Monday, May 30, 2011

Autism One: Pick Up Your Police Escort at the Reception Desk

Time to take a trip back to some subject matter that was at the creation of this blog: censorship, autism and anti-vaccination sentiments. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads here regularly that I take these issues rather seriously. Generally speaking, censorship seems to go hand in hand with the anti-vaccination folks within the autism community (and let it just be said that the autism community is very broad, with the anti-vaxers representing a rather small minority, thankfully). Silencing dissent is a favored tactic, as evidenced by the "editorializing" favored by such luminary and (mis-)informative sites as Age of Autism, among others. Where truth and reality rear their ugly heads, there will always be a moderator close at hand to protect their quailing, fragile readers, making such reason-based comments disappear down the memory hole before a single electron hits the screen of an AoA reader.

Should you decide to attend an event organized by those with anti-vaccination notions, be not afraid of having your tender sensibilities bruised, for there will be an ever-so-polite and helpful event organizer to call the police to haul out any suspicious-looking persons. Yes, though they may be mild-mannered and behaving themselves, who knows when they will utter uncomfortable truths? Best to remove them, without any justification, before any charlatans or quacks can be challenged, before any parents, trying their best to cope with a child with a disability about which, frankly, not a great deal is known, can have the scales removed from their eyes and their wallets protected from expensive and utterly useless treatments. Fear not, for brave folks like Teri Arranga will quickly summon hotel security and police to deal with anyone she thinks may pose a threat to your delicate sensibilities.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mark "Castrate 'Em" Geier's License Suspended - Part 2

On April 27, 2011, as you may recall, Dr. Mark Geier's license to practice medicine in the state of Maryland was suspended (PDF). A hearing was scheduled, and on May 12, the MD Board of Physicians upheld its ruling (PDF). I had noted that in addition to his license in Maryland, Dr. Geier also has licenses in California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington.

Well, another state has just suspended his license.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Help! I have Polio!

I thought it was just after effects of exercising. I figured that I would be fine, that I would recover without any ill effects. In fact, I thought that my health would improve a fair bit overall: improve strength and stamina, more flexibility, improved balance. That's what I expected. But then I started doing some research and that's when I found out: I have polio. I mean, I have polio-like symptoms:
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Fatigue
Based on this, I must clearly have polio. I mean, there is no meaningful distinction between "polio" and "polio-like symptoms." A recently published study by Holland, et al. (PDF), in the Pace Environmental Review stated the same thing for autism:
there is no meaningful difference between "autism" and "autism-like symptoms." (p. 493)
Now, there are some who might argue that there is a distinction, medically speaking, between polio and polio-like symptoms, but they are clearly held in the grip of Big PharmaTM. Don't let them fool you. I know I have polio because I have polio-like symptoms. And since there is no meaningful distinction between the terms "polio" and "polio-like symptoms," then the only possible answer is that the cause of my distress is nothing else but polio. I'm sure the folks at Age of Autism will back me up on this one.

So, if you have any of the symptoms above, start planning out your last days, because you, my friend, have polio.
It should go without saying that all of the above is satire. But, just in case someone didn't get it, it's satire! I do not have polio. Do not take any of the above as medical advice. If you have medical questions, ask your doctor instead of going by some faceless text on the internet.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Charges Levied Against Mark and David Geier

On April 27, 2011, the Maryland Board of Physicians issued an order for summary suspension of Dr. Mark Geier's license to practice in that state. He was investigated for prescribing Lupron to children with autism, using an unapproved chelating drug, keeping inadequate and incomplete patient records, inappropriately and incorrectly diagnosing patients and so on. Dr. Geier tried and failed to persuade the board to restore his license at a hearing on May 11, 2011. On May 12, the board issued an Order for the Continuation of Summary Suspension for Medical License, meaning that Dr. Geier's license is still suspended. He has until May 22 to file a written appeal.

In the original order, it was also mentioned in passing that Dr. Geier's son, David Geier, may have practiced medicine without a license. From reading the order, it appeared that Mr. Geier performed medical procedures, prescribed tests and made diagnoses. He does not have a medical degree, nor is he licensed to practice medicine in the state of Maryland (or any other state). Mr. Geier was also, inexplicably, appointed as a "diagnostician" in 2009 to Maryland's Autism Commission.

As Kathleen Seidel wrote at the Neurodiversity Blog, charges have been brought against both Dr. Mark Geier and Mr. David Geier.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Minnesota Measles Outbreak - A Recap

UPDATE: On June 8, 2011, the Minnesota Department of Health declared that the measles outbreak in Hennepin County is considered over. The outbreak involved 20 individuals who were all connected to a child who was infected in Kenya. In addition there were two unrelated cases reported this year.

I just thought that I would provide a brief update on the measles outbreak in Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, as of this writing, the last update was on April 27, 2011. Here's what they report:

Situation Update (4/27/11)
There have been 23 confirmed cases of measles reported in Minnesota, ranging in age from 4 months to 51 years old.

Infection acquired:
  • Twenty of the cases have been linked to a case that acquired infection in Kenya (21 total)
  • One case acquired infection in Florida
  • One case acquired infection in India

Vaccination status:
  • Seven of the cases were too young to receive vaccine
  • Nine were of age but were not vaccinated
  • One was vaccinated
  • One was vaccinated prior to the recommended age
  • Five have unknown vaccine status

There have been fourteen hospitalizations and no deaths.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Integrity and Honesty

There have been several updates since I originally wrote up this post. Please scroll to the end for the final word on the matter.

Integrity and honesty. Two traits that everyone should strive to obtain. I put quite a bit of value on them. If someone says they will do something, they should do it. They should not lie about it, nor should they weasel out of a promise made. It speaks volumes about a person if they do not deal with others honestly or keep their word. Such actions make them untrustworthy. If you cannot trust someone in relatively small matters, then it becomes difficult to trust them with larger matters. This is particularly important when it comes to dealing with businessmen who have managed equity investments and specialize in mergers and acquisitions. You would expect them to honor their contracts.

There was one person in whom I really did want to see a glimmer of integrity and honesty. Despite his callous, abrasive nature, I really did hope that when he made a promise, he would keep it. I'm speaking, of course, about Generation Rescue and Age of Autism's Mr. Jonathan B. Handley.

Making It Easy to Get Shot

With vaccination rates low in some areas and outbreaks of infectious diseases cropping up in numerous places, like Minnesota, Boston (including a second round in the past week) and elsewhere, public health officials need to be a bit creative in order to get people to vaccinate. Education is certainly a major need, particularly where anti-vaccine myths and misinformation are concerned. But for those who are accepting of vaccines but may be a little lazy about keeping up with the schedule, education may not be enough. Health officials need to make it easy or perhaps even offer incentives.

The Orange County, North Carolina Health Department and nurses of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are doing just that, by offering immunization clinics and holding a contest. Between April 1 and May 31, 2011, if students bring proof of immunization, they will receive a contest entry: 1 entry for a Tdap vaccine, 1 entry for an HPV vaccine and 2 entries for a meningococcal vaccine. There will be three winners, chosen by a school administrator. One fifth grader and one middle school student will each win an iPod, and a high school student will get a laptop.

Personally, I'm not quite sure what I think about this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Keepon Keepin' On

I thought I'd take a brief break from talking about downers like infectious diseases and doctors and their families taking advantage of autistic children and their parents. Instead, let's talk about robots.

The latest episode of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe (episode #303) had the rogues talking about robots and how people respond to being touched by one. I won't go into an in-depth analysis of what they said, opting instead for something a bit less, well, deep.


Friday, May 6, 2011

URGENT: Please Call the Maryland State Board of Physicians About David Geier

Just a quick followup to my post pondering whether or not David Geier practiced medicine without a license.

Please contact the Maryland Board of Physicians if you are the parent of an autistic child who has witnessed David Geier do any of the following:
  • Make a diagnosis
  • Perform a medical procedure
  • Prescribe a medication
  • Giving an "expert" opinion
If you have had any interaction with Mr. Geier and have seen him doing any of these things, the Board of Physicians would like to hear from you. Call them at 410-764-4777 as soon as possible and ask to speak to an investigator regarding the Geier case. You may even call over the weekend.

A Close Look at David Geier

UPDATE: Please click here for an important update to this story.

Medical ethics, health law and policy. Those things are important to me. I can get pretty passionate about them. My interest in them is what drove me to learn about drug and medical device regulations, to actually take formal courses to learn about them beyond merely looking at laws on my own, unguided. The medicines that are offered for our use should be only the best that can be given. I want to be a part of the process, to have an active role in making certain that the medicines that are developed, the clinical trials that are conducted, have the benefit and welfare of patients as the utmost goal.

When I see those values that I so strongly value and hold very highly flaunted or abused, I get mad. I don't much care what a person chooses to do with their own body, money or time, but I get really angry with those who would take advantage of people by cheating them with substandard or even quack treatments. When the victims of that charlatanry are children, I am livid. Quacks and charlatans, those who would prey on others, taking advantage of their emotions and pain, exploiting patients and their children, should face justice. And there is just such a person that I feel is deserving of at least some scrutiny.

Yet before I dive into that, I need to remind myself that it is very, very easy to let my emotions take over, extraordinarily tempting to let the anger or even rage flow forth. And I must remember to breathe, to take a step back and look at the facts. Stick to what is known and avoid the desire to speculate. So that is what I will try to do here, as we take a look at Mr. David Geier.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mark "Castrate 'Em" Geier's License Suspended

On April 27, 2011, the Maryland State Board of Physicians, the body that grants physicians the privilege to practice medicine, issued an Order for Summary Suspension of Dr. Mark Geier's License to Practice Medicine (PDF). This has been a long time coming, and, I have to say, I am greatly relieved that it has finally happened.

Most people reading this blog probably already know who Dr. Geier is. For those who don't, here's a little background.

How Do We Ensure Staff Qualification in Human Subjects Research?

Clinical trials are a human endeavor. They involve humans as subjects and are, necessarily, conducted by humans. (No duh, right?) And, as with all things which we apes undertake, there is potential for error. Clinical trials are generally really, really complex. There are a lot of factors to take into account beyond even the scientific questions under scrutiny. There are logistics of funding and staffing the trials, finding space to carry them out, ensuring adequate supplies, advertising to recruit volunteers, reimbursing subjects for their time and consideration and ensuring that all documents are handled in a timely manner. You have IRB committees reviewing the protocols, consent forms and advertisements. Data Safety Monitoring Boards periodically reviewing data from trials that pose some elevated level of risk to participants. Sponsors may send representatives by to audit the trial sites, not to mention inspections by folks from NIH or FDA. There are lots and lots of people involved.

With so many individuals involved, how can we be sure that they know, at the very least, the basic requirements of human subjects research, like ethics and Good Clinical Practices? How do we ensure that the people running the trials are qualified to do so in a manner that looks out for the well-being of the subjects?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden is Dead - Thoughts and Musings

This morning, the local news informed me that Osama bin Laden is dead. The first announcement came late last night, when the president told the world that, in a target operation, a small unit of U.S. Navy SEALs raided bin Laden's holdout in Pakistan. The leader of Al Qaeda was shot and killed, and his body, taken into custody by the U.S. military, was buried at sea.

When I heard the news, the first thought that occurred to me was, "Good." But my mind did not stop there.