Managing Editor's Note: JB wrote this post last January. We're running it as a follow up to Dr. Offit having been appointed to the IOM.
By J.B. Handley
OK, let me be clear: I think Paul Offit is a blowhard liar, a vaccine profiteer and apologist, and every time he opens his mouth he disrespects my son. When the final chapter is finally written on this man-made autism epidemic, I will do everything within my power to ensure that Offit is remembered by history as one of the most sinister, dishonest, well-funded talking heads pharma ever produced, and that his efforts served to afflict so many children with autism who may otherwise have avoided it.
In one of the most absurd snowjobs ever put on the media, Offit, a doctor who has never seen a patient with autism, never treated autism, and never published a study about autism, is somehow considered to be an expert on autism. Given his status as a multi-millionaire vaccine patent holder who has had much of his career supported by Merck, this isn’t just absurd, it’s highway robbery, and yet the media persists, and rarely even mentions Offit’s Mount Everest-sized pile of conflicts.
In the latest example of Offit’s dishonesty, AOL recently published a two-person interview HERE with Offit and Geri Dawson, chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks.
In this interview, Offit commits what I consider to be the “Original Sin” of Autism, and something that should be condemned by every autism organization in the country, including Autism Speaks. To quote Paul Offit:
“It's not an actual epidemic. In the mid-1990s, the definition of autism was broadened to what is now called autism spectrum disorder. Much milder parts of the spectrum -- problems with speech, social interaction -- were brought into the spectrum. We also have more awareness, so we see it more often. And there is a financial impetus to include children in the wider definition so that their treatment will be covered by insurance. People say if you took the current criteria and went back 50 years, you'd see about as many children with autism then.”
Is this guy actually insane? Denying the existence of an autism epidemic is truly the original sin. In Offit’s world, there is absolutely NO PROBLEM HERE. Things are as they always were, we just understand it better. Of course, we all know, if there’s no epidemic, there is no environmental trigger, because why have a trigger if something hasn’t actually grown? Said differently:
Denying the autism epidemic is to deny the suffering of millions of children and their families and also to deny the exploration into the true cause so the epidemic might end.
It’s truly despicable. And, I’m certainly not alone in disagreeing with Offit’s absurd position on autism prevalence. Look what Geraldine Dawson, no friend of our community, does in the very same interview. She says:
“We know that the broadening of the diagnosis, as well as more awareness and access to services, accounts for some of this increase, but these variables don't account for all of the increase. Over the last two decades, the prevalence of autism has increased by over 600 percent. Between 2004 and 2006 we saw a 57 percent increase. A large percentage is unexplained, and that's why there is a focus on identifying environmental factors.”
Blink. Blink. Knock, knock! Hello? Is anyone home?
Do you think the interviewer of these two wondered, as she transcribed these two answers, if something was amiss? The most basic question, but also the most important question, just got two completely different answers. Lest you think me and Geraldine Dawson are the only two human beings who believe there has been a REAL rise in children with autism, consider these:
"It irritates me to no end that we still argue over whether there is an increase in incidence [of autism]. I think there is lots of evidence for increased incidence. Overwhelmingly it supports that there are things in the environment that are contributing to the rate of incidence. But people still argue."
- Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., neuroscientist, UCSF
"It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California."
- Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto
"There is no evidence that a loosening in the diagnostic criteria has contributed to increased number of autism clients...we conclude that some, if not all, of the observed increase represents a true increase in cases of autism in California...a purely genetic basis for autism does not fully explain the increasing autism prevalence. Other theories that attempt to better explain the observed increase in autism cases include environmental exposures to substances such as mercury; viral exposures; autoimmune disorders; and childhood vaccinations."
- UC Davis MIND Institute
Hmm…whom to believe, whom to believe. I don’t know, journalists, what do you think? Behind door number one, a vaccine inventor who has been supported by pharma’s largesse his entire career. Door number two? Pretty much the entire world of scientists who specialize in autism.
It actually gets worse. I had to squint while reading most of this interview because it was so painful, but I thought I’d leave you with one final Offit quote that I think really reveals who we are dealing with, it goes like this:
AOL Health: Do you believe that there is a cure for autism?
Move along, everyone, nothing to see here, Offit the Prophet has spoken. Interestingly, the question didn’t mention biomedical treatments, but Offit slammed the door on them anyway? No, no chance for recovery. And, oh, by the way, everything that can be invented already has, and every innovation in medicine to help people get better is already here.
This guy is a doctor? A Doctor of Doom, perhaps, but certainly not a Doctor of kids. Join me in condemning this lunatic.
J.B. Handley is the father of a child with autism, the co-founder of Generation Rescue, and a contributing writer for AoA.