved to make sure that that money’s not going to be wasted.

Sadly, Andy Lewis thinks it might be.

Even sadlier, he’s being sent obnoxious and inane libel threats as a result of his trying to help.

Someone claiming to “represent” the Burzynski Clinic (although in what capacity is unclear, as he doesn’t seem to be a lawyer) has demanded that Andy stop “defaming and libeling” his client with “factually incorrect” information. Weirdly, he doesn’t want to say what the information is.

Andy wrote back a number of times, expressing every desire to correct and amend any such errors of fact he might have made, and asking exactly what part of the blogpost in question is at issue, pointing out that anyone wishing to sue for defamation will need to express the exact wording they find objectionable. The not-lawyer responded with more threats, and a continued lack of any specifics, as well as a number of phrases like “Quackwatch, Ratbags, and the rest of you Skeptics [sic] days are numbered”, and “when I present to the juror that my client and his cancer treatment has went [sic] up against 5 Grand Juries”, which are weird and unprofessional on several levels.

This apparent representative of Burzynski appears grammatically and legally incompetent, and has received the famed “misconceived and illiberal” label from Jack of Kent. And he’s sure as hell not improving the scientific credibility of this purportedly legitimate medical facility.

Andy Lewis wrote an article, because he was concerned about the welfare of a girl, whose parents have raised considerable funds from many generous sources, and whose proposed treatment is unproved by any scientific standard and has been undergoing “trials” (in which people can be enrolled for a vast fee) since 1977 with no significant progress in publishing positive results.

The Burzynski Clinic still aren’t publishing any results for peer review in a respectable journal. But they’re making legal threats toward people who are concerned by the lack of evidence for their grandiose claims. Andy sums up the problem with this approach:

Dr Burzynski presents himself as a man of science. But, I would say to him and his associates, a man of science would welcome critical appraisal, would publish all the data he has, and allow the world to come to conclusions based on how good that evidence is. A man of science would not threaten critics and try to silence them. That is a sure and certain way that you will end up harming patients.

Such actions are typically not those of someone concerned with scientific truth but of someone concerned with protecting a multi-million pound income stream.

I’d be surprised if Burzynski takes his advice. I think we’ve already got enough representative data of how this particular clinic operates.

Also worth reading: The Twenty-First Floor, and Josephine Jones.

Edit: Something I just saw before posting this. Keir Liddle points us toward a petition for the Burzynski clinic to release their trial data. It can only help the cause of truth and public health for them to do so. It can only obfuscate the truth, and protect a profitable business that’s failing to deliver on its claims, if they keep it hidden.

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