Policy and Ethics

It reads like a headline from The Onion. Alas, it is real: “EU court: Vaccines can be blamed for illness without scientific evidence,” writes CNN.

The EU court’s ruling was based on the case of a Frenchman who accused a hepatitis B vaccine manufacturer for causing his multiple sclerosis. (Vaccines do not cause multiple sclerosis.) The court’s decision is Kafkaesque:

“The EU's highest court said that if the development of a disease is timely to the person's receiving a vaccine, if the person was previously health [sic] with a lack of history of the disease in their family and if a significant number of disease cases are reported among people receiving a certain...

Today, comments close on a proposed set of USDA rules changes related to approval of genetically-engineered products - and the Trump administration is honoring its commitment to using evidence-based thinking regarding agricultural policy.

As I wrote in Chicago Tribune last week, approval of products engineered using modern science rather than simply modified using older, less precise techniques like mutagenesis, have to go through an approval process trapped in the last century. It makes little sense. Popular crops have long been altered with the use of agrobacterium, "nature's genetic engineer", which was...

"Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you."

Billy Joel, 1979

If Billy Joel's smash hit from 1979 was playing on Pandora at the 2015 meeting of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), it fell upon deaf ears. Although the stated purpose of the meeting was to determine the carcinogenic status of glyphosate (the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup), the agency may have selectively excluded exculpatory data, according to a new investigative report by Reuters.  

This is hardly the first time that the ethics of IARC,...

If you are a progressive in science journalism, these are boom times again. A Republican is in the White House and you have the kind of salad days for partisan scorn not available since January of 2009.(1

But the public has lost a lot of trust in science media because of such partisan framing and they've stopped reading mainstream journalism, and so journalists have lost a lot of jobs. We can blame mean old capitalism, but companies are responding to the audience - and the audience has stopped trusting science in newspapers. (2) They still want science, the audience for information about new advances is 65 million Americans and our website traffic is up 800 percent in the last two years, they just don't want it from sources that seem more...

Whatever your feelings are about the death penalty, it's a pretty safe bet that you don't want to be reading this:

[Convicted murderer Clayton] Lockett, however, was not unconscious. He writhed, groaned and convulsed on the table in agony, acid and fire pumping though his body. An excruciating 43 minutes passed, Lockett would scream and twitch, fighting against the restraints as the poison slowly took hold. Death would finally arrive via heart attack, possibly resulting from the overwhelming pain rather than the chemical cocktail itself. 

Richard Avis, "Top...

If you're in the mood for a little Americana, here's a treat for you, plus a chemistry lesson, which may or may not be.

It doesn't get a whole lot more Americana than Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, who became famous both for his prowess at making moonshine, and his disdain for federal authorities. Both of these kept Sutton in perpetual trouble with the law, especially for moonshining and bootlegging (1), but he managed to stay out of prison until 2009 when he was convicted of illegal possession of a weapon and a whole lot of untaxed alcohol. Sutton, who committed suicide in 2009, was the subject of a History Channel  documentary called "Hillbilly: The Real Story."

...

Solar energy, with tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to keep it afloat, now employs more people than the fossil fuel alternative it is irrationally pitted against in media - coal. (1)

Obviously that employment would collapse if the government-mandated financial cushion dries up, just like ethanol or wind, and the new administration is looking at money as money, not as ideology. When it comes to money as money, coal generates it while solar is a big drain. But not everyone thinks of money as money, academia is the home of people who believe wacky things like that NIH earns twice as much as it costs, while ...

The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the finest institutions on the planet. Its accomplishments are far too numerous to list here, but its most famous is the effort it led to eradicate smallpox from the face of the planet. It is not an exaggeration to say that the WHO's missions have saved hundreds of millions of lives.

Because of such successes, something like a halo surrounds whatever the WHO chooses to do. But that's not healthy. No matter how well-meaning and righteous an organization is, it requires oversight. Without it, mismanagement and even corruption can creep in. 

According to the ...

Can someone please explain the logic here? Does this make any sense at all?

You are looking at a well-organized protest aimed at Pfizer (1) for not having any Bicillin L-A (aka penicillin G, or just Bicillin) to sell. Bicillin is the drug of choice for the treatment of syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection that has become much more prevalent in the past decade, especially among gay men (2), but in other populations. There is only one way to catch syphilis—by having sex with someone who already has it. Although condom use will help prevent it, it has been estimated that condoms offer protection...

“Patients have long been aware that many unseen dollars drive medical decisions and events.”

 

Introduction

Since the first time exchange of a chicken for medical care, there have been conflicts of interest, real or imagined, between “self-interest" and "altruism.” Recently JAMA devoted an entire issue to conflicts of interest (COI) in healthcare, within the healthcare community as well as for physicians facing outward, towards our patients.

Before summarizing those outward facing articles [1], consider the underlying problem of the dilemma between patient and doctor.

The patient, the person with a need, employs...