The RxISK post on Medications Compromising Covid Infections resonated with many. Its basic premise that many of the drugs we are on might compromise our ability to fight the infection seems close to self-evident. It made a call to the powers that be to ensure that data was collected on the meds that people were also on at the time of death from Covid.
Within the UK and perhaps in most other countries, the people particularly likely to be infected were those in care homes. It is now clear there is likely little if any monitoring of the medicines the men and woman living there were on and almost certainly there will be no follow up on what appears to have been a scandalous lack of “care”.
Some of the responses we received typified the disastrous effects of the specialisation that now characterises medicine with respirologists aghast at the recommendation that the antipsychotics some people might be on should be reviewed. The response conjured up images that to do something like stopping an antipsychotic risked having crazed axe-wielding maniacs running amok, when the typical person taking an antipsychotic is likely to be an elderly woman, living in a care home, who cries out once too often because of discomfort or loneliness.
But the ultimate comment on what has happened to medicine came when we approached the BMJ and the Lancet, with a trimmed down, more academic version of the piece. Both journals are as stuffed full of Covid articles as it is possible to be – add Covid to the title of a Denis the Menace cartoon and you are likely to get published.
But not us or not this.
We didn’t bother with the NEJM because its editor, Jeff Drazen, has in the past called one of us a Research Parasite, and likely would have a similar epithet for the other of us.
So the breaking of the Surgisphere humbling of the Lancet was a moment of sheer delight. Richard Horton, the Lancet editor, had been ranting in the Guardian newspaper for months at the lamentable failure of the British Government to adhere to the science. Ranting self-righteously, as he is prone to do.
Oh, what a come-down to find his castle was built on sand and the tide had Surgisphered him with a Fake Article the Lancet had rushed in unseemly haste to publish. This should demolish any self-respect he could possibly have or the respect in which others might hold him.
Perhaps Dominic Cummings, who is linked to these kind of operations,. was taking revenge and did Horton in. If so, it would be difficult to know whose side to take.
Horton has form here. In early 2005, before a House of Commons Select Committee he laughed at the idea that falsified data could be a problem in medicine or in journals like his – not realising it seems that his journal had been just about to produce scandalous recommendations for using SSRIs for childen – until the media rescued him.
The scandalous article he was just about to publish is one which he would never have accepted had he paid any heed to the series of articles sent to him on the risks of suicide on SSRIs over the previous few years and the fact that the medical literature was back in 2002 increasingly ghostwritten with the harms drugs do buried in his and other journals.
But he rejected all these and told the politicians that Fake literature was nothing much and nothing to be worried about.
Jeff Drazen, the editor of the NEJM, had a similar reaction – under his auspices in response to media queries, the New England Journal maintained that it is not responsible for the integrity of the data sources for the articles it publishes. Oh how sweet to find him also Surgispeared.
The BMJ has been little better, with Richard Smith saying outright he would never publish anything about SSRIs and suicide. He rejected or contributed to the rejection of countless articles in these areas while pontificating about the risks of medical journals becoming a conduit for pharma to launder their clinical trials. He was also responsible for publishing the Beasley et al meta-analysis in 1991, over-riding his reviewer, which saved Prozac, but which was not much more genuine that the Surgisphere article.
More recently, with Elizabeth Loder as research editor, BMJ have published the most astonishingly egregious junk by Lu et al sponsored by the Clay Center – as close to junk as the Surgisphere articles, claiming that SSRIs save lives and Warnings should be removed, while at the same time Loder appeared to be straining every sinew to prevent the publication of Study 329 or other articles about treatment hazards.
So, I have done something unusual and added to my CV in a place of honor the title of an article along with its rejected for publication in the BMJ and Lancet details.
Our leading journals, whose editors commonly portray themselves as or are portrayed by others as fearless, are in fact scared silly to run anything that casts doubt on the desirability of having the entire population swallowing everything they could possibly swallow every day of the week.
For three decades the greatest concentration of Fake News on earth has centred on the drugs a doctor gives their patient. Donald Trump is a johnny-come-lately to the idea of Fake News.
The editors of the New York Times or the Guardian would until recently have been fired for not checking the integrity of the data sources of any articles they run, and publishing the kind of stuff Lancet, NEJM, BMJ and other major journals publish routinely.
Until recently we would have been safer having our clinical trials published in the NYT and Guardian than the NEJM but this too may now be changing – it is increasingly difficult to trust the Guardian, who delighted in breaking the Surgisphere story, in the way we once did.
One of the main reasons to have RxISK and Samizdat is to be able to mention that whaddya know drugs can have side effects and that more and more health services are not the same thing as better healthcare.
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Children Of The Cure: Fear Of Lying
June 10, 2020
Can we read the version they wouldn’t publish?
Dr. David Healy
June 10, 2020
Its just a cleaned up and shortened version of the post. There was nothing controversial added – quite the opposite. We went out of the way to flatten the tone – Kansas flat
June 11, 2020
David I have protracted symptoms from antidepressants and benzodiazepines now for over twelve years. I have also had the protracted ‘long tail’ version of Covid19. What may be of interest is how many of the symptoms are similair. Covid is now being recognised increasingly as a blood vessel disease and I have noticed your hypotheses regarding withdrawal symptoms being blood vessel based. I was beset with neurological symptoms, parasthesia, tremors, seizures, tinnitus, fatigue, weakness, heart and BP problems. Granted I have these but many people report the same.
Regarding medications worsening symptoms I occasionally take Codeine for Arthritis and had to discontinue due to it worsening my breathing so in an older person one can only imagine the huge detrimental effect it would have.
June 11, 2020
There are hundreds of research volunteers being recruited into upteen trials Wonder how rigorously they are screened in the rush to get a product on the market.even if deemed to be in a healthy group as surely at least some will have adverse reactions due to their individual physiology? Would they just be pulled out of the trial and not investigated further? That seemed to happen in some cases in Study 329 -or at least the ones who dropped out weren’t mentioned again. When a vaccine becomes mass produced how would they weed out those who shouldn’t be given it? Could we have a list similar to the one you and Juan drew up ie of things to look out for such as what is in the vaccine not just a fob off bare minimum of info but where to look for more detail;; would we be given a copy of the progress and the results, would we be allowed to add to the dissemination /publication; would we be equal shareholders of the trial not just ‘participants’. Issues of insurance if harmed etc Journals are also getting away with stating that studies are published with inclusion of ‘expert by experience’ or something as vague as ‘patient involvement’ or advice and assistance from particular patient groups in drawing up protocols when these are often massively funded and can be biased . If a vaccine or test is produced, including the thousands of tests which are being used already on a conveyor belt system with no public info as to whether some people have had adverse effects – would you be able to give us some advice as to whether you would accept it yourselves?
June 11, 2020
Unprecidented (sorry) surveillance of those who question;oppose or refuse vaccines Possibly only China could match this level to match this level
Katrina.Megget@googlemail.com for thebmj
Will covid-19 finally vanquish the anti-vaccination movement or will it fuel the fringe community? ….. (biased from the start)
During a pandemic, you might expect everyone to say they want a vaccine—but that’s not what a study of 1000 people in New York over 24-26 April found.
“Only 59% of respondents said they would get a vaccine and only 53% would give it to their children,” says Scott Ratzan, distinguished lecturer at the New York based CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.1Tufts University School of Medicine
A little snipett she left out re distinguished Scott –
Scott C. Ratzan
Clinical Associate Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine
Vice President Global Health, Johnson & Johnson
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives
Dr. Scott C. Ratzan is Vice President, Global Health, Johnson & Johnson. In this role, he is charged with promoting communication, innovation and programs that focus on health literacy and public health policy. He is a pioneer in the areas of health literacy and mHealth communication, having co-authored the definition that serves as the basis for U.S. health literacy
Since the project began in March, Ratzen’s group has asked the question three times, and each time the proportion is low. “It’s concerning. I would have thought numbers would go up. I didn’t expect to see it so negative.”
In their first poll on 27-29 March, 62% said they would have a coronavirus vaccine, with 19% saying they would decline it and 19% unsure. The latest poll, conducted at the start of May, found that 31% would have a vaccine immediately with 48% saying they would if their doctor recommended it; 12% would reject a vaccine outright. Ratzan also asked if they would volunteer for a coronavirus vaccine clinical trial. Just 31% expressed an interest.
He attributes much of the negativity in his surveys around a coronavirus vaccine to a small but incredibly vocal movement. “The anti-vaccination movement is going to make covid-19 more difficult to get under control,” he told The BM
While relatively small, the anti-vaccination movement actively uses social media to amplify its messaging and target people who are unsure about vaccines, particularly parent groups. A study of more than 500 Facebook ads between December 2018 and February 2019 found that 145 featured anti-vaccination sentiment, reaching audiences of between 5000 and 50 000 people. Researchers found that 54% of anti-vaccination ads came from just two organisations: the World Mercury Project and Stop Mandatory Vaccinations.4
Facebook told The BMJ that it rejects ads that include vaccine misinformation and has removed hundreds of thousands of posts containing harmful misinformation relating to covid-19 and a potential vaccine while also directing people to articles with accurate information. Yet despite concerted efforts by social media companies, WHO has “seen anti-covid-19 vaccine sentiment in social media,” says Katherine O’Brien, director of the department of immunization, vaccines, and biologicals at WHO. “We don’t have a vaccine yet and already there is an anti-vaccination voice on it
Fuel to the fire
“Covid-19 will die out before the anti-vaccination movement,” says Barry Bloom, research professor of public health at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Rather than being cowed, he says the movement has been invigorated by the pandemic.
Since the outbreak began, there has been an influx of more extreme views, especially from those who are suspicious of government control, says Dorit Reiss, a law professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law, who monitors the anti-vaccination movement. With vaccine hesitancy at record rates, coupled with economic hardship, scepticism of government, and growing annoyance at lockdown measures, there are opportunities for anti-vaccination campaigners to target those vulnerable to anti-vaccination sentiment, she says.
Reiss is particularly concerned about the fast tracking of vaccines. “The anti-vaccination community will latch on to anything that goes wrong and will use that to create fear. We should expect that.”
Indeed, an analysis of more than three million social media posts a day from January to mid-March 2020 found most comments keen on a vaccine.6 But, says Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, “one of the more dominant concerns is that new covid-19 vaccines will be developed too quickly—that they won’t be safe enough.”
Bloom has no doubt the movement will resist any forced implementation of a covid-19 vaccine. “These are new vaccines, never been used before. There will be lots of possibilities to sow doubt,” he says. A jab based on the measles vaccine—a particular area of hate for the movement—would immediately be a target. Any rush to roll out a new vaccine will be used as ammunition and evidence of a loss of civil liberties. And the movement will not hesitate to point to political corruption and big pharma conspiracies if those with money have priority access when a vaccine becomes available.
This sentiment is reflected in early findings of an 18 month study tracking online conversations and conducting global polls to measure attitudes about the coronavirus. Led by the VCP, one poll in mid-March found around 7% of Britons would decline a covid-19 vaccine if it existed. This dropped to 5% when a second poll was conducted in early April—although this wasn’t a trend in all countries. March polling found 18% of French people would refuse a coronavirus vaccine.
He calls for a vast advocacy campaign led by respected individuals alongside mass screening of social media with harmful misinformation removed.
Getting communication right is critical, says Ratzan. “The pandemic is showing our vulnerabilities when it comes to vaccines and vaccine hesitancy—and it raises the matter of how we protect for future pandemics.
”2 of 5 Responses: one from John Stone and one from a GP – (so if the %48 who would rely on their GP were consulting her – what would they do then?)
Even covid-19 can’t kill the anti-vaccination movement
After a succession of powerful responses to Katrina Megget’s article  I would just like to point out when considering the safety of products how unscientific and prejudicial labels such as “the anti-vaccination movemement” and “misinformation” are . In a correspondence involving Dr Paul Offit last year  some of us remained unsatisfied about the evidence for the existence of double blind placebo safety trials for the routine schedule, but even Dr Offit has criticised the dangerous race for a COVID-19 vaccine warning among other things :
“Even if a vaccine generates antibodies, it does not prove that the vaccine is effective at preventing infection; it only makes it more likely that the vaccine would be effective…Even with the initial trials, we are likely to have scant data on whether older people will mount an immune reaction and be protected…”
Politicians and journalists totemise vaccines but perpetually fail to acknowledge the scientific limits of the technology and the fallibility of institutions (just as they denigrate critics), and there is a real public danger. A prerequisite for having safe, effective products is allowing people to talk about them, and there is no reason why vaccines should not be like anything else.
10 June 2020
Vaccine science and Copernicus
In 1543, ‘De revolutionibus orbium coelestium’, described the heliocentric model of the universe as established by Copernicus (1). The Church objected to the, “false Pythagorean doctrine, altogether contrary to the Holy Scripture,” and issued a decree suspending the work so that the knowledge would not, “creep any further to the prejudice of Catholic truth.”
In 1633 Galileo Galilei was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy for, “following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture”, and was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life (2).
Had the Church been able to prove its point by engaging in objective, scientific discussion rather than relying on a rigid belief system, it might not have had to employ censorship and authoritarianism to establish its superiority in the eyes of the people.
In parallel today, were the vaccine industry and its proponents willing to engage in an unbiassed, evidence-based, scientific discussion with those who question the safety and efficacy of vaccines, they would surely establish the superiority of their position more successfully? One must therefore ask why such an open discussion has not taken place?
Has belief in the safety and efficacy of vaccines now become such an ingrained doctrine that the only course of action open to industry and its supporters is to attempt to denigrate and silence dissenting voices? If so, what does that say about the perception in the eyes of the public of industry’s confidence in its own science?
Book-burning does not seem to be achieving the desired result.