Monday, November 30, 2009

Canada an international disgrace?

A while ago, I read a notion that our minds and our knowledge of world events are very much shaped by the media we are exposed to. I thought this sort of an absurd thing to point out in a day of overwhelming information everywhere you turn. I figured I must be receiving a balanced view of the world through the various channels I follow, be it blogs, Globe and Mail, Google News, etc. etc. Then I found the following articles at the major UK newspaper, the Guardian.

Scientists target Canada over climate change
Canada's image lies in tatters

I knew that Stephen Harper was toying with the notion of not attending the Copenhagen climate talks and that there was some bad blood about this in the international media, but nothing like the above. No calling Canada a "thuggish petro-state" or claiming that the biggest obstacle to a major agreement in Copenhagen is Canada. Any mention of all of this bad press in the Globe and Mail? No. National Post? No.

Not only am I disappointed in the national media I follow, but it just gives me more reason to despise the current group of politicians running this once highly respected nation.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Complete trash

On the tail of my wife's wonderfully concise posting on believing everything you read on the Internet, I've decided to do a nauseatingly verbose case study on the issue. This whole H1N1 paranoia has brought a slew of questions my way. You come to expect this as a pharmacist, and you even get used to dealing with absolutely absurd preconceptions, but nothing on the scale like we're dealing with now.

It didn't surprise me then when I started to receive unsolicited forwards in my e-mail inbox about first the dangers of H1N1 and later the dangers of the vaccine. (It is interesting how the paranoia started out so focused on the disease itself and then quickly morphed into maniacal fear of the vaccine that is the only real way we could fight the disease. How did we do this?)

Friends and family wanted me to evaluate the e-mails and tell me what I thought. Of course, I barely even wanted to give this crap the time of day, so all I said was, "Don't sweat it. It's all crap." But soon that wasn't enough for them. They wanted more. They wanted me to refute the facts (if you can call them that). So here goes. I will now systematically destroy two common e-mails circulating around the world.

1. Keeping cut onions around the house will fend off the flu has done a wonderful job of this one, so I will just point you there.

2. Dr. Russell Blaylock on Swine Flu

If you haven't seen this e-mail yet, I will post it below as I tear apart each point. However, let us first discuss the purported author. As my astute spouse pointed out, it's highly possible this physician never wrote this article. But reading up on him leads me to believe it is equally likely that he did. Among other things he purports that fluoride is the most dangerous substance known to man, aspartame also causes Gulf War Syndrome (more on that later), sucralose (Splenda) is toxic, and aluminum cookware and dental amalgam can kill you. Fantastic. It doesn't matter of course that none of these positions have any scientific support. Anyways, onto the e-mail.

"No one should take this vaccine-it is one of the most dangerous vaccines ever devised. No citation given. I find it ironic that someone who wants everyone to believe him at face value provides no scientific support to back up his arguments. Oh, maybe that's because no such thing exists. Another argument put forth by supporters of all this paranoia is that this vaccine hasn't been sufficiently tested to use on humans. If that's so, how can we legitimately claim it to be dangerous? It contains an immune adjuvant called squalene (MF-59) which has been shown to cause severe autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Again, no citation given. There is no medical evidence linking squalene to multiple sclerosis. Not a single citation in the whole universe of medical literature. What about RA? There are a couple of small rat studies show moderate increases in inflammatory mediators after injection with straight squalene (which does not happen with the vaccine; it's heavily diluted). Even then, the studies show that this increase in inflammation does not lead to arthritis. Plus, not a single human study has been done linking this adjuvant and this condition. I challenge anyone out there to find me proof for this claim. Oh, I almost forgot about lupus. 2 rat studies showed that injection with squalene caused development of lupus autoantibodies. Again, 2 problems here. First, only done on rats. No controlled human trials have linked these two things. Second, just because A increases B and B increases C does not mean A will increase C. The scientific literature is littered with such assumptions that later failed to come to fruition. Drug companies love this one. Because Drug A reduces blood pressure and reducing blood pressure reduces heart attacks, Drug A must reduce heart attacks. Then they do the study and find out that, lo and behold, Drug A, despite producing significant reductions in blood pressure, does NOT prevent heart attacks. Sometimes you even find out it INCREASES heart attacks. So you can't make this logical fallacy.

The newsletter for August covers this and it may not be out yet. I'm not sure what this means. This (squalene) is the vaccine adjuvant that is strongly linked to the Gulf War syndrome (1 study came out in 2000 suggesting a link between squalene and GWS. Since then, subsequent studies which were better designed, have not confirmed this finding and found that no such association exists. One study of Gulf War veterans found that even though "The etiology of Gulf War syndrome remains unknown, [it] should not include squalene antibody status." The previous studies used unsupported and untested assays to test for existence of antibodies against squalene. A 2006 study, using validated assays, found no rise in antisqualene antibodies after injection with squalene adjuvant.) which killed over 10 000 soldiers (Since the Gulf War ended, roughly 11 000 of the roughly 700 000 soldiers deployed have died. This does seem high. However, not all of these deaths have been linked to GWS. Furthermore, squalene has been thoroughly discredited from being linked to GWS. In fact, the original theory that the anthrax vaccine given to soldiers in the Gulf War caused GWS has been killed after it was revealed that the version of the vaccine given didn't even contain squalene. Wonderful. Doesn't it seem much more likely that exposure to sarin and other organophosphate nerve gases that are designed to debilitate enemies caused GWS?) and caused a 200% increase in the fatal disease ALS (Lou Gehreg disease). (This may actually be true. Studies done on Gulf War Veterans developing ALS show an excess incidence of up to 3x, which would correlate to a 200% increase. However, this has not been linked to squalene. Again, the old A=B=C fallacy. Two studies (here and here) have concluded that ALS was likely due to something veterans were exposed to in specific regions of deployment and only during a specific time period.)

This virus H1N1 kills by causing a "cytokine storm", which means that it causes the body's immune system to overreact and that is why it is killing young people and is a mild disease in the elderly. (The elderly have weakened immune systems.) Cytokine storms do exist. It's an overblown immune response to a new pathogenic invader. It was thought to be responsible for many of the deaths of otherwise healthy individuals exposed to the 1918 Spanish Flu and possibly even the 2003 SARS epidemic. However, analysis of reactions to this current strain of flu suggest it does not cause a cytokine storm and really just elicits a reaction similar to seasonal flu. Searches of the medical literature show that cytokine storms may occur in H5N1 influenza (avian flu) but not the current H1N1 strain. Oh, and how does his ridiculous reasoning describe the deaths of very young infants with immature immune systems? This vaccine is a very powerful immune stimulator and carries the real possibility of making the lethality of the virus much greater. First off, this virus isn't that lethal. Second, of course this vaccine is an immune stimulator. That's what it's designed to do. "We're going to inject you with this vaccine now, but it won't stimulate your immune system to do anything. So it's going to be a painful poke for nothing. Enjoy." Plus, this also presumes that this will be a bad thing because H1N1 invokes a cytokine storm, which we already discussed.

One's best protection is vitamin D3...One should take 5000 IU a day now and when the disease begins to spread increase the dose to 15 000 IU a day. Vitamin D may be involved in immune function. This is becoming more clear. However, telling otherwise healthy individuals to consume 5000-15000 IU of Vitamin D a day borders on ridiculous. Recommended daily intake is 1000IU with no more than 2000IU recommended unless an individual is deficient, has rickets or other diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency. He provides no data supporting these doses in boosting immunity. I could not find any. Vitamin D3 modulates the immune reaction, reducing the chance of an overreaction and stimulates the body to produce what are called antimicrobial peptides, which are powerful killers of viruses that does not involve immunity. Antimicrobial peptides do kill viruses. That is true. But the only evidence I could find linking Vitamin D and antimicrobial peptides showed that it might actually REDUCE the production of AMPs. A systematic review of all the information with regards to Vitamin D shows that there is very little support for most of its purported effects, except of course in preventing osteoporosis. This is dose related, which means the higher the dose of Vitamin D3 the better the protection. See above.

Fish oils (the best is Carlson's Norwegian lemon flavored fish oil) also reduce immune overreaction. Any bets on Blaylock owning part of that company? It is true that fish oils may moderate the immune system, but the clinical significance of this is debated. One teaspoon a day should be sufficient. For severe symptoms, one teaspoon twice a day. Where does he get these doses? No citations.

Is this post short? No. Should it be? No. When questions of health and wellness are involved, thorough research and consideration is required to make an informed decision. This does not involve forwarded e-mails, or google searches. It involves trusted sources of reliable scientific information like primary medical literature and trusted medical professionals with a reputation for credible advice and evidence-based practice. The above e-mail satisfies NONE of these criteria.

So do yourself a favor. Decide whichever way you like on whether or not to get the vaccine. But don't include such complete trash in your decision. It'll just make you regret it in the end.

PS-It is true that this vaccine contains trace residual amounts. You know what else has formaldehyde in it at detectable levels above what would be considered trace residual? Drinking water. Get over it. Other things the vaccine contains:

-thimerosal: a mercury derivative; LEGITIMATE scientific discourse has completely discredited any link between thimerosal and autism. As well, there is less mercury in a dose of the vaccine than in a tuna sandwich.
-sodium chloride: salt
-disodium hydrogen phosphate: used commonly in foods; probably a preservative
-potassium dihydrogen phosphate: food additive; preservative
-potassium chloride: common inorganic compound; preservative
-trace egg proteins: vaccines are sometimes produced in chick fibroblast cell cultures; potential for egg protein exposure and anaphylaxis
-trace deoxycholic acid: lipid emulsifier