Friday, March 19, 2010

Investigations: Flu Vaccines Had no Impact in Nursing Homes

A new scientific review raises questions about the usefulness of flu vaccinations. It found that vaccination of nursing-home staff did not have any impact on the incidence of confirmed flu cases among the elderly residents, the number of related pneumonia cases or pneumonia-linked deaths. Coauthor Roger Thomas of the University of Calgary said measures like hand-washing should be prioritized in anti-flu campaigns, rather than vaccination measures.
"What we were looking for is proof that influenza... is decreased. Didn't find it," Thomas told The National Post. "We looked for proof that pneumonia is reduced. Didn't find it. We looked for proof deaths from pneumonia are reduced. Didn't find it."

Interesting: How Censorship Shapes Afghan Reporting

Interesting article from Brian Stewart at on how military censorship of embedded journalists impacts what the public finds out about the Canadian presence in Afghanistan, including rocket attacks on Canadian bases and Canadian casualty numbers. Thanks to Bilbo for sharing this item.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Investigations: Over Half of News is Spin

Fifty-five percent of news stories in Australian media are the result of "spin," an interesting investigation has found. At one newspaper, 70 percent of stories were triggered in some way by a public-relations campaign. The Spinning the Media project, launched by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, had 40 journalism students look into hard news stories to find out how they were born. The investigations included calls to journalists and editors, most of whom refused to talk.
"Journalism in Australia today is heavily influenced by commercial interests selling a product and constrained and blocked by politicians, police and others who control the media message," the investigation found.

There's no reason to think the situation is different in North America.

TAGS: media

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Interesting: Pharma Marketing, MD Screening Tests Under Fire

Yet another pharma scandal is now blowing up over at Pfizer, reports in this item. A former Pfizer executive, Jesse Polansky, has sued the drug-maker in a whistleblower case alleging that Pfizer illegally schemed to boost the sales of its drug Lipitor for off-label uses (ones not approved by government regulators). See background on the case in this Wall Street Journal item. (It should be noted that Pfizer dismisses Polansky's claims, and federal authorities have declined to join the suit on Polansky's side.)
In a related item, the Seattle Times reports in this piece that a slew of reports indicate doctors are ordering too many screening tests and C-sections that can actually harm patients without any evidence-based benefit.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Investigations: Vaccine-Autism Debunker Disappears Amid Fraud Probe

A leading scientist involved in debunking links between mercury-laced vaccines and autism has disappeared in the midst of an investigation of whether he forged documents to steal $2 million, the Huffington Post and other media report here and here.
Dr. Poul Thorsen's work was used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and reporters to say that mercury in vaccines is safe for children. Thorsen relied on data from Denmark that showed reported autism rates shot up after mercury was banned in vaccines, according to the reports. Thorsen's conclusions have been widely disputed because Denmark had at the same time improved reporting of autism, and an autism clinic had opened in Copenhagen.

Mercury was phased out of many vaccines after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found in 1999 that many children were receiving excessive doses of mercury. But it is still present as a preservative in many flu vaccines given to children. A 2008 study in the journal Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry found that boys who were given a vaccine with thimerosal, a form of mercury, were nine times more likely to have developmental problems than unvaccinated boys.