THIS WEEK IN FLU VACCINE PROPAGANDA
TRUST OUR GOVERNMENT'S MEDICAL EXPERTS? NOT A CHANCE!
But the piece that really caught my eye came from one of the many 'medical dailys' that I get in my inbox every morning. Medpage Today carried a story (it would be more accurate to call it a propaganda piece or advertisement) called This Flu Season, Don't Forget About Tamiflu. The article was the transcript of a short video by one Arnold Monto, a Professor of Global Public Health and Epidemiology at the University of Michigan (his stated area of interest and expertise, "prevention and treatment of influenza"). Here are a few of the cherry-picked highlights of the transcript of his video.
"Despite recent controversies about its effectiveness, clinicians should not forget about using the antiviral, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), to help shorten the course of influenza among patients during the coming flu season. What's happening is that we are about to have an influenza outbreak, or it's already starting. We know that this influenza outbreak in the U.S. is mainly H3N2, which is the one that's the most severe in terms of causing severe morbidity and mortality. We also know that the vaccine doesn't work as well against this kind of influenza, and what we really need to remember is that we should be using Tamiflu as the one licensed antiviral that we have which is commonly available. We should not hesitate to use what we've got because these drugs are not super drugs."
Although, as you will soon see, the last part of the last sentence is an understatement of epic proportions, Monto went on to talk about the "strong" recommendations by the CDC for Tamiflu, as well as the "controversy between two journals in terms of how they view Tamiflu". That would be two of the oldest and most prestigious journals on the planet --- the Lancet and the British Medical Journal. We'll talk about these in a moment, but allow me to throw a third entity into this scrum. Although it's not a journal, COCHRANE (a loosely-knit group of about 40,000 physicians, scientists, and researchers from around the globe) is considered the gold standard for taking large amounts of data from dozens --- or even hundreds --- of similar studies, throwing it all together, and then "crunching the data" so as to make sense of it all, with an objective of coming to some useful "evidence-based" conclusions.
The point of today's post is to warn you to take everything (even what you read on my site) with a grain of salt. As an example of what I'm talking about, I'd like to provide you a timeline, along with some highlights of the studies and stories that were published over the past couple of decades concerning the multi-billion dollar drug known as Tamiflu and its relationship to Dr. Monto --- the above-mentioned researcher / physician. Bear in mind that Dr. Monto is widely considered one of the leading experts in Flu Vaccines and antiviral medications in the United States, and possibly the world.
- 2000: Although Y2K didn't turn out to be the electronic apocalypse so widely predicted by the experts, it did give us the antiviral drug Tamiflu (a drug meant to be taken if you get the flu, or as a prophylactic / preventative if someone in your home or workplace gets the flu). Hoffmann-La Roche and Gilead Sciences put out a PRESS RELEASE to let the world know it would be a better place with Tamiflu. "The results of several clinical studies show that Tamiflu is up to 92% effective in preventing influenza illness in adolescents, adults and the elderly when taken once daily. The studies examined Tamiflu’s ability to prevent the development of flu in three different settings: households, communities and residential nursing homes." Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Stick around because it gets better --- before it gets worse.
- 2002: Nearly two dozen experts got together in October in Geneva, Switzerland (home of the World Health Organization or WHO --- not to be confused with PETE TOWNSEND'S BAND --- and only a two hour drive from Basel, home of Roche) in order to create some "GUIDELINES" for Flu Vaccines and the antivirals to be used if the vaccines didn't work (As I discussed in the previous bullet, people were also encouraged to take these if they thought they may have been exposed).
- 2003: Without any co-authors, Monto published a paper in the journal Vaccine (The Role of Antivirals in the Control of Influenza) touting the benefits of antivirals (zanamivir aka Relenza made by GSK, and oseltamivir aka Tamiflu made by ROCHE). "70-90% efficacious" was touted, and there were strong recommendations by Monto concerning the need for stockpiling these drugs in advance of the ever-looming flu pandemic.
- 2004: The long-awaited flu anti-viral guidelines finally came out.
- 2005: The year we CRUNCHED THE DRUNK saw another study authored by Monto, this one in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology (Preparing for Pandemic Influenza: Should Hospitals Stockpile Oseltamivir?). To answer the rhetorical question posed in the study's title; of course they should! "The outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in Asia has reignited concerns about an influenza pandemic. It is clear that influenza vaccine will be in short supply (or nonexistent) early in an influenza pandemic. Without vaccine, the role of antiviral agents, especially oseltamivir, in treatment and prophylaxis is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, the government cannot possibly stockpile enough oseltamivir to provide long-term prophylaxis or treatment for every healthcare worker in the United States. We think that hospitals should consider stockpiling oseltamivir...." If you think that this sounds more like a sales pitch than a study, stick around. I almost forgot, the NYT ran a story (Pressure Rises on Producer of a Flu Drug) about that ultra-trustworthy head (KOFI ANNAN) of that ultra-trustworthy agency (the UN), who was hollering that there should be enough Tamiflu / Oseltamivir produced for everyone (that would be everyone as in all of the billions of people on the planet). This was a wet dream come true for industry, and as you'll soon see, if BIG PHARMA can create fear and panic, they can scare you into wanting / buying drugs you don't really need.
- 2006: The journal Emerging Infectious Diseases carried still another plea to stockpile Tamiflu in the form of another singularly-authored paper by Monto (Vaccines and Antiviral Drugs in Pandemic Preparedness) saying that, "While measures such as closing schools and social distancing may slow the effects of pandemic influenza, only vaccines and antiviral drugs are clearly efficacious in preventing infection or treating illness. Unless the pandemic strain closely resembles one already recognized, vaccine will not be available early. However, studies can be conducted beforehand to address questions concerning vaccine dose, frequency of inoculation, and need for adjuvants. In contrast, antiviral drugs will be effective for treatment and available if stockpiling takes place." Another fear-laden sales pitch? Read it again and you tell me. And if you are not sure what ADJUVANTS are, just click the link.
- 2006 PART II: This was the year that things started unraveling (or at least fraying around the edges) for Doc Monto and some of his buddies. After looking at over 50 studies, authors from Cochrane published a piece for Lancet called Antivirals for Influenza in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review that concluded "The use of amantadine and rimantadine [zanamivir and oseltamivir] should be discouraged. Because of their low effectiveness, neuraminidase inhibitors should not be used in seasonal influenza control and should only be used in a serious epidemic or pandemic alongside other public-health measures." Get ready folks because the fur is going to start flying and the S is going to HTF! Monto fired back with a similarly-named letter of his own (not a study, but a letter to the editor) called Antivirals for Influenza in Healthy Adults. The debate centered on a topic I myself have covered here --- the difference between flu -vs- flu-like. After making his case for both Tamiflu and Relenza, Monto admitted in print (for the first time that I have been able to ascertain) that he'd been taking money from the manufactures of both drugs, Roche and GSK.
- 2007: Tamiflu apologists hit back and hit back hard --- with another press release. EurekAlert published an article / news release (it carried the caveat, "EurekAlert is not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert") called Experts Predict Tamiflu Could Halve the Pandemic Influenza Death Toll Versus No Intervention, which stated "Treatment with the oral antiviral Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and prophylaxis for people exposed to infected patients could be one of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing illness and death during an influenza pandemic. According to modelling research, a stockpile of Tamiflu sufficient to cover 65% of a country's population could cut deaths by approximately half." The battle is heating up because one side (the pharmacide) is warning that we are inviting disaster if we don't stockpile, while the other side (Cochrane and their followers) are becoming increasingly vocal that said stockpiling is an expensive waste of taxpayer dollars.
- 2008: Yet again, Monto single-handedly authored a "scientific" paper, this one for the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal called Antivirals and Influenza: Frequency of Resistance. Although as far as I could tell from the abstract he was not out and out calling for these drugs to be used on children and infants, what are you supposed to think when a paper such as this one is published in a journal read almost exclusively by pediatricians? Oh; and as you might expect, he continued to tout the 70-90% effective statistic. Monto also admitted here that stockpiling is taking place and that this is a good thing.
- 2009: Dr. Monto and a partner from the University of Michigan published a study in Expert Review of Vaccines (Seasonal Influenza Vaccines: Evolutions and Future Trends) that talked about some of the numerous problems associated with the flu vaccine (and subsequent need for antivirals). "For some time, the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccines [the ones most used today] have been recognized as having deficiencies. These deficiencies are now being addressed by a number of innovative approaches in vaccine development. Each new vaccine will need to be evaluated carefully, ideally against placebo as well as against a standard vaccine, to determine absolute and relative efficacy. Such data will be necessary to inform decisions on making selections for use." Obviously this pie-in-the-sky feel good stuff is not happening because Cochrane looked at scores of studies on flu vaccines for the elderly and concluded they were no better than placebo (HERE). So much for the evidence. This was also the year that a group of researchers (including Monto) published Protecting the Herd From H1N1 in the journal Science. For the record, H1N1 is aka Swine Flu. It was around this time that swine flu paranoia was beginning to sweep across the United States in earnest.
- 2010 PART I: 2010 was a monster year in the field of flu vaccine corruption. Medpage Today --- the site that provided the fodder for today's post --- published a story called Investigation Raises Questions About WHO's Handling of Pandemic that talked about Monto receiving speaking monies from industry. I don't have the slightest idea of how much he received, but I do know that 'speaking fees' for pharma can work in similar fashion to the way Bill & Hillary took "speaking fees" from numerous corporations, earning them as much as a million dollars for a 45 minute speech ("money combines with the cash receptors in your doctor's wallet to provide fast-acting financial relief...." HERE). Not bad work when you can get it!
- 2010 PART II: We start to see why Monto may have been so hot to trot to promote Tamiflu and Relenz, as 2010 was the year we started to see the bigger picture. On his site, Natural News, Mike Adams wrote, "After months of stalling, the World Health Organization (WHO) has finally revealed the names of key pandemic advisors who influenced its decision to declare a phase six pandemic last year - a decision that resulted in a financial windfall for vaccine manufacturers. That list includes at least five expert advisors received money from vaccine companies. Here's who received money from Big Pharma and then influenced the WHO decision to declare a pandemic: Arnold Monto is a professor from the United States who has received money from virtually all the major vaccine manufacturers: GSK, Novartis, Roche, Baxter and Sanofi Pasteur. He has specifically been given grant money by Sanofi Pasteur to study influenza vaccines." These sorts of payments are nothing new, and are characteristic of the "pandemic" (no pun intended) of corruption within Big Pharma (again, see earlier link on "guidelines").
- 2010 PART III: The Townsend Letter published an expose by one Len Saputo (MD) called The Infection Deception: Deep Politics, Global Health Policy, and the Swine Flu Debacle that not only mentioned Monto for taking money from industry, but talked about a number of sordid facts pertaining to the entire vaccine industry. The British Medical Journal even got into the act with an article called Conflicts of Interest: WHO and the Pandemic Flu Conspiracies. Although I am not going to delve into it (it's more of the same old same old we've been talking about), Dr. Monto was mentioned by name ten (10) times. The authors accused him of taking money without declaring any FINANCIAL COI.
- 2013: Part of what was earlier exposed by Cochrane was that Roche had chosen not to publish something like 60% of their studies on Tamiflu (I WROTE ABOUT THIS BACK IN 2013). This phenomenon has become so popular with big pharma (approximately half of all trials are buried) that they have been given a special little name (INVISIBLE & ABANDONED). If you never report your failures, your product --- in this case Tamiflu --- looks much better than it is. Shhhhhhh. Don't tell anyone but this is how I came to be the world record holder for consecutively made free throws (HERE). 2013 was also the year that something that came to a head only recently (HERE) started being exposed and talked about --- the fact that if you had a flu shot last year, this year's shot will be significantly less effective. In fact, Monto and a colleague wrote a letter in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease (Reply to Sullivan and Kelly and Skowronski) explaining why they thought this research was incorrect. Oh; and that meta-analysis by Cochrane a few years earlier saying that flu vaccines for the over-65 crowd were essentially a placebo (something like 76 people would have to be vaccinated to prevent a single case of flu); Monto wrote another letter to the editor (this one in the journal Vaccine --- Cochrane Re-arranged: Support for Policies to Vaccinate Elderly People Against Influenza) arguing that he was right and Cochrane --- the "gold standard" of medical meta-analysis --- was wrong.
- 2013 PART II: In February of 2013, Roche put out another press release promising, as have many politicians, to be more "transparent," and release the data from the studies (at least some of the studies) that they had previously chosen not to publish. BMJ published an article (Re: Tamiflu Correspondence with Roche) that asked hard questions like, "Why has Roche not given all the Tamiflu (oseltamivir) data to the Cochrane Collaboration, as they requested?" "Is Roche refusing to share the Tamiflu data with other independent researchers?" and "What does Roche say about claims that Tamiflu is not effective?" You can read their answers online, but suffice it to say, their responses would have made even the most vague politicians proud. An article by a mainstream pharmaceutical news source (Eye For Pharma) published an article (Window Dressing: Roche Launches New Process for Accessing Clinical Trial Data) showing how bogus this entire process really was.
"An ‘independent’ body will assess requests for patient-level data on drugs that have completed the regulatory review process in the US and the EU, which may be released upon agreement starting this year. Roche invited other pharma players to consider whether this could be an industry-wide initiative. However it is also worth noting that the four-man ‘independent’ body includes three consultants who have all received consulting fees from Roche in the past. Pharmalot originally uncovered this development, stating that Albert Osterhaus, Arnold Monto and Richard Whitley have all worked with the company previously, raising the question of whether this panel is truly independent and leading some to ask whether this is a victory for clinical trial transparency at all. The Cochrane Collaboration and the British Medical Journal launched in 2009 a campaign to access data from all the trials for independent assessment, and despite a promise made by the company in December that year to make 'full study reports' available, none of them have been released to date."
- 2015: 2015 proved to be one of those schizophrenic who-the-heck-are-you-supposed-to-believe? years ---- if you had not already been following the debate. In January of that year, the Pharmaceutical Journal spilled the beans with the title of their article, Tamiflu Shortens Flu Symptoms by a Day. Monto and a team of researchers shot back with Oseltamivir Treatment for Influenza in Adults: A Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials that was published in the January issue of the Lancet. You can figure out what they concluded by looking at a news release from Reuters that was published on the 30th of that month, Study Supports Roche's Disputed Blockbuster Flu Drug Tamiflu (Pharmafile's headline read Government Spending on Tamfilu is Justified). Of course it does and is; unless it doesn't and isn't. Case in point, one of Oxford University's many journals (this one from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine) published a revealing article called Dobson Lancet Tamiflu Re-Analysis: Independent Review Group. Really? that showed exactly what the title implies --- a continued conflict of interest and coverup. Monto and crew struck back with still another letter; this one published in the September issue of Lancet called Oseltamivir for Influenza – Authors' Reply, in which he and his team defended their research saying that they, "strongly disagree that our article reported simply 'new interpretations of already public data.'" Bottom line; whether interpreted by Lancet or BMJ, one showed Tamiflu to shorten the course of the flu by a half day and the other by an entire day. There were, however, an array of "pesky" SIDE EFFECTS, including a serious uptick in vomiting --- a symptom often associated with, but rarely actually seen with influenza. If you are throwing up, you have stomach flu, not flu --- they're different (HERE).
- 2017: And of course there was the piece from a few days ago that we are talking about right now. But just six short weeks previous, a team of researchers, including Monto, were back promoting Tamiflu for your babies in an article for Clinical Infectious Diseases (Efficacy and Safety of Oseltamivir in Children: Systematic Review and Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials). "Oseltamivir has been used to treat children with influenza for nearly two decades, with treatment currently approved for infants 2 weeks of age or older, but efficacy and safety remain controversial." We shouldn't be surprised that he continues to hype this drug both in the media (Medpage) and in peer-review. All I can do is shake my head. I mean really; how much more proof is needed to show this drug is at worst, a sham / scam, and at best, sucks? It seems that I'm not the only one who thinks this way. My brother, an ER Physician at a large Midwest hospital, wrote a letter to the editor of one of his journals this past year in response to an article that a fellow doctor had written about Tamiflu (suffice it to say that the Tamiflu article was not flattering). My brother responded with his own letter, agreeing completely, but also making the point that the same charade that's going on with Tamiflu is going on with the flu vaccines themselves (HERE is his very short letter).
And just today, STAT's Megan Thielking wrote a little ditty called The CDC's Planned Nuclear Prep Talk is now a Flu Prep Talk, which stated, "The CDC has postponed plans to hold a teaching session today on the public health response to a nuclear detonation. Today’s grand rounds session will instead focus on the severe flu season. Health officials want to prep public health professionals on how to reduce the spread of seasonal flu and deal with medicine shortages due to high flu rates in some communities. Hospitals in many parts of the country have been swamped in recent weeks as a severe flu season has taken hold, spurring concerns about whether hospitals are prepared for the next flu pandemic." There really is nothing new under the sun --- it's all recycled madness.
If you want to read more on the subject, information abounds online. I've shown you time and time again that when crazy big money is at stake, things frequently turn into a no-holds-barred Texas Death Match. It's really no different than the government's efforts (both here and in Mexico) to take out the drug cartels. The problem is that the money is so big that if you cut off one of Hydra's heads, two others take it's place.
The biggest difference is that posts like today's deal with cartels that are completely legal. Until they get caught. Scratch that. About the most these folks can ever expect is a slap on the wrist (maybe) and possibly some scorn from a small segment of their peer group who sees them as industry shills. But what can you say? It's the nature of so much of today's oxymoronically-named EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE.