It’s grant crunch time, which almost always means that a lot of stuff happens that I don’t have time to write about and that the week after I submit it (i.e., next week) usually nothing interesting happens to write about and I’m left posting LOL Cats or something like that. Be that as it may, sometimes something happens that goads me to the point where I have to comment, although reality keeps me from my usual logorrhea. Who knows, maybe that’s a good thing.
In any case, yesterday Brandon Thorp (who also works for the JREF) teamed up with Penn Bullock to write a disturbing report on just how much political influence some well known anti-vaccine activists and pseudoscientists wield in the state of Florida entitled Crist backer Gary Kompothecras bullies Florida health officials. It’s downright scary, as Kompothecras is a chiropractor with lots of money and very strong anti-vaccine beliefs who doesn’t hesitate to use his cash and connections to push a dangerous agenda that could endanger children:
“This madness has got to stop. No more double talk. This should be a fairly straightforward study. I feel that there are hidden agendas going on and I will not stand by [and] let it continue!! I will not wait any longer,” reads an email dated August 6 from Dr. Gary Kompothecras to Dr. Julia Gill, director of the Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) Division of Disease Control.
Coming from anyone else, the blustery email threat might be easily dismissed. But “Dr. Gary,” as Kompothecras is known, is the self-styled “Rainmaker,” a Sarasota chiropractor who has raised more than $1 million over the years for Senate candidate and soon-to-be ex-governor Charlie Crist.
So it’s bound to turn heads when the man known to occasionally lend his private jet to the governor uses his political clout to try to bully Florida health officials into turning over scores of the state’s sealed immunization records. Especially when they’re for a father-son team, Dr. Mark and David Geier, infamous for injecting autistic children with Lupron, a drug used to chemically castrate prostate cancer patients and pedophiles.
I’m sure that regular readers of this blog are well aware of who the Geiers are. I’ve been writing about them since 2006. Basically, they’re the father-son team of anti-vaccine “scientists,” with the father Mark Geier being an actual MD and the son not. Both believe that vaccines cause autism and, in particular, that mercury in vaccines causes autism; they thus fully believe that chelation therapy can treat or even “cure” autism. They’ve been making the rounds for years at conferences for the antivax underground promoting that idea as they continued to work out of Mark Geier’s basement in his well-appointed home in Silver Spring, MD. Together, around five or six years ago, they came up with the fanciful but dangerously vile idea that somehow testosterone binds mercury and keeps it from being chelated and removed. Their solution? Chemical castration with a drug normally used to treat premature puberty and patients with hormone-sensitive tumors like prostate cancer and breast cancer. Basically, Lupron is chemical castration. It shuts down the production of sex hormones, be they testosterone in males or estradiol in females. So, right off the bat Kompothecras is bullying Florida health officials in suport of quackery. And they might get their way:
A well-placed source within Florida government, who asked to remain anonymous, claims the governor’s office has been putting “political pressure” on the DOH to submit to the Geiers’ demands…Instead, senior DOH officials — “at-will” employees who can be fired without a stated cause — hope to stall the Geiers’ study until a new administration arrives in Tallahassee, the source says: “The issue is too politicized. No one wants to approve their study, but no one wants to be fired either.”
So Governor Crist apparently supports antivaccine pseudoscience as well. Either that, or he just doesn’t care about the health of the children of Florida and is thus willing to turn over sealed records to a couple of quacks to perform a bogus retrospective study because a big money supporter wants him to. Given the Geiers’ track record, such a study would undoubtedly be another JPANDS-worthy hunk of utter nonsense, but no doubt they could use it to sow fear and doubt about vaccines.
Worse, however, Kompothecras is trying to bully Florida health officials into doing is to violate HIPAA in the service of antivaccine quackery:
In 2004, shortly before they began experimenting with Lupron, the Geiers were conducting research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when on-staff technical monitors caught them manipulating data and performing analyses that put patients’ confidentiality at risk. The study was terminated.
Like their proposed Florida study, the research involved sifting through immunization records in the hopes of finding links between vaccines and autism. But unlike the CDC files, the data the Geiers seek for their Florida study contains patients’ addresses and social security numbers.
This behavior is odd, almost singularly so, considering that access to Florida’s confidential medical records is a privilege, not a right, for any researcher. Those seeking access to such records generally approach the DOH as supplicants seeking a favor.
Which is as it should be, given privacy concerns. Turning these records over to the Geiers would be an atrocity against the patient right to privacy an a potential bonanza to lawyers. Remember, the Geiers were busted once before for trying to compromise patient privacy when examining records from the Vaccine Safety Database. When Kompothecras demands these records for his good buddies Mark and David Geier (who have opened a clinic in Florida, by the way, that subjects autistic children to their “Lupron protocol,” truly part of a nasty little franchise), Florida health officials should be doing everything they can to stop him. When kompothecras complains, “This project has been lingering for over a year. It seems from the actions taken by officials from the State of Florida that every single possible delay tactic has been employed to prevent the present study from going forward.”
Good! That’s exactly what Florida health officials should be doing. Here’s hoping they can run out the clock until Crist leaves office. Here’s also hoping that Thorp and Bullock’s article helps provide health officials with the cover they need to continue to resist Crist’s actions by shining the light of day on Crist’s willingness to sacrifice the health of Florida children in order to appease a prominent supporter. Turning up the heat on Crist in the blogosphere might help too. Pseudoscientists have no compunction about using politics to try to override science and get their way; unfortunately, that means supporters of science are forced to respond.