Antivaccine nonsense Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Humor Medicine Quackery

The pharma conspiracy acts against a threat

It was a nondescript room, a board room much like board rooms found in corporate offices across the length and breadth of the U.S., or even around the world. There was the tasteful built-in wood bookshelves loaded with books and journals, for instance. Given the nature of this company, the journals included titles such as the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Pharmacology, and other scientific titles, and the textbooks included Goodman & Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, among other weighty tomes. Lining the walls were pictures of men in either suits or lab coats, the founders and luminaries of this now global company. And, of course, there was the long and impressive wooden meeting table, with notepads and pens set neatly in front of each chair.

Yes, MegaPharmCo’s boardroom looked like many other board rooms in many other companies.

The silence was broken by a line of men entering the room, quietly murmuring amongst themselves before they pulled up chairs and sat down at the table. Last to enter was a bald, monocled man in a lab coat initialed “ESB.” He strode in slowly and confidently, gently stroking the fur of a fluffy white Persian cat sitting in his arms. Silence fell over the room after a brief shuffling of chairs resulting from everyone standing up.

“Please, be seated,” said ESB, as he himself sat down at the head of the table.

All sat.

“Now, the first item of business would appear to be the vaccine situation. Report!” He said as he motioned to the man to his immediate right, a mousy man with large glasses and a labcoat.

“Our efforts to squash the Autism Omnibus and continue to poison the children of the world with a combination of mercury and too large an antigen load, the better to control them, continues apace. Profits from this endeavor continue to fill out coffers. In fact, we hardly need to do anything at all about the Omnibus, given the utter incompetence of the plaintiffs’ ‘expert’ witnesses.”

“Excellent,” smiled ESB, as he stroked his cat, his mouth a lipless slit. “What about the Olmsted situation?”

The man to his left rose and began to speak. “Over the last two years, through a series of articles on autism, Dan Olmsted has repeatedly claimed that unvaccinated Amish do not get autism, an observation he calls the ‘Amish anomaly’ and that unvaccinated children in the Chicago area never get autism.” He continued, “Sir, why do we allow him to continue to spread these stories? He scares parents about our vaccines and risks causing vaccination rates (and our profits) to plummet?”

ESB smiled again. “Obviously, you can be forgiven for not seeing. Olmsted, in fact, happens to be the best friend MegaPharmCo has.”

“Excuse me,” stammered the man. “I do not understand.”

“Be happy that I am in a benevolent mood; I would expect an employee of this great conglomerate to have been able to figure it out for himself.” This time ESB’s smile did not seem so mild. “Olmsted’s misinformation and bad arguments suit my purposes well.”

“Then he works for MegaPharmCo?”

“Not at all,” continued ESB. “I would not employ such a fool in my organization. My standards are much higher than that. However, Olmsted’s very foolishness is useful to us. Yes, he castigates vaccines. Yes, he claims that they cause autism. Yes, he claims that the mercury in them causes autism. On the surface, these would all appear to be potentially harmful to us. However, he does so with such specious and utterly intellectually bankrupt arguments that his very ridiculousness discredits that which he hopes to champion and the hysterical fear-mongering about vaccines that he is trying to raise. Consider that he made his conclusion that unvaccinated Amish do not become autistic on the basis of asking a water purifier salesmen if he knew of any unvaccinated Amish autistics. He utterly failed even to consider any other causes for this so-called ‘Amish anomaly,’ if there even is such an anomaly, and failed to realize that the Amish are not antivaccine. He claimed to have made an ‘exhaustive search’ for autistic children among the Amish, stating that he failed to find any, when other researchers could find them. More amusingly pathetic, he claimed that unvaccinated children in Chicago never get autism on the basis of the “feelings” and unscientific recollection of an alternative medicine-inclined primary care physician in Chicago who never bothered to do an actual study of his records.”

ESB paused.

“Above all, it would seem, using unscientific methods, dubious sources, and his own bias are the hallmarks of Olmsted’s ‘methods,’ along with, above all, a tendency to confuse correlation with causation. Indeed, he just did it again with this risible article, where he proclaims it ‘quite the coincidence‘ that the first children with the syndrome that Kanner later called autism were born around the time that thimerosal was first used in vaccines.”

The board laughed. They remembered this recent perfect storm of conspiracy-mongering and confusing correlation with causation. Everyone had had a good laugh at the last board meeting.

“So,” said ESB, putting his cat down and leaning forward, “it would not do for Olmsted to stop doing just what he’s doing. It serves our purposes well.” He turned to a man two seats down from him on his left. “Please, V, tell us what our ‘friend’ has been up to lately.”

The man hesitated. “Olmsted appears to have disappeared.”

“What?” roared ESB.

“Yes, sir. I’m afraid so, sir. He has not been heard from in days.”

“What are we doing about this?” asked ESB.

“We sent an emergency response pharma black ops team to his home and found no sign of him. The team, however, did find this.” He held up a sheet of paper. “We found a file that this printout represents on the hard drive of his home computer hidden in a folder full of drink recipes. We believe it is the last thing that he was working on before he disappeared.”

“Are you sure it is genuine?” asked ESB.

“We are. The document is clearly authentic. Olmsted’s repetitive and stereotyped writing behavior is unmistakable. The writing does not differ markedly and uniquely from anything that he has reported so far. Moreover, the file contained the unmistakable electronic digital watermark of the Olmsted family seal and the his family motto, Tua propositio, tuum argumentum sit; i. e., ‘Let Your Premise Be Your Conclusion.'”

“Read it,” commanded ESB.

The man complied:

THE AGE OF AUTISM: Bacardi Makes a Killer Mojito
by Dan “DAN!-O” Olmsted, PI

In 1943, a child known only as Frederick W., became an integral part of the first descriptions of autism. Dr. Leo Kanner, then of Johns Hopkins University, wrote that these children “differ markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far.” In previous columns, this reporter has noted that Kanner’s observations emerged within a decade after both ethyl mercury, used widely in fungicides, and thimerosal, a mercury containing preservative, came on the market. Had Frederick W. and others been exposed to something harmful like mercury? This reporter decided to find out.

In February of this year, we tried to contact Frederick W. After repeated knocks on his door, notes left on his car windshield, and numerous telephone messages, we were finally able to meet him as he exited his home.

When we met him, Frederick W.’s repetitive and stereotyped behaviors were obvious even to a non-scientist. For example, Frederick W. repeated the same phrase over and over again, “Why are you stalking me?” “Why are you stalking me?” “Why are you stalking me?”

Soil samples taken from outside of his apartment complex revealed trace amounts of mint, citrus, and tree sap. Just coincidence? Sap is commonly used to make rum, and rum combined with citrus and mint, makes a mojito, a cool and refreshing summer alcoholic beverage. Where does the mojito come from? You may have already guessed: The Caribbean.

Stick with me now. This reporter also traveled to Chicago, where the Ukrainian-American chemist, Morris Selig Kharasch and his son, Robert Kharasch lived. The senior Kharasch invented thimerosal at the University of Chicago in the 1930s and remained in Chicago until his death. His son, Robert, then left Chicago with his thimerosal fortune and moved to – you guessed it: the Caribbean, where rum is manufactured and where the mojito is popular. (This reporter highly recommends serving mojitos if you throw a Cuban themed party). In the mid-1980s, the mojito, then virtually unknown in the United States, quickly became a popular drink in the United States just as autism rates started to soar. Coincidence?

As an aside, I should note that, while living in Chicago, the younger Kharasch was a classmate of a local Chicago physician named Roy Grinker. Does that name ring a bell? Roy Grinker’s son, Roy Richard Grinker, is an autism epidemic denial advocate, and this important conflict of interest is disclosed here for the first time. These links may be weak, and speculative, yes. But as my editors at the American Chronicle always say, “Never let evidence get in the way of your conclusions.”

And as if these are not sufficient coincidences, my recent research reveals the existence of “The Mojito Show” [ 2006/08/19/the-mojito-show-next-saturday-at-2-pm-is-next-taping/] which, incredibly, makes mention of a blog about autism.

So what does the mojito have to do Frederick W.? Well that’s the big mystery, but isn’t it worth testing the hypothesis that there may be evidence of harm? This is a testable hypothesis and yet scientists, from the CDC to the EPA, seem unwilling to explore the possibility that environmental factors, in certain combinations, like a mixed drink, could be implicated in the rise of autism rates. After all, the mojito became popular at exactly the same time autism rates started to climb. What’s more, says Lancaster County executive Amos Stoltzfus, who lives among the Amish (who do not seem to have autism at all), “I have never once seen an Amish person drink a mojito.”

And who is responsible for the popularity of the mojito in the rest of America? The Bacardi company in Bermuda, with a long history in agribusiness where fungicides are used in the sugar cane fields, and whose investment portfolio includes many of the big names in the pharmaceutical industry, the same ones that purchased the rights to produce thimerosal. Stay tuned.

Next: This reporter discovers that both crime and ice cream consumption increase in summer. A coincidence? And what’s with the large number of fire trucks that have been seen in front of raging fires? Could it be that fire trucks cause fires?

“There is no doubt it is him,” said ESB.

“No doubt at all,” the response murmured throughout the room.

“You know what this means?” asked ESB. “I’ll tell you. Clearly, Olmsted has found our Bacardi shell company. He has found our true operation and purpose, to make the world autistic through the use of tasty, refreshing, and strong alcoholic beverages with citrus and spearmint. He must have gone underground. You have failed. You could not keep even a credulous fool with bad reasoning skills from discovering this!”

The man reading the Olmsted article turned ghostly white. He knew the consequences of failing the conglomerate.”No, sir. We did not fail. Please, sir,” he pleaded.

“You know the price of failure,” growled ESB.

“No! Mercy, sir!”

But there was no mercy to be had. ESB pushed a large red button on a box that sat near his place at the table. A trap door opened, and the man’s chair fell, along with him, into the revealed hole in the floor. Flames shot up through the trap door briefly before it closed again as quickly as it had opened, muffling the man’s screams, which soon ceased. Everyone else sitting at the table pretended not to look. They knew that it could be one of them next at any time.

“No more failures,” barked ESB. “As long as Olmsted was writing about vaccines as the cause of the autism epidemic, he was a useful idiot, but now he’s come close to the heart of our conspiracy. He has discovered the mojito. This we cannot tolerate. You must find him. Now!”

The meeting broke up.

NOTE: I truly wish I could take the credit for the marvelous parody of Dan Olmsted’s blather, THE AGE OF AUTISM: Bacardi Makes a Killer Mojito, but I can’t. It was sent to me by someone who requested that it be posted here. It was one of those ideas that I really wish I had thought of first. Indeed, I thought it was so funny (and such a spot-on take on confusing correlation with causation) that I couldn’t say no. I will, however, take the credit (or the blame) for the whole MegaPharmCo back story that put it in context, though.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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