Daily Archives: January 7, 2011

“Vaccines cause autism” theory now suspected to be fraud

In a recent blogs I’ve told you, “Autism and Childhood Vaccinations: The Myth is Finally Debunked” and “U.K. bans doctor who linked autism to MMR vaccine.” But, even I was shocked when, while watching ABC World News last night, I saw a report suggesting, that the vaccine-autism link now appears to have been a deliberate fraud. Not only have untold children have been harmed because of this alleged fraud — but autism research has actually been set back. My hope is that criminal charges will soon follow. Here are the details:

ABC World News reported reported that many parents “know that vaccines protection their children from serious illness. But many still fear that the vaccines might cause autism because of all of the reports through the years.” Now, there is “new outrage over the doctor who first reported a link.”

USA Today reports, “An infamous 1998 study that ignited a worldwide scare over vaccines and autism — and led millions of parents to delay or decline potentially lifesaving shots for their children — was ‘an elaborate fraud,’ according to a scathing three-part investigation in the British medical journal BMJ.”

In 2009, “British medical authorities … found the study’s lead author, Andrew Wakefield, guilty of serious professional misconduct, stripping him of his ability to practice medicine in England.”

The BMJ now “reports that Wakefield, who was paid more than $675,000 by a lawyer hoping to sue vaccine makers, was not just unethical — he falsified data in the study, which suggested that children developed autism after getting a shot against measles, mumps and rubella.”

“The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield’s paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems,” the AP reports. “Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children’s parents.”

The LA Times “Booster Shots” blog reported that “none of the details of the medical histories of any of the patients could be matched to those cited in The Lancet article.”

What’s more, “all had been altered to make Wakefield’s claims more convincing. Ten of the authors subsequently asked that the paper be retracted.” In 2009, The Lancet withdrew Wakefield’s 1998 paper.

CNN points out that Wakefield’s “now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella.”

In the US alone, “more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.”

HealthDay reported that “besides harming those children who got sick after not receiving a vaccine, the alleged fraud may have even set back autism research, experts noted.”

Pediatric neurologist Max Wiznitzer, MD, of University Hospitals Case Medical Center, stated that “[autism] research monies were diverted to disprove a hypothesis that was never proven [in the first place], rather than invested in exploring issues that would be of benefit to the public and to children with the condition.”

This is a truly sad finale to a truly sad story. But, I’ll let you know about any future developments.

Probiotics may ease kids’ belly aches (especially IBS)

In a past blog about probiotics, I told you, “Friendly Bacteria (Probiotics) Help Calm Colicky Babies and May Help Constipated Babies.” Now, an Italian study is suggesting that a daily dose of “friendly bacteria” (probiotics) could provide relief for kids suffering from the cruel pain of a CHRONIC tummy ache. Here are the details from a report in Reuters Health:

Yet little evidence exists to date for helpful medications or dietary changes, Dr. Ruggiero Francavilla of the University of Bari, in Italy, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

Given recent research hinting at the therapeutic value of probiotics for adults with stomach problems, particularly a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome that can cause pain and abnormal bowel movements, Francavilla and his team wanted to see if good bacteria might benefit kids too.

The team studied 141 Italian children between the ages of 5 and 14 suffering from chronic belly pain, mostly resulting from irritable bowel syndrome. They randomly assigned each child to daily doses of either a common strain of probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG, or a placebo that looked and tasted similar, for eight weeks.

At the end of the treatment period, L. rhamnosus GG appeared to reduce the frequency and intensity of the kids’ stomach pain, report the researchers in the journal Pediatrics.

While both groups averaged about four stomach aches per week prior to the study, frequencies reduced to about one per week for kids taking the probiotics and two per week for those on the placebo. Based on a 10-point scale, with 10 being worst, the average level of pain reported before treatment was 4.3 in both groups.

These scores dropped to 2.3 and 3.4, respectively, for kids in the treatment and placebo groups. Further, the researchers found that the effects of the probiotic lasted at least another eight weeks beyond completion of the study treatment.

Although they note that the probiotic’s pain-relieving benefits could still wane and require repeated use to maintain the effect. L. rhamnosus GG is widely available at drug stores and sold online, generally costing less than a dollar per daily dose.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG is one of the best-studied probiotic bacteria in clinical trials for treating and preventing several intestinal disorders and is widely available in different countries,” said Francavilla.

He added that his team conducted the study with kids recruited through their pediatricians in a wide range of communities in southern Italy, so the results could be applicable to the general population.

No other strain of probiotic is currently a valid alternative for this particular condition, Francavilla noted. “Probiotics are not all the same and should not be used deliberately for all the possible indications; we are entering the era of targeted probiotic use,” he said.

To fully achieve the specific stomach ache-reducing benefit of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Francavilla advises taking the probiotic long-term or for at least eight weeks.

But, if you want to try probiotics in the U.S., buyer beware. ConsumerLab.com says in its report about quality testing probiotics:

ConsumerLab.com selected thirteen probiotic products sold in the U.S. and/or Canada. Some products only listed the amount of organisms that were viable when the product was manufactured and not through the expiration date. This labeling practice is not typically employed with other types of supplements and can mislead consumers when a diminished amount is actually in the product at time of use. One of the products selected by ConsumerLab.com (Kashi Vive) did not list any amount of organisms.

Among the products selected by ConsumerLab.com, only two (Advocare Probiotic Restore and Udo’s Choice Adult Formula) were found to accurately list the number of cells that were viable at the time they were tested.  Other products were found to contain as little as 7% to 58% of the amount listed on their labels.

The ConsumerLab report lists several brands of probiotics that passed quality testing and also contain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.

Two-week course of antibiotic may benefit patients with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

In the category of a study that will change my practice in the area of giving patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) another treatment option, is a study discussed in a Los Angeles Times report that says, “A two-week treatment with an antibiotic” manufactured by Salix Pharmaceuticals “can ease overall symptoms in many patients with irritable bowel syndrome for at least 10 weeks and perhaps for much longer, according to a pair of clinical trials of more than 1,200 patients.”

The paper appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the “proportion of patients who benefited — about 11% — was modest, but the fact that any at all were helped validated the idea that intestinal bacteria play a role in the onset of irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS.”

Lead study author Dr. Mark Pimentel, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, added, “This is the culmination of a 10-year journey in proving that gut bacteria are a cause of IBS.” Before, “there has been a lot of skepticism, a lot of criticism.”

Salix executive Bill Forbes told the Raleigh News & Observer (1/5, Avery), “With IBS, even though it is such a common condition, no one really understands why patients have symptoms.” He added, “It becomes a condition that is diagnosed by exclusion. But the economic costs rank right up there with the worst medical conditions there are. It has an enormous impact on individuals and society as whole.”
With that in mind, the company sponsored two trials in which 1,260 patients received either “Xifaxan three times a day for two weeks” or placebo, Bloomberg News (1/6, Ostrow) reports. “The patients were followed for 10 weeks after treatment.” Investigators eventually noted that a “total of 41 percent of those getting the drug had relief in at least two of the first four weeks after therapy, compared with 32 percent of people treated with a placebo.” What’s more, the “study confirmed that the condition in some patients can be explained by the movement of bacteria from the colon into the small intestines.”

Salix executive Bill Forbes told the Raleigh News & Observer, “With IBS, even though it is such a common condition, no one really understands why patients have symptoms.”

The executive added, “It becomes a condition that is diagnosed by exclusion. But the economic costs rank right up there with the worst medical conditions there are. It has an enormous impact on individuals and society as whole.”

With that in mind, the company sponsored two trials in which 1,260 patients received either “Xifaxan (generic name = rifaximin) three times a day for two weeks” or placebo, Bloomberg News reports. “The patients were followed for 10 weeks after treatment.”

Investigators eventually noted that a “total of 41 percent of those getting the drug had relief in at least two of the first four weeks after therapy, compared with 32 percent of people treated with a placebo.”

What’s more, the “study confirmed that the condition in some patients can be explained by the movement of bacteria from the colon into the small intestines.”

So, if you suffer from IBS and few or no treatments have been helpful, then you may want to discuss this one with your physician. However, be warned, the two week treatment could cost several hundred dollars!