Oh brother, Jake Crosby is the walking embodiment of Poe’s Law

December 21, 2010

"Uh, durr. What's a regulatory compliance policy?"

I’ve written about Jake Crosby’s use of the “Big Pharma shill” gambit on countless occasions by now. So have lots of people, as evidenced from a basic Google search of his name. But it never ceases to astound me how often he uses the same one argument. This kid quite literally has no other argument but to apply his McCarthyist poisoning the well tactics on anyone who disagrees with him to the point that he’s a satire of himself.

Jake Crosby has absolutely nothing to say about the science of vaccines or the science of autism. Nope. He’s just going to accuse everyone he doesn’t like of being a commie…err, I mean a Big Pharma shill. And his recent application of this McCarthyism leveled against journalist John Stossel only illustrates how he doesn’t even understand what a conflict of interest looks like.

What relationship you might ask does Jake Crosby think constitutes a conflict of interest for John Stossel? Was he explicitly paid to use his medical credentials to endorse pharaceuticals? No. He’s not even a doctor. He’s just a journalist. Did a pharmaceutical company give him gifts? Nope. No, Jake Crosby thinks John Stossel has a conflict of interest because…

Wait for it.

Perhaps the answer best lies with the details surrounding his older brother, Dr. Thomas P. Stossel, a hematologist and professor at Harvard Medical School with direct ties to the pharmaceutical industry, which Dr. Stossel has heavily supported in controversies where it has been on the receiving end of well-deserved criticism.

WHAT?! His brother is a doctor and you think that’s a conflict of interest? Oh, the stupid! It burns!

First of all, all doctors have SOME relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, in the same way all librarians have some relationship with the publishing industry. That alone does not constitute a conflict of interest. That’s absurd. Federal and state regulatory compliance policies are quite explicit with regards to what constitutes an unhealthy relationship between medial professionals and industry. And no journalism regulations forbid journalists from covering medical news stories because they have the audacity to have siblings. That’s just asshole dumb.

Anti-vaxxers pull this pharma and government conspiracy crap all the fucking time and it’s blatantly obvious that they don’t know a damned thing about the regulatory compliance policies in place that are specifically designed to prevent such conflicts of interest. Just once, I’d like to hear an anti-vaxxer articulate their specific objections to the Federal Anti-Kickback Law and Regulatory Safe Harbors or the industry self-regulating phrma code on interactions with healthcare professionals, as well as the anti-vaxxers’ proposed amendments to improve the efficacy of those policies. I’d also like to know if they feel the notoriously strict Massachusetts compliance and disclosure system is acceptable or if they think even that is too easily breached. But you’ll never see that because the vast majority in the anti-vax movement aren’t doctors and so have never even heard of these policies, let alone have thoughtful opinions about them, while those who are doctors happily choose to play on the others’ ignorance of the policies.

And of course anti-vaxxers love to exploit populist paranoia about the government to suggest an bin Laden/Hussein-like alliance exists between the pharmaceutical companies and the government when such an alliance has grown utterly preposterous when you look at recent history. The fact is that more than ever, federal prosecutors are mercilessly leaning on pharmaceutical companies (which is not to necessarily say the prosecutors’ actions have been unjustified). Take for instance, the 2001 case over the drug Lupron, where Tap Pharmaceuticals was forced to pay $875 million.

I’ll repeat that number to help you wrap your head around it. Tap Pharmaceuticals was made by the government to pay the sum of $875 million. If these guys are friends and co-conspirators, I’d hate to meet Tap’s enemies. This was at the time the largest criminal fine ever in a U.S. healthcare fraud prosecution. Then there’s the Allergen case from this year where Allergen was forced to pay $600 million, not to mention the Pfizer case from just last year that ended with Pfizer having to pay $2.3 billion dollars. That’s BILLION with a fuckin’ B!!! Oh yeah, that government and Pfizer are the best of friends. Clearly.

Then there’s the unfortunate tale of Dr. Gleason who the government chose to make an example of. Gleason is a pretty prominent psychiatrist in Baltimore who was hired by a company to do promotional speaker programs. It was not independent. He’s a paid agent. So he traveled around the country at the company’s expense. It was during this promotional speaker program, that he specifically talked about off-label uses of their product. He gave one of these presentations in New York and while standing on a train platform in Long Island, he was suddenly swarmed by a half dozen federal agents who went as far as to actually handcuff him. He was charged with criminal violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for promoting unapproved uses for the product. Gleason filed a motion to dismiss based on First Amendment grounds, claiming the right to express his opinion but given that he’s a medical doctor, the law specifically limits his speech, so that argument was summarily rejected by the board. The fact was that under the law, a medical professional hired as a speaker for a company makes you an agent of the company, meaning you’re held to the same rules as a sales representatives.

The law takes these issues very, very seriously. So I’m sorry but anyone who claims the government is somehow in collusion with the pharmaceutical companies is either completely ignorant of the facts, is lying, or is delusional. Further, even if a reporter did have what would actually constitute a conflict of interest, if they’re reporting the consensus view of every reputable health organization on Earth accurately, as Stossel does, why should their relationship to industry matter? From now on, I absolutely refuse to accept the “Big Pharma” conflict of interest excuse from anti-vaxxers unless they’re prepared to discuss specific problems with the current regulatory compliance policies as well as their proposed amendments to those policies. Otherwise, I will take their refusal to do so as a tacit admission that they are not properly informed about what those policies say and how well they’re enforced, and therefore their objections are nothing but an excuse to deny the facts and a waste of everyone’s time.

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How government agencies & the media REALLY respond to Big Pharma conspiracies

September 23, 2010

So often I hear about alleged Big Pharma conspiracies that involve the highest levels of government and the entire mainstream media, etc. And when I challenge those claims, I’m always always accused to being a shill for Big Pharma.

But when Big Pharma really is involved in a conspiracy, I’m more than happy to report about their misbehavior, as are the appropriate government agencies and media. One such case has arrived once again. This time the FDA has caught Johnson & Johnson contracting people to go to specific stores to buy out specific boxes of defective Motrin rather than make it public and issue a recall. Now it’s not that the defective Mortin was dangerous; it was just ineffective. But the point is that Johnson & Johnson didn’t issue a recall and allowed customers to continue to buy a substandard product while they secretly attempted to buy up as many boxes as they could find.

This is disgraceful. But what I want to emphasize here is that this is an example of when the system works. The FDA did its job and mainstream media covered the story. Neither made any attempt to protect “Big Pharma.”

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Big Pharma conspiracy plot thickens

May 11, 2009

I hate to have to report this sort of thing because it inevitably emboldens the paranoid conspiracy lunatics’ propaganda, but the price of being fair and objective is sometimes having to report stories you’d prefer not to.

About a week ago, I blogged about the scandal involving bogus scientific journals that were created by Merck with the aid of scientific publisher Elsevier. Well, it turns out Elsevier did it again, 6 times.

Unfortunately I’m sure Kevin Trudeau Alex Jones, Mike Adams, Tom Cruise, Jenny McCarthy, and all the other pseudo-scientists, conspiracy nuts, and denialists will use this news to their advantage.

But at least next time I’m accused of being a shill for Big Pharma or a naive sheeple who blindly accepts what “Big Pharma” tells me, I can point people to this blog entry.


Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you

May 4, 2009

I hear a lot of “Big Pharma” conspiracy claims and frequently challenge them on this site. It often seems like every conspiracy nut eventually comes around to making some sort of extraordinary and unfalsifiable accusation against pharmaceutical companies like Merck. And usually those conspiracies can be dismissed rather quickly because as Christopher Hitchens says, what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. And of course pretty much every time I refute these claims, those with an emotional attachment to their own anti-pharmaceutical beliefs accuse me of being a shill for “Big Pharma” because they arrogantly hold the view that anyone who disagrees with them is either an uninformed “sheeple” or a shill for “Big Pharma.” For them, no other possibility exists.

Well today, I’m doing something a little different because unfortunately just because pharmaceutical companies aren’t poisoning everyone as part of an evil eugenics scheme hatched by the “New World Order” doesn’t mean they’re any more honest than any other corporation. While Merck isn’t turning any kids autistic, they have been caught red-handed committing fraud byThe Scientist:

Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles–most of which presented data favorable to Merck products–that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship.

The name of the bogus publication is the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine. The real tragedy here goes beyond whatever direct harm might have been caused in the short-term but is how this isolated incident will inevitably be exploited as a propaganda tool by “Alternative” “Medicine” practitioners to sell their own snake oil. This will be used as yet another example of how “Big Pharma” lies and cheats to make profits.

And of course, like when Creationists bring up the infamous Piltdown Man hoax, the propaganda will conveniently ignore the fact that it was the very system of science, which is designed to successfully weed out such fraud, that exposed this corruption. That’s why Carl Sagan said Science delivers the goods. While pseudoscience has no mechanism in place to expose fraud, the scientific process does.

And that’s why the true focus of this story should be how scientific investigation prevailed rather than how some capitalistic corporation that happens to make medical products defrauded the public.


Are doctors making a profit off vaccines?

December 3, 2008

You know, I frequently hear about all that sweet, sweet money being made off of the public from vaccines. After all, why would doctors willingly “poisoning children”, blah, blah, blah if it wasn’t for their own financial gain, right? So let’s take a look at this brilliant scheme all these millions of doctors have going to keep people from the “real” medicine, alternative medicine, so that they can further profit off them with vaccines.

About one in 10 U.S. doctors who vaccinate privately insured children are considering dropping that service largely because they are losing money when they do it, according to a new survey.

A second survey revealed startling differences between what doctors pay for vaccines and what private health insurers reimburse: For example, one in 10 doctors lost money on one recommended infant vaccine, but others made almost $40 per dose on the same shot.

Those evil geniuses have thought of everything. What are those slogans again?

War = Peace

Freedom = Slavery

Losing money = big profits

The survey examined the cost of the vaccines and the expense of storage and related medical supplies. But it didn’t look at administrative fees and staff time.

Of course! It all makes sense now! Wake up, people!


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.10.08

September 11, 2008

The World Hasn’t Ended! – Actually the world was about to end but I saved it with my divine powers from God. And for just $19.95, I can heal what ails ya with the power of faith. Seriously though, the Large Hadron Collider aka The Big Bang Machine aka the most powerful particle accelerator on Earth was a success. The world’s most powerful physics experiment ever is happening now. So far the particles are just whizzing by in circles at near the speed of light but the particle-smashing will happen eventually, I think.

CREATIONIST NEWS:

And not surprisingly, Ray “The Banana Guy” Comfort thinks the money spent on the LHC would have been better spent on feeding the poor because he doesn’t understand the importance of the LHC and doesn’t want to understand. Of course he’s not exactly feeding the poor either. He’d sooner give them a bible tract than food. The refutations of his argument in the comments section of the blog are worth checking out.

Creationist Dinesh D’Souza pissed at PZ Myers over Crackergate – Enough already! It’s was frackin’ cracker!

The Spore Report – New evolution-based computer game ‘Spore’ has displeased creationists. Oh my science! This guy actually has a whole blog devoted to trashing this game. The game’s gotta be good! I was rather amused by this entry where he thinks of contacting Jack Thompson until learning Thompson’s a terrible lawyer. One of these days I got to do a whole blog on Jack Thompson. If you really want to laugh, look him up on YouTube.

And are video games secretly teaching kids the scientific method?

Is Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) any more popular today than 10 or 20 years ago?

CONSPIRACY THEORY NEWS:

Anti-vaxxers do the only thing they can do when faced with even more evidence that’s devastating to their case: deny, deny, deny, cover their ears and hum real loud, and of make up conspiracy claims. Of course, one of the lead authors of the recent MMR study was an anti-vaxxer until this study convinced her otherwise. And since Barack Obama said he’s against “selective vaccination” they’ve dubbed him a Big Pharma shill too.

Just because they’re not out to get you doesn’t mean “Big Pharma” WON’T screw you – Finally, people who actually know what they’re talking about are attacking many of the corrupt tactics the pharmaceutical companies have been using like allegedly manipulating studies and publications,

“swaying doctors and medical students to their brands with gifts, funding research at top teaching hospitals but keeping control of the studies and results, failing to disclose study authors’ conflicts of interest, even taking over the continuing medical education system for doctors by running courses on new treatments. Critics say such courses are taught by company-paid speakers who often promote expensive new drugs over older, cheaper ones.”

Wow! Of course the unfortunate and unintended side effect of doctors speaking out about these abuses is that it reinforces the paranoid great conspiracy theories of the delusional, who will from now on point to this as “smoking gun proof” that Big Pharma is in the pocket of George Bush, the evil bankers of the New World Order, and the shape-shifting reptiles from outer space in order to blow up the Twin Towers, free Xenu, and rule us all for no good reason other than for an abstract, impractical, and cartoonish idea of absolute power. But of course I’m just saying that because I’m one of THEM! HAIL XENU! (Thanks Brian)

Speaking of Xenu, On September 13, 2008, join Anonymous for “SCHOOL’S CLOSED,” a global free speech event in cities worldwide:

And biologists on the verge of creating life:

“And lab led by Jack Szostak, a molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School, is building simple cell models that can almost be called life. Szostak’s protocells are built from fatty molecules that can trap bits of nucleic acids that contain the source code for replication. Combined with a process that harnesses external energy from the sun or chemical reactions, they could form a self-replicating, evolving system that satisfies the conditions of life, but isn’t anything like life on earth now, but might represent life as it began or could exist elsewhere in the universe . . . The replication isn’t wholly autonomous, so it’s not quite artificial life yet, but it is as close as anyone has ever come to turning chemicals into biological organisms.”

Post-Modern assault on evidence-based medicine – They actually coined the term “microfascism” to describe basing ones beliefs on evidence. That makes my head hurt. If evidence-based beliefs are just another narrative, I wonder if these guys wouldn’t mind leaping out of a 30-story window. Who knows what will happen? Don’t be fooled by the narrative of the authoritative scientists. It’s just as valid that jumping from a 30-story window will give you immortality. It’s just a narrative!

How to be an atheist activist

Religion and Social Problems:

REMEMBERING 9/11

PalMD has a great piece on 9/11.

And here’s a very strange piece I wrote about the tragedy 2 years ago.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

World’s First Synthetic Tree Developed – “Stroock and graduate student Tobias Wheeler have created a “tree” that simulates the process of transpiration, the cohesive capillary action that allows trees to wick moisture upward to their highest branches . . . Of course, the synthetic tree doesn’t look much like a tree at all. It consists of two circles side by side in the gel, patterned with evenly spaced microfluidic channels to mimic a tree’s vascular system.”

New Approach To Explain Religious Behavior – “Without a way to measure religious beliefs, anthropologists have had difficulty studying religion. Now, two anthropologists from the University of Missouri and Arizona State University have developed a new approach to study religion by focusing on verbal communication, an identifiable behavior, instead of speculating about alleged beliefs in the supernatural that cannot actually be identified.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 8.21.08

August 22, 2008

Was there a hidden agenda behind the recent Big Foot hoax? – Steven Novella speculates on the role Tom Biscardi may have played in this incident. Biscardi is considered even by the “mainstream” Big Foot hunters as a conman. But has he made a monkey out of us all?

Interview with “pet psychic” dumbfounds Rebecca Watson – It never ceases to amaze me as well as others in the skeptical community how the media can treat such obvious tin-foil-hat-level nonsense so uncritically as part of a mere fluff piece to kill time. You can’t find a real news story? Really?

Pastor makes IRS mad by misusing pulpit – “An activist group has filed an IRS complaint against Cornerstone Church, accusing the megachurch’s pastor of endorsing three Sumner County school board candidates from the pulpit.”

“If an IRS investigation determines Davis violated federal rules, it could jeopardize the Madison church’s tax-exempt status. Since 2007, the IRS has revoked the tax-exempt status of about 190 organizations nationwide, according to its Website.”

That’s a shame.

PZ Myers compares and contrasts the words of Darwin with a repulsive fear-mongering Christian evangelical site: The Surretts concerning the idea of damnation.

Another classic Creationist quote mine – One of the most common techniques Creationists use to trick people is to take quotes out of context to suggest specific great minds were Creationists. (For example, on the top of this page here). And some great minds really were believers in a creator god. But of course, it’s all irrelevant as it’s an argument from authority. Even smart people can be wrong and in the end ideas stand or fall on their own merits, namely what the evidence shows. In this instance, Douglas Theobold demolishes creationist Berlinski’s claim that the famous mathematician John Von Neumann rejected Evolution.

Presidential Candidates on space policy – Find out where Obama and McCain stand…or rather how they currently claim to stand. Still no word on Paris Hilton’s space policy.

Stephen Colbert on the impacts of commodity markets focusing on oil – …and proves himself to be a formidable opponent!

When “Big Pharma” REALLY is lying to us – Obviously “Big Pharma” has become a popular scapegoat for the grand conspiracy theorists in recent years. And while those accusations are mostly unfounded, sometimes the pharmaceutical companies prove they really are like every other corporations by using clinical trials designed by the marketing department to sell product. Here’s another skeptical blogger’s take on this issue. Sadly, this is just the sort of news story that the “Big Pharma” grand conspiracy theorists will latch onto and invoke constantly because it just so happens to be a rare news story that is in line with their agenda and seems to validate their every suspicion. That might be the biggest tragedy of this whole thing. But I’m reporting it, so let it never be said by the conspiracy theorists that I’m just a “sheeple” who blindly accepts authority. Big Pharma is wrong in this instance, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Science blogger and Skeptologist Dr. Kirsten Sanford on Science Channel website – She’s conducting an interview at the World Science Festival.

And now for a moment of science:

Dr. Kirsten Sanford’s Science Word Ep.9

Dr. Kirsten Sanford’s Science Word Ep. 10