November 7th, 2009 19:38 EST
The Spirit of Public Health: What's HPV to Him?
By Curtis Porter
Frailty, Thy Name Is Industry-Funded Scientists
ACSH Trustee Dr. Thomas Stossel of the Harvard Medical School has incurred the wrath of anti-industry activists for his diametric opposition to Dr. Marcia Angell, also of Harvard, concerning the pharmaceutical industry`s support for medical research. Dr. Angell (incorrectly identified in Boston Magazine`s article as a professor -- she`s a senior lecturer) is notorious for her belief that industry funding precludes objectivity.
Boston writes: Like Angell, Stossel is well aware that Harvard physicians pull in a lot of money from drug companies. Unlike Angell, he sees that as a good thing. Stossel traces improvement in Americans` health directly to breakthroughs funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Limit doctors` interactions with that industry, he argues, and you limit the power of the market to drive innovation. "
This ties together with the issue of the New York Times quoting us and then saying we`re financed exclusively by big food, " says ACSH`s Jeff Stier. It`s part of the theme of using funding sources for attacks on credibility. "
ACSH`s Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees: Yes, like the Times reporter who published false information without doing any sort of journalistic inquiry, this supports the idea that people who disagree with us already have an opinion formed when they talk to us. They don`t care about scientific arguments, since they assume we`re funded by industry. What Dr. Stossel is trying to do with the Harvard Medical School is eliminate that stigma and point out the benefits of cooperation between the pharmaceutical industry and medical researchers and educators. It`s definitely an uphill battle. "
We should point out that the Times did promptly correct the online edition of the article falsely identifying us as totally industry-supported, " adds Stier, though they refused to point out that less than 3% of our funding comes from `big food makers,` even though the original article made it look like we`re 100% funded by big food makers. The reporter was so eager to delegitimize our point of view that she failed to check the facts with us, even though we were on the phone and she could have done so easily. "
For more information, see ACSH`s publication on industry-funded science.
Get Thee to a Vaccine Clinic
The latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) includes a compelling legal justification for mandating that healthcare workers receive the flu vaccine. The author concludes, I believe that the state`s right to compel healthcare workers to receive vaccinations will supersede their individual rights because of the state`s substantial relation to protection of the public health and safety. "
This is the only good commentary I`ve read in NEJM in twenty years, " says ACSH`s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. It`s excellent. When the history is written about how we handled this, reneging on mandatory vaccines will go down as a critical error on the part of New York State. We totally disagree with the governor`s reversal of position, but at the very least there should be required disclosure. In Iowa, doctors and nurses have to wear a button that says, `I`ve been vaccinated.` Perhaps a version that says, `I`ve chosen not to be vaccinated` would be useful in New York. "
Dr. Ross adds, I think the reversal of opinion by New York State`s Health Commissioner, Dr. Richard Daines, is particularly pusillanimous. He at first strongly upheld both the medical and legal legitimacy of mandatory influenza vaccine for healthcare workers. But when the governor pulled the plug, he was right there with him, finding excuses instead of pointing out the obvious: The governor caved to the demands of the unions and the workers, whose fear of the vaccine outweighed their clear duty to protect their patients. Daines should have resigned rather than sign onto this abandonment of his duty. "
What a Piece of Work Is This New HPV Vaccine
Also appearing in the current NEJM is the revelation that a new type of vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, genital warts, and other cancers, has been shown to treat existing infections. By contrast, the current HPV vaccines are only approved for the prevention of infection.
The vaccine tested actually attacks tumors that are already present, " says Dr. Ross. This is important both as a scientific breakthrough and the fact that it might be used to actually treat other cancers as well. Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women around the world, so this could well be a huge breakthrough. "
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