In honor of the end of the school year, let's do a multiple choice quiz. Which of the following does not belong on this list:
A. Agenda 21 is a United Nations plot to end property rights, impose communism and send people off to secret camps in rail cars.
B. George W. Bush planned 9/11 and murdered thousands of Americans.
C. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are hiding the dangers of immunizations to protect profits.
D. President Obama is a Kenyan national.
Anyone? Anyone? The answer, dear readers, is C. This was a list put together by Newsweek magazine (yes, it's back in a spiffy print edition, though who knows for how long). "Social networks, media pundits and outspoken politicians are giving rise to a new emphasis on conspiracy theories," the author, Kurt Eichenwald, wrote.
On vaccines, he cites the alleged conspiracy theory "that doctors and pharmaceutical companies are hiding the dangers of immunizations to protect profits ... Now, because of this false belief advanced by scientific frauds and celebrities, vaccine-preventable diseases that were once on the brink of extinction are roaring back," he continued.
That can only be a reference to Andy and Jenny, two of my favorite people. No hint, strangely, of Bernadine Healy, the late NIH head whose concern about public health officials avoiding the vaccine-autism issue is too inconvenient to mention.
My point is that vaccine safety issues simply don't belong in this compilation of supposedly nutty ideas, because while A, B, and D lack even a modicum of evidence and plausibility, the widely acknowledged behavior of pharmaceutical companies is entirely consistent with what is being alleged. The business-friendly (but pretty good!) Financial Times recently ran a full-page piece titled Storehouse of Trouble whose basic premise, though put slightly more politely, was that pharma is a continuing criminal enterprise.
"A raft of lawsuits and regulatory probes has given fresh ammunition to critics who say the industry puts profits before public health [that sounds familiar] -- from cherry-picking clinical trial data to bribing doctors," the paper reported.
The article quoted Fiona Godlee (good grief!) of the British Medical Journal: "we have evidence time and time again that they overestimate the benefits [of new drugs] and underestimate the harm."
That is an allegation, coincidentally, that animates AOA -- pharma and public health officials are overestimating the benefits of the current vaccine schedule and understating the dangers, bigtime. Apparently, that is not an inherently conspiratorial crackpot thing to say. You just can't say it about vaccines.
Faithful AOA reader Twyla sent me an LA Times story this week: "Two California counties sued five of the world's largest narcotics manufacturers on Wednesday, accusing the companies of causing the nation's prescription drug epidemic by waging a 'campaign of deception' aimed at boosting sales of potent painkillers such as OxyContin."
Says Twyla: "This is interesting - describes a lot of the same behaviors as we see regarding vaccines. Apparently these county officials are wild conspiracy theorists?"
Of course, those of us who believes vaccines drive the autism epidemic are not required, as part of our evidence, to assert or prove a vast conspiracy in order to make the case about vaccines. Yes, two or more people, doubtless at the CDC and elsewhere, including pharma, did conspire (breathe together) to deep-six data -- check out Verstraeten, Simpsonwood and Brick Township.
But the root of the problem is incompetence, ethical blindness and an unwillingness to face up to the consequences and stop more carnage.
The GM ignition switch debacle, which went on for years, was laid by the outside investigator this week at the feet of incompetence. There was no coverup, he said, just stupidity and blindless to the ethical implications. Some who were fired, GM head Mary Barra said, "didn't do enough," adding, "We have to own this problem."
She has no future at pharma or the CDC.
One last reason the Newsweek piece is so galling is that the author wrote the best-selling book The Informant, which according to the Amazon blurb is "an outrageous story of greed, corruption, and conspiracy—which left the FBI and Justice Department counting on the cooperation of one man" to uncover dirty doings at a Midwest soybean processor.
Yes, Kurt, it can happen here.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of a Autism.