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Danish investigator Poul Thorsen: Custom-made for the anti-vaccine movement to distract from inconvenient science

Here we go again.

If there’s one thing about the anti-vaccine movement, it’s all about the ad hominem. Failing to win on science, clinical trials, epidemiology, and other objective evidence, inevitably anti-vaccine propagandists fall back on attacking the person instead of the evidence. For example, Paul Offit has been the subject of unrelenting attacks from Generation Rescue and other anti-vaccine groups, having been dubbed “Dr. Proffit” and accused of being so in the pocket of big pharma that he’ll do and say anything for it. I personally have been accused by Jake Crosby of a conflict of interest that isn’t, based on conspiracy mongering and an utterly brain dead argument (which is much like every other argument Jake likes to make on this issue). Steve Novella, Paul Offit, Steve Novella, Amy Wallace, Trine Tsouderos, and others were portrayed as cannibals sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast of baby. Meanwhile, anti-vaccine luminaries invoke the pharma shill gambit with abandon and try their best to smear journalists who write about how anti-vaccine views are endangering herd immunity, journalists such as Trine Tsouderos, Amy Wallace, and Chris Mooney.

Sometimes, however, karma, fate, God, or whatever you want to call it throws the anti-vaccine movement a bone, and, like a starving dog, inevitably the anti-vaccine movement tears into it. So it was about a year ago when an financial fraud investigation was being undertaken in the case of Poul Thorsen, a Danish investigator who had contributed to two large Danish studies, one of which failed to find an association between the MMR and autism in the immediate wake of Andrew Wakefield’s falsified data suggesting such an assocation and one of which failed to find an association between mercury in the thimerosal preservative in vaccines and an increased incidence of autism. At the time longstanding anti-vaccine loon Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. tore into Thorsen with abandon before he was even indicted or charged (he was only under investigation at the time) as though, even if he actually did commit fraud, such fraud in any way invalidated the two large studies with which he had been involved. As I pointed out at the time, Thorsen was not a major player in these studies. He was not the first author (usually the one who did the most for the study and is the corresponding author). He was not the last author (usually the senior author in whose laboratory or under whose funding the study was carried out). He was in the middle of the pack of authors for both studies, which places him clearly as not being the primary author or investigator for either of these studies. For both articles the primary author was Kreesten M. Madsen, MD, who was both first and corresponding author for both studies. Of course, if studies this large really were Thorsen’s babies you can bet that his name would not have been relegated to fourth or sixth on the list of authors in either study. Basically, Thorsen’s position in the author lists of these two papers indicates that, whatever leadership position he may have held at Aarhus University and in its vaccine studies group, he clearly was not the primary contributor for these studies, and they were not his studies primarily.

In the wake of the commencement of an investigation of Poul Thorsen, not surprisingly the anti-vaccine movement struggled mightily to elevate him to being the prime mover and shaker of the Danish studies. The reason was obvious: They wanted to discredit “inconvenient” studies that did not support their belief that mercury in vaccines causes autism. I was an ad hominem attack, plain and simple, because the primary argument was not against the data or the studies, but against the man. It’s a form of poisoning the well or guilt by association. It’s the same thing as if I were to point to physicians who have defrauded Medicare or insurance companies and argue that all science-based medicine is thus somehow suspect. Unfortunately, this sort of tactic frequently works–which is why propagandists without moral qualms about smearing their opponents frequently use it.

It’s also why, when I saw this article last night, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before Age of Autism and other anti-vaccine minions would be swarming. And it wasn’t. The anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism was on it within a couple of hours after the stories started appearing. You’ll see why from this excerpt:

A Danish man was indicted Wednesday on charges of wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly concocting a scheme to steal more than $1 million in autism research money from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The indictment charges Poul Thorsen, 49, with 13 counts of wire fraud and nine counts of money laundering. The wire fraud counts each carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and the money laundering counts each carry a maximum of 10 years in prison, with a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

The federal government also seeks forfeiture of all property derived from the alleged offenses, including an Atlanta residence, two cars and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

This is how Thorsen is accused of having done it:

Once in Denmark, THORSEN allegedly began stealing the grant money by submitting fraudulent documents to have expenses supposedly related to the Danish studies be paid with the grant money. He provided the documents to the Danish government, and to Aarhus University and Odense University Hospital, where scientists performed research under the grant. From February 2004 through June 2008, THORSEN allegedly submitted over a dozen fraudulent invoices, purportedly signed by a laboratory section chief at the CDC, for reimbursement of expenses that THORSEN claimed were incurred in connection with the CDC grant. The invoices falsely claimed that a CDC laboratory had performed work and was owed grant money. Based on these invoices, Aarhus University, where THORSEN also held a faculty position, transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to bank accounts held at the CDC Federal Credit Union in Atlanta, accounts which Aarhus University believed belonged to the CDC. In truth, the CDC Federal Credit Union accounts were personal accounts held by THORSEN. After the money was transferred, THORSEN allegedly withdrew it for his own personal use, buying a home in Atlanta, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and Audi and Honda vehicles, and obtaining numerous cashier’s checks, from the fraud proceeds. THORSEN allegedly absconded with over $1 million from the scheme.

If Thorsen is convicted, I have no problem saying unequivocally that he should go to prison for a long time. As was pointed out in this Reuters story about the indictment, research dollars are a precious commodity. In fact, with the recent budget battles and cuts in Washington, government research grants haven’t been this hard to come by for 20 years, and there’s no sign of improvement in the situation in sight; it will likely be several years before things get better, if they ever get better at all. So, I’m as pissed off as anyone to see a researcher abuse research funds by, if the indictment is correct, buying a home and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Of course, having had to deal with the bureaucracy that oversees my grants, I really don’t understand how it is even possible to buy a house and a Harley using grant funds. Every major expenditure (for me, at least) is closely tracked and matched to the approved budget. I can’t even envision how, even if I wanted to try to misuse grant funds, I could even find a way to do it. I really can’t. To me, if Thorsen really did abuse his research funds this way, it points to a serious accounting and oversight problem in his university that allowed such chicanery to occur.

Be that as it may, reading between the lines I do find one bit of information that might explain some things about the Danish studies. Madsen was the first and corresponding author, but it’s pointed out that Thorsen became principal investigator of the CDC grant in 2002. That doesn’t help AoA at all, though. I went and looked up the two articles again:

The NEJM article lists its funding sources as:

Supported by grants from the Danish National Research Foundation; the National Vaccine Program Office and National Immunization Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the National Alliance for Autism Research.

This article was, however, published in November 2002. Given that it takes months, sometimes even a year or more, for a manuscript to go from submission to publication, this work had almost certainly been completed and was in the publication pipeline before Thorsen took over as principal investigator of the CDC grant. The pediatrics paper, which was published after Thorsen went back to Denmark, lists its funding thusly:

The activities of the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre and the National Centre for Register-Based Research are funded by a grant from the Danish National Research Foundation. This study was supported by the Stanley Medical Research Institute. No funding sources were involved in the study design.

That’s right. The Pediatrics thimerosal study was not even funded by the CDC! Even if it were, given that large epidemiological studies take years to carry out, it probably was in the last leg of its analysis when Thorsen showed up anyway. Even worse for the “guilt by association” crowd, all of the fraudulent charges to the grant are alleged to have occurred between 2004 and 2008, as described above–well after the Danish studies were published.

Of course, none of this stops the merry band of anti-vaccine loons over at AoA from opining:

We have written several articles about Dr. Poul Thorsen (4th from the left in the back row with his CDC colleagues), whose research known as “The Danish Study” is quoted extensively to “debunk” the autism vaccine connection. The mainstream media was silent when he disappeared. Here are some of the posts we’ve run on the topic along with today’s article in the Atlanta Bizjournals below. Will they give Thorsen “the Wakefield treatment” now, or have they been given their marching orders to look the other way?

Talk about flaming, supernova-grade stupid! Thorsen has already been treated far more harshly than Wakefield ever was! He’s been indicted on criminal charges; all that happened to Wakefield is that he was struck off the register of licensed UK physicians, and then only after a ridiculously long (two and a half year) hearing by the British General Medical Council. He just had a couple of his papers retracted, the most prominent of which being the Lancet paper from 1998 for which strong evidence was found that he had falsified data. In the meantime, he had moved to Texas to make big bucks applying his woo to autistic children, at least until the scandal led even his friends kick him out of the practice. Thorsen faces decades in prison if convicted of these crimes.

My guess right now is that Thorsen is praying for “the Wakefield treatment.” It was so much less harsh than what he faces if he is convicted of defrauding the federal government. My other guess is that Thorsen would gladly take the “Wakefield treatment” over the possibility of 20+ years in a federal prison.

Finally, it can’t be reiterated enough that these fraud charges have nothing at all to do with the scientific validity of the Danish studies. Over the next week and during the trial, you can count on propagandists at AoA to try to use this case to try to convince people that the Danish studies are somehow hopelessly tainted, even though Thorsen actually didn’t contribute much to them, and that, by association, all the evidence that supports the safety of vaccines can also now be brought into question.

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.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

142 replies on “Danish investigator Poul Thorsen: Custom-made for the anti-vaccine movement to distract from inconvenient science”

I will never be able to get this question in over at AoA after my permanent banning from there by Kimmie Stagmom. So I’ll ask it here:

If Thorsen is to be given the “Wakefield treatment”, is that an acceptance that Wakefield is a fraud and should be facing criminal charges for his actions?

Just askin’, as the kids say.

He stole over $1million in autism research money.

Is anyone mad at him? Anyone? Do you even care? More concerned with the vaccine image and how it looks to joe public?

What about all those people who want to shut down vaccine/autism research. They claim that limited resources are wasted that could be spent on finding a “cure” or other causes. Any of those resource sensitive people angry? Why not?

The wasted resource canard has been invoked. Speak up.

Oh, you don’t really care about autism or vaccine victims do you? You just care about the protection of the mass vaccination program.

I’ll just assume he’s not the only dishonest scientist who lacks integrity. I’ve seen no scientific evidence that scientists are more honest and ethical than any other profession. And I’ll assume this is not the only ongoing case of researchers bilking the federal taxpayers out of their money. And I’ll also assume that it has happened in the past with people NEVER getting caught.

But remember. Don’t trust the scientist. He may let you down. Trust his numbers. Numbers can’t lie.

@little augie: OK. You just proved you have NO reading comprehension. What part of

If Thorsen is convicted, I have no problem saying unequivocally that he should go to prison for a long time. As was pointed out in this Reuters story about the indictment, research dollars are a precious commodity. In fact, with the recent budget battles and cuts in Washington, government research grants haven’t been this hard to come by for 20 years, and there’s no sign of improvement in the situation in sight; it will likely be several years before things get better, if they ever get better at all. So, I’m as pissed off as anyone to see a researcher abuse research funds by, if the indictment is correct, buying a home and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

don’t you understand? (bolding mine)

Are we mad at him for embezzlement? Yes. Infuriated. Does it invalidate the research that was done? No, because he had little or nothing to do with the actual research anyway.

Thorsen only diverted $1 million. How much did Wakefield cause to be wasted by researchers trying to duplicate his fraud? How many children died from Thorsen’s theft of $1 million? Multiple children have died from vaccine preventable injuries after Wakefield created a panic with his fraudulent publications.

More “flaming, super-nova grade stupid” ( @ AoA, 4/13/11)

NJ’s own LKH (NJCVC)appeared on the John Gambling Radio Show ( 4/12/11; w/ guest host, former NY governor, David Patterson, on tape @ AoA). This radio station is heard all over metro NY- illustrating how woo gets circulated around like air pollution.

The host was sympathetic and cited “experts” like Null who “warned us” about vaccines decades ago. The guest was, unfortunately, just pathetic, citing every time-worn anti-vax trope you’ve ever heard in *record time*- and shilling her book. I listened for about 13 minutes: even *I* have limits.

Innocent until proven guilty – regardless of his profession.

I’ll get just as upset the moment you lamblast Andrew Wakefield for his fraud.

Deal?

Umm, Dr. Wakefield didn’t commit “fraud” and all the posturing, twisting of facts, bias from Brian Deer and pharma connections and false indignance the GMC and BMJ tried to throw at him didn’t amount to an actual crime worth any time, never mind the “Wakefield treatment.” Hopefully Thorsen is investigated fully and gets what he deserves. His co-author’s shitty study may or may not be dragged into question but that is a separate matter.

dedjilusue:

Thorsen only diverted $1 million. How much did Wakefield cause to be wasted by researchers trying to duplicate his fraud?

I don’t know? Do you? How much? How much of it was federal money?

How many children died from Thorsen’s theft of $1 million?

How many died as a result of Dr. Wakefield’s publication. Citations. You’re not too bright are you?

Multiple children have died from vaccine preventable injuries after Wakefield created a panic with his fraudulent publications.

Non sequitur.

Uh, you’re are confusing correlation with causation. You know, that overused saying that technology based medicine people are fond of.

Just for shits and giggles I’d like for you to scientifically prove that any died as a result of Dr. Wakefields publication. More people died of measles in the 10 year period before his publication than in the period after his publication.

I wonder what part of “studies published in 2002” and “Thorsen embezzlement took place in 2004-2008” the ugh troll is having trouble understanding.

Jen – you really are dim aren’t you? When medical fraud is committed, it can be referred to the criminal courts if warranted (if a person or persons suffered injury or death), but is also handled primarily by the medical boards – hence either the suspension or revocation of a license to practice.

Wakefield was found guilty through a thoroughly vetted process & then he decided not to appeal, even though that was his right – wonder why that was?

If Thoreson is guilty – so be it & he’ll get what he deserves. But you are a two-faced hypocrite by not holding your own “demigod” to the same standards.

I’ll just assume he’s not the only dishonest scientist who lacks integrity. I’ve seen no scientific evidence that scientists are more honest and ethical than any other profession. And I’ll assume this is not the only ongoing case of researchers bilking the federal taxpayers out of their money. And I’ll also assume that it has happened in the past with people NEVER getting caught.

I’m surprised to hear myself saying it, but I actually agree with all of this. But I don’t see the relevance.

If Thorsen is found guilty, hell yes I’ll be pissed off at him. With research dollars as precious as they are, his actions, if true, are unconscionable. He should definitely be punished if guilty.

That said, even if the claims against him are true, they have no direct bearing on the research of which he was a part. Anti-vaccine types, however, will likely argue that since he was dishonest in this regard, in what other things was he dishonest? While a reasonable question to ask, without any evidence, it is merely, as Orac points out, poisoning the well.

If anyone wants to say that Thorsen was dishonest in his science, then provide evidence to that effect.

Oh, and for the record, Jen, what do you call making up data, intentionally changing data, purposefully leaving out inconvenient data (negative PCRs, too great a time between vaccine and symptoms, etc.) and misrepresenting the data if not scientific fraud?

Oh, and for the record, Jen, what do you call making up data, intentionally changing data, purposefully leaving out inconvenient data (negative PCRs, too great a time between vaccine and symptoms, etc.) and misrepresenting the data if not scientific fraud?

My guess is either: 1) “Trumped-up charges with fake evidence intended to silence the lone voice of Truth”; or 2) “Merely a temporary lapse in judgment, having no bearing on the Truth of the cause”; or 3) “I worship at the feet of Saint Andy and he can do no wrong.”

http://www.drugs.com/clinical_trials/pharmaceutical-ghostwriting-trend-mars-credibility-research-negatively-impacts-patient-safety-4014.html

“Ghostwriting was also integral in generating positive reports on Neurontin, Zoloft, Paxil, and Fen Phen, all drugs which were later found to have undisclosed or underreported side effects.”

“Ghosts in the Machine details the ways in which ghostwriting harms patients, including: influencing physician prescribing habits using inaccurate or incomplete data, suppressing negative data from less successful clinical trials, manipulating results by selective reporting of data, creating a demand for off-label uses for drugs and identifying “new” diseases (designed to support sales of a specific prescription) and their miracle therapies.”

Of course none of this really happened because SBMers have an ideology that pharma science is “science” based medicine. And that doctors are “science” based medicine trained. Their reality is the ONLY reality so it just never happened because it couldn’t have happened.

Merck did this with Vioxx. Are you absolutely certain they didn’t do this within their vaccine division. Can you assure the public that the vaccine division, which has a revolving door with government, has better integrity than it’s other units?

Ok let’s do a body count. How many did these drugs kill? How many did Dr. Wakefield kill?

If you were truly concerned about human lives and not about your ideology then their would be no question as to who is the fraud.

So let me get this straight – you don’t have a problem with Wakefield conducting fraudulent research?

Two can play at this game –

Since Wakefield has been found guilty of “cooking the books” on his research, I can only conclude that all anti-vaccination activists are unethical and also guilty of the same or similar fraudulent behaviors, at all times and in every single circumstance.

Let’s also ask: How many people benefit from drugs? How many people benefited from Wakefield’s fraud? (Excluding the quacks who victimized autistic people and their parent by charging them for useless/dangerous treatments.)

Jen:

Umm, Dr. Wakefield didn’t commit “fraud”

Even if he didn’t commit fraud in doing the research, the now retracted paper was just a case series of a dozen children, and actually states that no association was found. The first hint of fraud was at the press conference where Wakefield said that the MMR (a vaccine that had been used in the USA for almost thirty years) should not be used and the vaccines be split up when he had no evidence to support that statement.

It is fraud to claim something from a paper that is not written in the paper.

Jen again says:

His co-author’s shitty study may or may not be dragged into question but that is a separate matter.

Please provide evidence of that assessment of those studies from a qualified source. Opinions by MBAs do not count. Thank you.

If there’s one thing about the anti-vaccine movement, it’s all about the ad hominem. Failing to win on science, clinical trials, epidemiology, and other objective evidence, inevitably anti-vaccine propagandists fall back on attacking the person instead of the evidence.

Never a truer word said. I commented on the Age of Autism blog yesterday and one of the first comments in response was someone asking me if I was the James Cole who worked for Maxam Neutraceutics. (I’m not.)

Someone else (earlier on) in the same comments section had claimed that the person who had made a BBC documentary that covered Wakefield’s MMR hoax was linked to Rupert Murdoch.

The fact that this person had written just one article for a publication that Murdoch had sold four years previously didn’t seem to trouble them. Blogged here: http://jdc325.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/anti-vaccinationists-competing-interests-and-conspiracy-theories/

In my experience, the claims of anti-vaccine campaigners to have uncovered competing interests usually relate to interests that are (a) extremely tenuous or (b) non-existent.

The first hint of fraud was at the press conference where Wakefield said that the MMR (a vaccine that had been used in the USA for almost thirty years) should not be used and the vaccines be split up when he had no evidence to support that statement.

Bear in mind that he had a patent on a single measles vaccine (and it was the measles component that he thought caused autism). And he was being paid by lawyers to prove that vaccines caused autism at the time. And he had a deal to supply machines to test for GI abnormalities to hospitals across Britain (which would be in greater demand, if someone were to claim that the MMR vaccine interacted with GI problems to cause autism)…

The fact that he stood to become very rich by getting the results he got seem… convenient, no?

“Two can play at this game -”

Larry, you need to talk to antifax.flurf.net about your strawmen. You’re playing the wrong game.

Let’s also ask: How many people benefit from drugs?

Are you trying to divert attention away from pharmaceutical fraud and death cover up by rationalizing a benefit vs. risk ratio? That is very congruent with the mindset a mass vaccination proponent. Always trying to sweep the deaths under the rug in the name of greater good. Doesn’t feel so evil that way does it.

Are you trying to divert attention away from pharmaceutical fraud and death cover up by rationalizing a benefit vs. risk ratio? That is very congruent with the mindset a mass vaccination proponent. Always trying to sweep the deaths under the rug in the name of greater good. Doesn’t feel so evil that way does it.

Whereas you are trying to sweep all the deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases under the rug in the name of a lesser good.

“Sure, I may have caused tens of thousands of deaths from measles and polio, but I stopped that one guy from having a slightly sore arm!”

wintermute:

Bear in mind that he had a patent on a single measles vaccine (and it was the measles component that he thought caused autism). And he was being paid by lawyers to prove that vaccines caused autism at the time.

Except that was not known at the time of the press conference announcing the paper. The big hint that something was not kosher was when he was making a statement not supported by the paper.

Thought you’d bow out less than gracefully on that – so you’re rationalizing Wakefield’s fraud? So, it’s okay – just so long as he or his ilk does it, right?

Nice to have you finally admit that you’re all for shoddy science.

Augustine: the $750’000 that Wakefield cashed in from the UK lawyers were from the Legal Aid fund as far as we know. That would be ALL “federal” money that could have gone to worthy law suits.

But I think we don’t really get anywhere comparing Wakefield with Thorsen. Wakefield was PAID to “find” results supporting frivolous law suits against vaccine manufacturers. If allegations against Thorsen are correct, he is just a thief. That is a huge qualitative difference.

Does the indictment not state quite clearly that he stole DANISH money by falsifying invoices from the CDC? The crime happened in Atlanta because that was where he carried out the crime? It sounds like quite an elaborate scheme and I would be interested to know where he got the reports and results from the CDC which he submitted against the invoices. Did he fake them or just take data from the CDC, already paid for, relable it, and submit it?

James Cole

Someone else (earlier on) in the same comments section had claimed that the person who had made a BBC documentary that covered Wakefield’s MMR hoax was linked to Rupert Murdoch.

Fun fact. There’s no point playing the game “six degrees of Rupert Murdoch” because everyone who ever bought, sold or was paid to do anything gets back to him in four or less. He owns shares in everything.

For example, “That sleeping cat that fell down became famous using video sharing technology owned by a media company partially owned by Rupert Murdoch! Shill!”

winterminute

Whereas you are trying to sweep all the deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases under the rug in the name of a lesser good.

Are all deaths from “vaccine preventable diseases(propaganda term)” actually vaccine preventable?

Take influenza for example. Tell me what you think about that. There are some major holes in that vaccine propaganda campaign, but the modus operandi is the same in spite of the glaring weaknesses.

Okay – let’s try this again:

Take Smallpox for example – a disease that killed more humans in recorded history than all wars combined.

So, you’re saying you’d be fine if it was still around. You’re also saying you’re fine with Wakefield’s fraud.

Pro-disease, pro-fraud – thanks for clearing that up.

Are all deaths from “vaccine preventable diseases(propaganda term)” actually vaccine preventable?

Take influenza for example. Tell me what you think about that. There are some major holes in that vaccine propaganda campaign, but the modus operandi is the same in spite of the glaring weaknesses.

I think this comes down to a matter of semantics. No, a vaccine won’t reduce the death rate from a vaccine preventable disease to zero, so not all deaths are preventable by vaccine. But we know that use of the vaccine (and, yes, this includes the influenza vaccines) reduces them by a lot.

Durning an influenza outbreak, once you adjust for age, prior health and other factors that can skew the results, you find that people who have not been vaccinated against the current strain are far more likely to die than those who have been. And when the vaccinated do get infected, it frequently seems to be an unvaccinated carrier that gave it to them, so that (even though I make sure my shots, and my kids’ shots are up to date) it makes sense for me to encourage those around me to also get vaccinated.

Does that answer your question?

Durning an influenza outbreak, once you adjust for age, prior health and other factors that can skew the results, you find that people who have not been vaccinated against the current strain are far more likely to die than those who have been.

Citations?

And when the vaccinated do get infected, it frequently seems to be an unvaccinated carrier that gave it to them,

again, citations?

I’m at work right now, and can’t provide citations immediately, but I’ll try and get them for you when I get home, if someone doesn’t beat me to it.

But I will note that you asked for my thoughts on the subject, not for science facts. Granting, for the moment, that my thoughts might not be in accordance with evidentiary data, do you have anything to add?

AND, once again, little augie goes off with ad hominems and straw men and doesn’t address my comment. But that’s OK because we already know augie can’t deal with facts. He’s so sure that we would defend someone accused of theft because we attack his god who was PROVEN to have given fraudulent results. You are wrong, augie.

@Jen: don’t you ever give up? Wakefield’s fraud was proven and his license was removed. If Andy had honestly felt he’d had a bum rap, he would have appealed instead of running away. Point out ONE place where Orac, or any of us have defended medical fraud. And remember, fraud is knowingly lying about results. NOT mistakes that occur. NOT information figured out later (unless that information is hidden away). We don’t defend Wakefield because he LIED about his results. There were no leaky guts,no measles in the gut, and no kids who “overnight” developed autism from the MMR (which, recall, has NEVER contained thimerosal).

Wakefield lied about his data, therefore he has committed scientific fraud. Thorson supposedly stole money. While it may have made the funds unavailable for the research (which was OVER by the time he did the supposed theft, remember), it does NOT change the results of the studies in which he is a named author.

augustine always asks for citations. But he never gives any. Or if he does, it’s usually from biased sources. Isn’t that unfair? Why doesn’t he ever give citations from some place like Nature or Scientific American? Of course, he normally just gives out opinion and plays the conspiracy gamble. Guess you can’t cite fiction.

But I will note that you asked for my thoughts on the subject, not for science facts.

Well you’ve clarified then. It was your opinion. No need to hunt for something that doesn’t exist.

The main difference between the Thorsen studies and the Wakefield studies is….Thorsen was right. His team’s work was replicated. Andrew Wakefield’s studies have not. Wakefield’s assertions that MMR was related to autism, made in the video at his press conference, wasn’t even supported by his own data–even if it wasn’t fraudulent.

Wakefield got off with losing a license even he admitted he didn’t need.

Am I angry at Poul Thorsen? Assuming he is guilty, I am furious at him.

I await AoA applying “The Thorsen Treatment” to Andrew Wakefield. I expect to wait a long time.

@38 augie

Is that why you never bother looking for anything supporting what you say here?

Well you’ve clarified then. It was your opinion. No need to hunt for something that doesn’t exist.

Just because I can’t immediately verify that my opinion id correct doesn’t mean that it isn’t. At the very least, I’m convinced that supporting my first point will be trivial; the second one is based more on anecdotal data, and I’m less confident about it, but it’ll still be worth looking for, just so we know either way.

Of course, feel free to provide counter-evidence, sugesting that the flu vaccine does not reduce the rate of infection, serious side-effects or death from flu. If you’re right, it’ll be easy for you to find the evidence, right?

Of course, feel free to provide counter-evidence, sugesting that the flu vaccine does not reduce the rate of infection, serious side-effects or death from flu.

http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab001269.html

“Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.”

“The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies.”

http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab004876.html

“Due to the general low quality of non-RCTs and the likely presence of biases, which make interpretation of these data difficult and any firm conclusions potentially misleading, we were unable to reach clear conclusions about the effects of the vaccines in the elderly.”

http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab005187.html

“We conclude there is no evidence that vaccinating HCWs prevents influenza in elderly residents in LTCFs.”

Augie, ever heard of Google Scholar? Google Scholar ‘Influenza vaccination rates study’. Over 56,000 articles come up.

First page, this nice study comes up: Hak et al (2005) http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/165/3/274, based on a study of >75,000 people.

“Conclusion: Persons with high-risk medical conditions of any age can substantially benefit from annual influenza vaccination during an epidemic.”

By ‘substanstantially benefit’, they include not dying.

Google Scholar is free to use, and links to all paper abstracts. Go on, give it a whirl.

Antifax.flurfer.net

Heh, I figured augustine would cite Cochrane reviews.

And…??? What’s the problem? Do you have a problem with cochrane? Is this just a simple ad hominem because you have no substance to counter with?

What’s wrong with Cochrane reviews? I’ve looked for some kind of controversy and I haven’t turned anything up.

@Todd W,

Given the apparent philosophical leanings of the current crop of influenza reviewers at Cochrane, that’s not surprising.

Since in augustine’s reasoning, even one negative outcome from a positive intervention (i.e. vaccination) is worse than the thousands of negative outcomes that would have occurred if that intervention had not been used, it is probably (another word augustine does not understand) hopeless to try to reason with him. But, it is still useful for the benefit of people on the fence who come here looking for information.

Actually, just getting augustine to cite published medical literature is a major achievement.

I was pretty sure I had read a recent blog post pointing out that the studies cited by augustine were limited to cases where the net benefit was minimal and set aside all the other cases where the benefit was much more significant.

I didn’t find one, although I did find one Cochrane review, Vaccines for prophylaxis of viral infections in patients with hematological malignancies, by Cheuk DKL, Chiang AKS, Lee TL, Chan GCF, Ha SY, which noted that:

Inactivated influenza vaccine might reduce upper and lower respiratory infections and hospitalization in adults with multiple myeloma who are undergoing chemotherapy, or children with leukemia or lymphoma within two years post-chemotherapy.

The closest I could come was Dr Mark Crislip’s October review of a February 2010 update of augustine’s third link.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=7714#more-7714

I noted that he disagrees with their conclusions.

While noting that “pooled data from three C-RCTs showed reduced all-cause mortality in individuals >/= 60.”, they go on to say “The key interest is preventing laboratory-proven influenza in individuals >/= 60, pneumonia and deaths from pneumonia, and we cannot draw such conclusions.” No, it is not the key interest. Most deaths from influenza are secondary deaths from exacerbation of underlying medical problems. All-cause mortality is an important endpoint, especially if you are the one dying.

I also thought the following quote describes augustine (and a few of our other favorite trolls) quite well:

I get the sense that those who rail against the morbidity and mortality of modern medicine are the same who would decry mandatory vaccination, even though it would improve the safety in the hospital that they so fret about.

More of a lurker than a particpant, but still an interested reader,

SquirrelElite

Mark Crislip at SBM indicates there may be some issues with Cochrane flu reviews.

Some of Mark’s best supporting links are in the comments.

Todd W. may have additional suggestions as to why Cochrane flu reviews may be less than stellar support for the troll’s claims.

@augustine,

Q1, “And…??? ” doesn’t even count.

Q2, “What’s the problem?” is merely rhetorical.

For Q3, “Do you have a problem with cochrane?”, try reading my previous comment. Better yet, do a search on Cochrane at Science-Based Medicine and read a lot of the articles.

The Cochrane Reviews are the current epitome or at least the most publicly visible exemplar of Evidence-Based Medicine, which places randomized controlled trials at the highest level of evidence. The problem with that is that it places well established science at a much lower value level, not much above mere anecdotes and suppositions. The result is a lot of reviews of scientifically dubious interventions like homeopathy and acupuncture that can only conclude, to borrow from one of your sources, “High quality RCTs are required”.

Science Based Medicine attempts to address this weakness by giving more weight to well established science.

Q4, “Is this just a simple ad hominem because you have no substance to counter with?” perfectly describes about 90% of your comments.

It is often claimed that CDC wanted the early vaccine-autism studies to come out a certain way. If they were paying for results, Thorsen wouldn’t have needed to embezzle.

Augie is constantly cherry-picking that same Cochrane Reivew about Long Term Care Facilities Residents. This time he omitted an important word, which I have added for clarity and which changes the entire meaning of the sentence.

“We conclude that there is no evidence that ONLY vaccinating HCWs prevents influenza in elderly residents in LTCFs.”

The sentence following the sentence that Augie misquoted… then states that other interventions such as hand washing, masks, early detection through testing of nasal swabs, anti-virals, quarantine, restricting visitors and asking health care workers with influenza-like illnesses to not attend work might protect individuals over age 60 in Long Term Care Facilities.

Augie, you cherry-picked this same article a few days ago and I provided you with an article from the MMWR that documented that the “other interventions” mentioned by Cochrane, really do work in Long Term Care Facilities:

MMWR January 29, 2010 Outbreak of 2009 Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) Among Long Term Care Facility Residents

The MMWR article details outbreaks in three states (Colorado, Maine, New York) in large long term care facilities where every recommendation as detailed in the Cochrane Review to contain an outbreak of influenza was implemented, from first diagnosis of a case to last diagnosis of a case.

Colorado: contained within 10 days

Maine: contained within 5 days

New York: contained within 9 days

Augie, stop cherry-picking, stop deliberating misquoting and stop re-posting your cherry-picked deliberately misquoted citations.

Whenever someone with anti-vaccine leanings questions the efficacy of vaccines, they inevitably focus on the influenza vaccine (admittedly one of the weaker vaccines, but that’s dependent on how well it matches in any particular year and what is the uptake rate of the vaccine) and for evidence they always cite Cochrane Reviews.

Squirrelelite already beat me to the punch on the reviews. While they do make some valid points, they also have some shortcomings, as noted by Mark Crislip over at SBM.

Thanks, lilady,

It was probably your response that I was thinking of and looking for.

I also noticed the “only” word being omitted in augustine’s misquote, but forgot to mention it.

Thanks guys, I do a lot of research so I’m always looking for ways to add to my abilities to get quality information. I really appreciate your pointers and answers.

Wakefield vs. Thorsen? Are you f*cking joking? Parents of children, falsly labeled as autistic, kept bringing theie kids to Wakefield because of their extreme GI dstress. He just happened to confirm their worst fears, iatrogenic injury. Thorsen? He’s a f*cking crook. A fraud of the worst kind. He’d make a good politician. Maybe he could go to work for AAP.

Wow Polly – I can’t imagine how all of those Wakefield supporters were so mistaken about his stance regarding vaccines & autism….so the whole thing was just some giant misunderstanding?

Glad you cleared that up – now you just need to go tell the rest of the Wakeheads that they can go home now, right?

Of course, I’ll be holding my breath that any of our resident trolls will take you to task for denying their core belief.

Thorsen padded his expense account…nothing more and nothing compared to Andy’s fraudulent “research” and Andy’s conflicts of interest (developing of a single antigen vaccine and “hired gun” professional “witness”) to enable parents to score big time money from vaccine manufacturers.

Andy never presented any evidence to the British General Medical Council before the Council “struck him from the register”. He could have asked for additional time to mount a defense of the charges, but didn’t. From a distance now, in the United States, he has launched invectives against the Council… against vaccine manufacturers…against the Lancet…against the BMJ…against Brian Deer, yet has failed to appeal the decision of the Council.

Polly, why don’t you fund-raise for Andy and his family to enable him to return to the U.K. to appeal the decision of the Council?

I’ll just assume he’s not the only dishonest scientist who lacks integrity.

It would be safe to assume that all dishonest scientists lack integrity. Andrew Wakefield would be one example.

Anyone else seen a big, page-covering “click here to answer this survey” box show up on the blog?

squirrel

Given the apparent philosophical leanings of the current crop of influenza reviewers at Cochrane, that’s not surprising.

There can’t be philosophy. Only data. Right, science bloggers?

Nurse Barney Fife (aka lilady),

This isn’t about Dr. Wakefield. It’s about pro vaccine researcher Paul Thorsen. Did he f#$K up or not?

No amount of Dr. Wakefield talk will help you answer that question.

It strikes me that cases like these illustrate precisely why serious scientists ought not to fabricate, falsify, plagiarize, steal, or otherwise break faith with funders, their fellow scientists, and/or the public. Now a paper with Thorsen’s name in the author line (whatever the position) will be subject to extra scrutiny.

That’s not inappropriate: if he was honesty impaired 1n 2004 and caught for it, he may well have been honesty impaired in 2002 or earlier. And, if his coauthors listed him as an author on a paper, presumably they had some level of trust in his contribution to what was published. (If he didn’t actually make a contribution to what was published, listing him as an author would be dishonest.)

Would those coauthors trust Thorsen now? Maybe not so much. And it will certainly be a bother for them that their honest work also gets extra scrutiny because someone they collaborated with turned out to be less committed to playing by the rules.

Ethical conduct: a good strategy to keep the conversation focused on the empirical data!

Well Augie, we won’t know if Thorsen fucked up or not until his trial is over. And even then, we will only know that he fucked up financially, not scientifically. Wakefield was proven to have fucked up both ways.

Orac:

Anyone trying to understand if you are a well-meaning scientist with an opinion or a two-bit shill need only read this piece, it’s pathetic. Over and out, JB

@60: You ask if Poul Thorsen screwed up or not. The answer is, yes, he did. But it had nothing to do with the research in which he was involved. Yes, if the charges are true, he had his hand in the till, badly. But theft is not fraud, and it doesn’t change the research results.

But let me ask you this, pretty much off topic. Why do you always insist on leading with childish insults? Do you really think that helps your argument? What are you trying to accomplish here, and doesn’t that behavior negatively affect your purpose?

I am really surprised that the Danish media has not picked up on this, there is only one older article regarding Poul Thorsen, even though right now there is a media***t storm about another disgrace for the scientific community, namely Milena Penkowa, a neuroscientist who not only pocketed some fund money and money from a neuroscience association she was treasurer of, but faked her research, demonstrated proficiency with photoshop, weaved a tangle of lies, and blamed an innocent student of taking the money. In the older article they, quote the principal authors of both vaccine papers Thorsen was involved in saying that he had no input other than being a reviewer.
Milena was considered a superstar researcher before all this, an icon for women researchers, and she ruined it all for us. Now comes this guy along and feeds the trolls. This makes me so mad.

Well, we’ve definitely confirmed two ethically-challenged individuals through this discussion –

1) Wakefield for his confirmed fraudulent research & methods
2) Boring Troll for omitting key information from cited studies (just the stuff that didn’t support its own warped philosophy)

Thorsen will get his day in court & we’ll see what the results are.

Unlike our resident trolls (and great fly-by-night postings by the wonderful JB) we don’t base our conclusions on “facts not in evidence.”

What an absolute, first class, top of the league scumbag. The abosolute tosser. I really hope he gets lots of time in jail for this.

The journal and co-authors on the papers need to go through his contributions with a fine-toothed comb; cheaters will cheat. Given what this guy is accused of, would you trust him to have run any experiments or analyses he was charged with? I’m certain the final conclusions of the papers will stand given his relative contribution, but let’s not sweep any of this under the carpet. I think we have the right to expect a notice from the publishers outlining exactly what his contribution was, whether it has been verified by the other co-authors, and what the implications are on the final papers.

(OK, so benefit of the doubt, he hasn’t been convicted yet)

the whitterings of the AoA, meh, same old, same old. The body of work points elsewhere, guys, how about helping for a change instead of flogging this particular dead horse?

What an absolute, first class, top of the league scumbag. The abosolute tosser. I really hope he gets lots of time in jail for this.

The journal and co-authors on the papers need to go through his contributions with a fine-toothed comb; cheaters will cheat. Given what this guy is accused of, would you trust him to have run any experiments or analyses he was charged with? I’m certain the final conclusions of the papers will stand given his relative contribution, but let’s not sweep any of this under the carpet. I think we have the right to expect a notice from the publishers outlining exactly what his contribution was, whether it has been verified by the other co-authors, and what the implications are on the final papers.

(OK, so benefit of the doubt, he hasn’t been convicted yet)

the whitterings of the AoA, meh, same old, same old. The body of work points elsewhere, guys, how about helping for a change instead of flogging this particular dead horse?

Handley,

You ought to know pathetic – how’s the RNA Drops cure, the Butter’s stinky goo cure, the chelation cure, or the HBOT cure going these days? I haven’t heard your “neener neener neener, we’re busy curing and your kids are stuck in a pharma/government-induced poison trap” mantra lately.

You ought to know shill – how’s the bathtub chemistry industry treating you these days?

Over and out? Save it for someone who’s actually served.

Quoth Orac,

“If there’s one thing about the anti-vaccine movement, it’s all about the ad hominem.”

And right on cue, here’s JB Handley,

“Anyone trying to understand if you are a well-meaning scientist with an opinion or a two-bit shill need only read this piece, it’s pathetic.”

JB actually said something true. All one does have to do is read Orac’s piece to see that he is a well-meaning scientist with an opinion. Glad you’re finally coming around, JB. Pretty soon, your social skills will be just about middle-school level. Baby steps, JB. Baby steps. We’ll make a pleasant person out of you yet.

If this man took money meant for Autism research he is a despicable scumbag, end of story. But he hasn’t been convicted yet and I don’t know enough about the facts to make a judgment on him (that is why we have “judges”).

Regarding “his” study. I will illustrate: I have an associate who is listed as an author on a study. Do you know what he contributed? He weighed shrimp and recorded weight change over time. If he committed a serious crime some years later, I doubt his shrimp-weighing skills would be called into question.

I don’t defend this man in any way and if he is found guilty nobody could possibly think less of him than l. But it doesn’t call into question the data. This studies findings have been replicated. It’s easy to jump all over this and say ‘everything he touched is tainted!!’ if you disagree with the the data. But if the findings of this study were to support the antivaxers agenda we would hear either crickets or defensiveness.

Why this is even an issue is beyond me. It is a complete non-issue. He is listed as a minor contributor. I have no reason to defend this man, in fact I have every reason to despise him, but the data is not in question.

I’ve said it all along: if we could just establish that someone on the Beagle was smuggling rum, we’d have disproved Darwin’s theory of evolution.

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