Happenings Feb 2013


Mal Vickers

Pharmai love data

I love data and so does ‘Sense About Science’, the UK based pro-science trust. Sense About Science has launched the All Trials Campaign. The campaign aims to have pharmaceutical companies release the data from all the clinical trials they conduct.

Without the release of all data, pharmaceutical companies are free to indulge in selective publishing. That is, they may only publish the clinical trials that show the most favourable results for the products they would like us to consume.

The campaign coincides with the release of Dr Ben Goldacre’s new book ‘Bad Pharma’.

Countering Antivax Anecdotes with Provax Anecdotes

The New Zealand parents of a child that contracted tetanus change their mind about the benefits of vaccination.

“Mrs Williams said they made what they thought was an informed decision not to vaccinate any of their children because of concerns over adverse reactions, but had since changed their minds.”

Mrs Williams is quoted as saying:

“It was hideous. He was spasming every three minutes. He was biting his tongue and bleeding. His arms were spasming and he was arching his back and his whole face and jaw was completely locked.”

A family in the UK came to exactly the same conclusion – that vaccination isn’t so bad, the benefits of avoiding the disease far outweigh the small risks. They were struck by a different disease however – measles.


A distributor of homeopathic products, endorsed by Prince Charles, has been told to stop advertising its homeopathic childhood vaccines by the UK’s medicines regulator.

Still on homeopathy, Edzard Ernst suggests the legal profession should take a serious look at the implications of providing nothing but water as a substitute for medicine.

And another post by Ernst on a well-conducted trial of homeopathy– guess what happened?


In the US, a young and energetic 19 year old student decides to take on the entrenched teaching of creation in Louisiana schools.

“For Zack Kopplin, it all started back in 2008 with the passing of the Louisiana Science Education Act. The bill made it considerably easier for teachers to introduce creationist textbooks into the classroom. Outraged, he wrote a research paper about it for a high school English class. Nearly five years later, the 19-year-old Kopplin has become one of the fiercest — and most feared — advocates for education reform in Louisiana.”

False Balance

Closer to home, Dr Rachie has an excellent post up on ‘false balance’ in the media.

Ad Hominem

Edzard Ernst gives his critics a serve for persistently using ‘Ad Hominem’ attacks. Ernst says:

“One of the most striking feature of the debates about alternative medicine is, in my experience, the fact that, whenever the defenders of the indefensible ran out of rational arguments, personal attacks are rarely far.”

TGA – Black Salve

The TGA made a decision against the promoters of a substance called ‘Black Salve’. The promotion occurred during an interview on the internet only ‘radio station’ called ‘Fairdinkum Radio’. The two people taking part in the interview were Leon Pittard and Meryl Dorey, (yes, the same Meryl Dorey).

The full decision can be found here.

The TGA said:

Section 4(2)(b) of the Code prohibits advertisements that are “likely to lead to consumers self-diagnosing or inappropriately treating potentially serious diseases”. The Panel was satisfied that the advertisement was very likely to lead consumers into self-diagnosing or inappropriately treating potentially serious diseases, namely cancer, both because it encouraged the use of Black Salve for cancer, and because it discouraged the use of other medicines for cancer. This aspect of the complaint was therefore justified.

‘Fairdinkum Radio’ were asked to place a retraction notice on their website, it will be interesting to see if they do so.

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