New Scientist and the Autism Omnibus

New Scientist has published an interesting commentary on the Autism Omnibus  proceedings that are taking place in the United States Court of Federal Claims.  They are quite rightly sympathetic to the Cedillo family whose case is the first of around 4,800 that seek to establish whether or not thimerosal containing vaccines, MMR or a combination of the two can cause autism. There is no question that Michelle Cedillo is severely disabled. There is a very big question  over whether or not she is the victim of vaccine damage.

New Scientist is less sympathetic to some of those advising the parents and offering expert testimony on their behalf. They have identified a number of problems.

Lawyers representing the parents are acting on the assumption that their claims are statements of fact and that they are only having to go into court because of some kind of conspiracy between the US government and the vaccine manufacturers or ‘big pharma’ in the parlance of the petitioners and their supporters. New Scientist again.

Those findings have not, however, stopped some lawyers from discussing the link as if it were already fact. The firm of Williams, Love, O’Leary, Craine and Powers, based in Portland, Oregon, is representing the Cedillo family. The company website states that “thousands of children” have developed autism “as a result of their exposure” to thimerosal.

One consequence of this mindset is that they are not approaching the court as an independent arbiter of two conflicting claims. Rather, they see the court as another obstacle in their fight for justice. Autism Diva has blogged about a very perceptive discussion of the trial on National Public Radio. One of the contributers, Gardiner  Harris, a reporter with the New York Times observed that:

It’s a little bizarre that way, because the lawyers for the claimants — so normally when you go into a court where a judge is making the decision …. there’s a podium right in front of the judges and the lawyers stand in front of the judges… in this case the claimants’ attorney turned the podium around and spoke to the audience instead of to the special masters who will actually make the decision and I think it tells a lot about this case.It’s not clear that it’s all about money or even about winning for the claimants. I think … they are talking to a different audience.

I think that Harris is onto something. Some of those who believe that these autistic children are vaccine damaged have convinced themselves that government, the courts and the scientific establishment are all in cahoots with the drug companies. The children are victims of an enormous conspiracy. They do not expect to win. And if their ‘experts’ are shown up for fools or charlatans, their humiliation will be seen as martyrdom and may even enhance their status amongst those parents for whom the vaccine question has become an article of faith.

It is easy to imagine how well meaning others can be so impressed by the parents’ sincerity that they are swept up by an emotional tsunami that destroys their critical faculties. It is also the case that more cynical observers are quick to step into the wreckage to exploit the suffering with snake oil remedies and dubious research.

The New Scientist cites the Geiers as a case in point. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the exploits of this family firm and the stirling efforts made by Kathleen Seidel to investigate and expose their dubious activities. It looks like the New Scientist reads her blog as well. It cites her by name. So now its readers know about their phoney IRB that they use to give ethical cover to experimenting on children with Lupron.

And here’s a novelty. When my son was recruited to a research programme into autism at University College in London it did not cost us a penny. They paid all our expenses. Parents who want to enrol their children for the Geier’s research have to pay! Thanks to the New Scientist for this.

He [Geier] adds that he charges parents $500 for an initial consultation, but does not invoice them after that and so makes “virtually nothing” from his work with the families.

So let’s get this straight. The parents pay him $500. They or their insurance companies pay for all the necessary blood tests, lab work and the highly expensive lupron injections. They even administer the drugs themselves. One parent has reported sitting on his daughter to restrain her while injecting her with the drug. Geier works from his home in Maryland, a well appointed dwelling with a pool and a tennis court and a home made laboratory. He has no academic affiliation, though his son and co-author did lie about his affiliation on one of their papers. George Washington University cried, ‘Foul!’ and the paper was withdrawn and republished in a corrected version. Geier publishes the results of his “research” in obscure journals to bolster his career as an expert witness.

Last time out he did not do so well. According to his biography on Wikipedia:

Dr. Geier’s views have been found to fall outside of the scientific consensus. In a 2006 case[12] regarding an immunoglobulin containing thimerosal which was alleged to have caused autism, Dr. Geier’s testimony was found to fall below the Daubert standard, which essentially requires expert testimony on science to be scientifically sound and represent the general consensus. As Dr. Geier provided most of the plaintiffs’ evidence, the case was thus subject to summary judgment.

Amongst the criticisms in the judge’s decisions,[13] Dr. Geier’s literature review was found to be insufficient in justifying his claims, his lack of qualification in pediatrics was highlighted and he was found to be a “professional witness in areas for which he has no training, expertise, and experience,” whose testimony was “intellectually dishonest,” “nothing more than an egregious example of blatant, result-oriented testimony.”

The Omnibus hearings are taking place in a federal court. I only hope that, when Geier takes the stand and testifies to his research methods, his disregard for his research subjects’ [children] right to protection and his encouragment of insurance fraud will bring the Feds down on him like a ton of bricks and he can enjoy his martyrdom for the cause from behind bars.

New Scientist also mentions Robert Nataf, a French chemist.

One potential check for mercury involves a urine test for porphyrins, molecules that occur naturally in the body and bind to metals. Interest in the test accelerated last year following the publication of a paper claiming that autistic children had higher porphyrin levels than normal (Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, vol 214, p 99).

While the researchers state in the paper that they have no conflicts of interest, lead author Robert Nataf is the founder of Laboratoire Auguste Philippe, a Paris-based clinic that sells porphyrin tests. When discussing his research with parents Nataf has also stated that he has a paper “in press” at The Lancet Neurology. Editors at the journal say they have no record of a paper by him. When asked to comment, Nataf did not clarify the situation.

If they had asked me I could have clarified the situation. It is one and the same paper. Last year New Scientist published a story about this paper. They interviewed another of the authors, Richard Lathe. I wrote to New Scientist pointing out that Nataf was telling parents that the research was going to be published by the Lancet and asked for clarification. Instead of clarifying the situation they suggested I contacted Lathe and clarify it for myself. I did and Lathe told me that Nataf had been premature. He omitted to say that the paper had been submitted to Lancet Neurology and rejected. So they had hawked it around until they found a journal with low enough standards to publish it.

Another of the authors of this paper was Lorene Amet. Amet has an autistic son. She has explored a number of therapies for him the including the Son-Rise method and ABA. Eventually she became a DAN! practitioner and set up a clinic in Edinburgh selling biomedical treatments, including chelation, to parents who can buy their porphyrin tests off her fellow researcher, Robert Nataf.

New Scientist concludes:

While Nataf’s failure to disclose his commercial interests may have breached normal publication ethics, it is likely to mean little to the parents of autistic children. Email groups dedicated to discussing the condition are full of pleas for help from parents frightened by a disease that shuts off their children from the rest of the world. Under such circumstances, says Israel parents are desperate for a cure: “If you had autistic children, would you wait for published trials, or would you treat them?

Alan Israel is one of those who profits from the parents. According to New Scientist he owns a pharmacy that sells the chelating agent DMSA to parents, a snip at a $100 for a month’s supply, and ‘treatment’ can last for years. He relies upon parents fear of “a disease that shuts off their children from the rest of the world.”

Autism is neither a disease nor does it shut children off from the world. New Scientist has made a good stab at the autism vaccine controversy. But the erroneous characterization of autism with which the article concludes is exactly the sort of thing that encourages desperate parents to seek desperate measures.

Evidence of Pharm?

When scandalous events come to light the local community are always agreed. “We had no idea.” “He was such a pillar of the community.” “They babysat our children.” “They always gave generously to charity.” Etc.

So how will the good people of Silver Spring, Maryland, USA react when some of their own are finally exposed for using bad science to perform medical experiments on helpless children by pretending they have a cure for autism and persuading the parents to claim back the cost from their medical insurance?

It would be nice if they could read it first in the local press. So I am copying this to the editors of the:

Silver Spring Gazette: jgrbach@gazette.net
Silver Spring Voice: bond@takoma.com
Montgomery County Sentinel: editor-mc@thesentinel.com

All that follows is already in the public domain. All I have done is provide a summary. The editors can check it themselves or email me with any queries about sources.

THE STORY SO FAR

Doctor Mark Geier and his son David have been trying to establish their credentials as autism researchers. To boost their credibility David claimed to be a graduate student in biochemistry at George Washington University. But neither of the Geiers currently have any academic position. They operate out of the family home in Silver Springs, Maryland.

This makes it difficult to get Independent Review Board approval for their research. The one time the Geiers did get approval, for a study of the Vaccine Safety Database, access was suspended when they broke the rules and compromised patient confidentiality. So the Geiers set up their own sham IRB with friends and family to impress journal editors and get their work accepted for publication. Because they have so little actual research they tend to recycle their ideas and republish in slightly altered forms. Sometimes they recycle the wok of others. One of their papers is remarkably similar to a paper that was previously published by other academics working for the CDC. They also take the work of genuine autism experts and quote it out of context as if it supports their ideas, when it does not.

The dubious research practises of a couple of obscure academics would not be newsworthy except for the fact that the Geiers use this dodgy research to bolster their reputation as experts on the link between vaccines and autism. This reputation has so far failed to stand up in court. Mark Geier’s latest appearance as an expert witness was dismissed because the court doubted he was even qualified to make a diagnosis, never mind offer an expert opinion on it. His testimony has been similarly rejected on nine previous occasions.

David Geier has no medical qualifications and his degree does not even equip him for post graduate scientific research. Mark Geier is a genetic counsellor. He has no specialist qualifications or board certification in any of the areas where he now claims expertise: pediatrics, neurology and endocrinology. In fact Dr. Geier was not even successful in sitting for his Medical Board examination in the specific field of pediatric genetics.

But all this is lost on the parents who not only believe the Geiers’ unsubstantiated ideas about autism, but also entrust them with their children’s health. As a result an unknown number of autistic children have regular blood draws, well in excess of those permitted by the FDA. Then they are repeatedly injected with Lupron, a drug more commonly used to treat prostate cancer or to chemically castrate convicted sex offenders. This is to remove the alleged high levels of testosterone in autistic children.

All this costs thousands of dollars which the parents are supposed to claim on their insurance because of Central Precocious Puberty, a very rare complaint which these children do not have. On top of that the children are then treated with DMSA, which is supposed to remove the mercury from their bodies and cure their autism, and a powerful steroid called Androcur. Nobody knows what the side effects are from long term use of these powerful drugs together on small children and the Geiers have not even bothered to find out. They even claim that Lupron is 99 per cent natural and has no side effects! Not even the makers claim that!

WHEN WILL IT END?

The parents who trust the Geiers do not normally trust the giant drug companies. It is just the opposite. They blame big pharma for the vaccines that they believe have damaged their children and turn to alternative medicine for a cure. The Geiers have no such problem. When the real damage done to these children finally emerges the Geiers will be counting their wealth from the patent agreements they are currently seeking in conjunction with TAP Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Lupron.

geiersthumb1.gifThat is, unless the authorities act and we can replace this screen shotmugshot.jpg with mugshots.

Yet More Significant Misrepresentations from Mark Geier and David Geier

Significant Misrepresentations: Mark Geier, David Geier & the Evolution of the Lupron Protocol (Part Three)

Kathleen has done it again. Having previously exposed the misrepresentation of David Geier’s academic affiliations in Part One and the misrepresentation of the Geier’s IRB approval in Part Two, we now get the misrepresentation of Precocious Puberty in Childhood (PPC) as something that is “very, very common” and the misrepresentation of a wide variety of “symptoms” as evidence of PCC to insurance companies who probably do not even know that they are actually funding a piece of research, a piece of research, moreover that has no board approval.

Then there is the misrepresentation practised by the parents on themselves as they convince themselves that their children have elevated levels of testosterone that need to be reduced using Lupron. Then they convince themselves that the radical alteration to their child’s mood and behaviour following this major interference with their hormones is some sort of cure for autism.

The most serious misrepresentation, though, is that practised on the children by Mark Geier, a doctor who abuses their trust to mis-diagnose and then mis-treat them. In this he is aided and abetted by close family members, particularly his son David, business partners and lawyers.

Mark and David Geier might need those lawyers if they are ever called to account for all their misrepresentations.