‘WDDTY’ about foot-in-mouth syndrome

(Reblogged with permission from Labcoats Unbuttoned)

I was recently (for a short while) involved in posting on the Facebook page for our favourite magazine, ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’. We’ve talked about this rag before, but since then the ‘war’ between the skeptics and the toilet paper has escalated in spectacular style. Rather than try to document this here, it’s probably best to link to the ‘Master List’ drawn up by Josephine Jones on her blog, which is a comprehensive summary of both the dangerous reporting in the magazine along with responses from consumers and retailers regarding the recent attempts to have their ‘homeopathy for cancer’ issue withdrawn from sale in major supermarkets. It’s a fantastic resource, and worth going through.

Now, I WAS engaged in online debate with some of their fans and readers, but this is sadly past tense. Why so? This is because I, alongside several other skeptics, got banned from the page, with our comments deleted leaving embarrassing threads of people who appear to be talking to themselves. From a magazine that cries ‘FREE SPEECH!’ as soon as anyone does something so pesky as I don’t know, ASKING THEM TO BACK UP THEIR CLAIMS WITH EVIDENCE, this is somewhat hypocritical. Apparently we were deleted for (non-existent) ‘personal attacks’, yet a WDDTY supporter who called me a ‘plebeian wage slave’ remains on the page.

One thing that really struck me when talking to people on the page, was the brainwashed, cult-like mindset of some of their ‘followers’. Homeopaths serving up so-called evidence for their claims: that I expected, but what really saddened me was the hero-worship from the general public, who genuinely seem to believe that Lynne McTaggart and her magazine are spearheading a noble crusade against evil Big Pharma. Never mind the dozens of scientists providing concrete evidence to refute their claims-they must all be being paid to do so. It’s classic conspiracy thinking, and very, very similar to what we saw with the Umlingo juice for HIV. Then, as now, the ludicrous claims are so laughably easy to debunk that it is truly exasperating how some people can be so blind. There is genuine ignorance and there is genuine wickedness, and the irony is that while they dismiss their critics as being in the pay of Big Pharma, they publish articles about vitamin C curing all diseases alongside full-page, paid adverts for vitamins. Hypocrisy? Surely not?.

Sometimes Quacks can be somewhat clever. Ben Goldacre devoted an entire book to the clever and subtle tricks that can be used to mislead when it comes to science and in particular healthcare science. Statistics are tricky, and it’s easy enough to manipulate them so that your average untrained (or even trained) eye glosses over the error. What WDDTY do is on a whole other level. It’s so hilariously botched, so pathetically obvious that you almost have to admire their nerve in keeping a straight face as they spout this crap.

Case in point: the most recent post on their Facebook page (and on Lynne McTaggart’s own social media pages):

OUR ESTIMATES OF HARM FROM HPV VACCINE WAS TOO CONSERVATIVE 

We’ve been attacked for reporting that the HPV vaccine has been linked to 68 deaths, but our figures now seem too conservative.

An issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (July 26, 2013 / 62(29);591-595), the weekly report prepared by the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that between June 2006 and March 2013, the US’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System has received approximately 1671 reports to be exact – of ‘serious’ adverse events occurring in girls who’d received the HPV4 vaccine. 

Reports are classified as ‘serious’ if they include one or more of the following, said the CDC: hospitalization , prolongation of an existing hospitalization , permanent disability, life-threatening illness, or death.

This relates to a previous article Labcoats Unbuttoned did on HPV vaccines  and we mostly dealt with the actual vaccine in that post. I’m bringing this up again to illustrate a point about how not only does this magazine cherry pick, mislead and manipulate, they very simply flat-out LIE, and that is the only way of putting it.

They’ve often been criticised for not posting their references, well here they did, and thus the egg met the face. Their ‘source’ is this CDC report. I thought I’d go through what they are claiming and compare it to what is in the report. ‘1671 reports of serious adverse effects’ – true, but neglecting to mention that this is out of 56 MILLION doses given from June 2006 through March 2013. They actually received 21,194 reports of adverse effects, 92.1% of these were classified as non-serious. These can include things like fainting (common in people with a phobia of needles) through to hives, slight fever, localised redness or swelling, etc. These adverse effects are seen across all vaccines. In the ‘serious’ adverse effects, the most common included headaches, fever, weakness, nausea and vomiting. Now, as we addressed previously, serious side effects are an unfortunate part of any vaccination program. They do occur, at rates which are clearly defined (by this exact sort of report on the available data) and there is no ‘cover up’. Actually, 1 serious adverse event in approximately 35,000 doses is in line with or slightly better than what you would expect for most vaccines. No health intervention comes without risk.

What is crucial is that the risk is balanced by the reward, and here WDDTY have been very sneaky indeed. They’ve splashed their ‘evidence’ with a misleading headline and a negative spin, completely neglecting to mention that actually, the report then goes on to discuss that there is no good evidence the vaccine is unsafe, and makes strong, unambiguous recommendations that we need to improve the current vaccination program to ensure better uptake of the HPV vaccine. Far from supporting their agenda, this report directly contradicts them – WDDTY says the vaccine is dangerous while quoting a report that says more people need to have it.

Here is the crucial paragraph in the document which WDDTY seem to have scrolled past:

‘Approximately 79 million persons in the United States are infected with HPV, and approximately 14 million will become newly infected each year. Some HPV types can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer among women; penile cancer among men; and anal and some oropharyngeal cancers among both men and women. Other HPV types can cause genital warts among both sexes. Each year in the United States, an estimated 26,200 new cancers attributable to HPV occur: 17,400 among females (of which 10,300 are cervical cancer) and 8,800 among males (of which 6,700 are oropharyngeal cancers).’

That is what this vaccine is trying to protect people from. WDDTY, rather than addressing these statistics, choose instead to stick their fingers in their ears and LALALA, claiming that only 4000 new cases are reported every year. Unsure where they got that figure from – I assume they are capable of reading the paragraph above as well as I can. But I’ve given up on expecting better from them. I’m sad, however, that I’m now banned from the page and can’t call them out on their misguided claims and hypocrisy. One of their supporters, having read the report and as expected, become very confused as to why their claims didn’t match their reference, concluded that it was a ‘CDC’cover up, as it contradicted what WDDTY was saying. If that isn’t worshipping at the altar of a dangerous cult, I’m not sure what is, but for now I’ll sit here and wait, either for Lynne to get back to me on Twitter or for someone to magically produce whatever evidence WDDTY are privy to that the CDC are not. On both counts, I think I might be here for a while.