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The Wall Street Journal Health Blog: What’s a factor of a thousand if it gets in the way of a good story?

The stupid continues to metastasize.

I wrote yesterday about a truly bad and irresponsible hit piece on Paul Offit and the American Academy of Pediatrics written by the anti-vaccinationist sympathizer Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News. Since I’ve already rehashed what was so bad about it, I won’t go on about it. However, it appears that Alicia Mundy at the Wall Street Journal‘s Health Blog picked up the story yesterday and ran with it–stupidly, as demonstrated by this passage:

Drugmakers have given millions in grants and other kinds of payments to the AAP and helped build its headquarters, CBS reported, noting specific payments of $433 million from Merck and $342 million Wyeth.

Wow! That’s some serious cash! The AAP must be richer than many pharmaceutical companies! The bastards! Oh, wait. This is what the CBS story, as bad as it was, actually said:

The vaccine industry gives millions to the Academy of Pediatrics for conferences, grants, medical education classes and even helped build their headquarters. The totals are kept secret, but public documents reveal bits and pieces.

  • A $342,000 payment from Wyeth, maker of the pneumococcal vaccine – which makes $2 billion a year in sales.
  • A $433,000 contribution from Merck, the same year the academy endorsed Merck’s HPV vaccine – which made $1.5 billion a year in sales.

$342,000, $342 million, what’s a factor of a thousand among credulous reporters/bloggers? It looks to me as though Alicia Mundy, who wrote the credulous piece, either isn’t too good at math or is just plain careless. She and the clueless wonder Kim Stagliano deserve each other–except that even Stagliano didn’t make such a dumb misstatement.

If you have the time, please go forth and leave some comments about sloppy parroting of a biased and shoddily researched story. Maybe Alicia Mundy is educable.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

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