Dr. Diane Harper was the lead researcher in the development of the human papilloma virus vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix. She is the latest to come forward and question the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines. She made the surprising announcement at the 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination, which took place in Reston, Virginia on Oct. 2nd through 4th, 2009. Her speech was supposed to promote the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines, but she instead turned on her corporate bosses in a very public way. When questioned about the presentation, audience members remarked that they came away feeling that the vaccines should not be used.
“I came away from the talk with the perception that the risk of adverse side effects is so much greater than the risk of cervical cancer, I couldn’t help but question why we need the vaccine at all.” – Joan Robinson
Dr. Harper explained in her presentation that the cervical cancer risk in the U.S. is already extremely low, and that vaccinations are unlikely to have any effect upon the rate of cervical cancer in the United States. In fact, 70% of all H.P.V. infections resolve themselves without treatment in a year, and the number rises to well over 90% in two years. Harper also mentioned the safety angle. All trials of the vaccines were done on children aged 15 and above, despite them currently being marketed for 9-year-olds. So far, 15,037 girls have reported adverse side effects from Gardasil alone to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (V.A.E.R.S.), and this number only reflects parents who underwent the hurdles required for reporting adverse reactions.
At the time of writing, 44 girls are officially known to have died from these vaccines. The reported side effects include Guillian Barré Syndrome (paralysis lasting for years, or permanently — sometimes eventually causing suffocation), lupus, seizures, blood clots, and brain inflammation. Parents are usually not made aware of these risks. Dr. Harper, the vaccine developer, claimed that she was speaking out, so that she might finally be able to sleep at night.
“About eight in every ten women who have been sexually active will have H.P.V. at some stage of their life. Normally there are no symptoms, and in 98 per cent of cases it clears itself. But in those cases where it doesn’t, and isn’t treated, it can lead to pre-cancerous cells which may develop into cervical cancer.” – Dr. Diane Harper
It’s been a good week if you enjoy a little GMO schadenfreude. The FDA has reportedly bowed to public pressure to extend the comment period on its approval of genetically engineered salmon, and Illinois, Maryland, and Iowa are the latest states to buck GMOs by introducing labeling bills into state legislature.
Even the Supreme Court has an opportunity to take Monsanto down a peg. On Feb. 19, the court will hear arguments in a patent infringement case between an Indiana farmer and Monsanto (I covered it in detail here). If Monsanto prevails, it’ll move a few more paces towards agricultural monopoly; if it loses, the company will take a couple steps back. It’s encouraging that the Supreme Court chose to hear the case over the solicitor general’s urging to dismiss it, but Monsanto could have an inside man: As in other Monsanto-related cases, former Monsanto-lawyer-turned-Supreme-Court-Justice Clarence Thomas has no plans to recuse himself.
But GMOs took the biggest punch this week from academia: Tom Philpott highlights a USDA-funded study [PDF] by University of Wisconsin scientists who found that several types of GMO seeds (including Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready varieties) actually produce a lower yield than conventional seeds. Only one seed — a corn that produces its own pesticide to combat the corn borer — offers any significant yield benefit. In other words, planting most genetically modified seeds results in less harvest per acre than planting non-genetically modified seeds.
The researchers looked at 20 years of data from test plots in Wisconsin from 1990-2010, both on research plots and on plots in participating farmers’ fields. Philpott flags a key point from the study:
Then there’s the question of so-called “stacked-trait” crops — that is, say, corn engineered to contain multiple added genes — for example, Monsanto’s “Smart Stax” product, which contains both herbicide-tolerant and pesticide-expressing genes. The authors detected what they call “gene interaction” in these crops — genes inserted into them interact with each other in ways that affect yield, often negatively. If multiple genes added to a variety didn’t interact, “the [yield] effect of stacked genes would be equal to the sum of the corresponding single gene effects,” the authors write. Instead, the stacked-trait crops were all over the map. “We found strong evidence of gene interactions among transgenic traits when they are stacked,” they write. Most of those effects were negative — i.e., yield was reduced.
This matters because stacked-trait crops are a favored approach to combat the superweeds and bugs that are part and parcel of years of GMO crops. But the more you stack, the worse your yield. The scientists also found evidence of a “yield penalty” that comes simply from the act of manipulating plant genes.
In short, the more one meddles with plant genes, the worse yields get; when you change multiple genes at once, yields drop even further. This should give pause to those who see GMO seeds as the means to address more complex problems like drought tolerance, nutritional value, or plant productivity. These are traits involving dozens, if not hundreds, of genes. This study suggests genetic manipulation of food crops at such a scale is a losing game.
A few years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report with a similar conclusion, but this is one of the first rigorous attempts to establish through controlled experiments the yield benefit (or penalty) of GM seeds. The UW scientists do note that they determined that GM seeds do provide farmers with lower “yield risk”; essentially, that farmers are less likely to face catastrophic crop losses when using GMO seeds. But there are other conventional techniques that researchers have concluded can support yield, reduce environmental harm, and increase farmer income without having to pay big bucks to biotech companies.
Not that we should expect biotech companies to just roll over: With five such companies controlling nearly 60 percent of the global seed business, it may be impossible for farmers to find sufficient conventional seed. (Learn how the seed business became so consolidated in the Center for Food Safety’s new report “Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.”)
But we should take what we can get. Between Supreme Court justices who may be fed up with the company’s aggressive intellectual property tactics and farmers who could get fed up with its ineffective intellectual property, Monsanto’s stumbles could mean a few sure steps forward for food growers and eaters.
The average American today is exposed to a whole lot more fluoride than he or she is probably aware. Conventional produce, it turns out, is one of the most prevalent sources of fluoride exposure besides fluoridated water, as conventional crops are not only irrigated with fluoride-laced water in many cases, but also sprayed with pesticide and herbicide chemicals that have been blended with fluoride, and later processed once again with fluoridated water.
This fact may come as a surprise to many who have bought into the idea that eating more fresh produce is automatically beneficial for health, regardless of how that produce was grown. Thinking that they are doing their bodies a favor, millions of Americans have incorporated conventional fruits and vegetables into their everyday diets, not realizing that the resulting cumulative effect of fluoride exposure from these foods could be harming their health.
Many food crops uptake fluoride chemicals from water, soil
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population is being forcibly medicated with fluoride chemicals via their water supplies. This means that a significant percentage of U.S. crops are also irrigated using this same fluoridated water, particularly in the “Bread Belt” states, many of which are almost entirely fluoridated.
While not all crops uptake fluoride from water in the same amounts, many absorb significant amounts of fluoride through their root systems every time they are watered. Tea plants, for instance, are among the worst when it comes to absorbing fluoride from soil and water, and storing it in their leaves. Grapes are another crop that tends to accumulate fluoride in high levels as well.
According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its National Fluoride Database of Selected Beverages and Foods, fresh fruits and vegetables have relatively low levels of fluoride compared to what is found in fluoridated water, reconstituted juices, dried fruit, and other sources. But levels can vary, and particularly in the case of conventional produce, fluoridated pesticides and herbicides can add to overall fluoride exposure and intake levels.
Fluoridated pesticide, herbicide residues often lurk on conventional food
Because of its extreme toxicity, fluoride is often added to pesticides and herbicides in order to protect conventional crops from insect damage and disease. But just like with fluoridated irrigation water, fluoridated crop chemicals often absorb directly into plants, or at the very least, linger on the skins of the fruits and vegetables they produce, which adds to their fluoride toxicity.
Sulfuryl fluoride is one such pesticide that is commonly used to treat conventional cereal grains, dried fruit, tree nuts, cocoa beans, coffee beans, and other foods. Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is said to currently be in the process of phasing out the use of sulfuryl fluoride, the chemical is still being used on a wide variety of conventional food crops, unbeknownst to consumers.
There are, in fact, more than 150 different fluoridated pesticides currently approved for use on conventional crops, none of which are typically indicated on produce labels. Chances are that if you eat conventional fruit, vegetables, or nuts, you are more than likely eating varieties that have been sprayed or fumigated with fluoride chemicals, which are prohibited from use on organic crops.
This compounded exposure to fluoride from fluoridated irrigation water, fluoridated pesticides and herbicides, airborne fluoride chemicals, and fluoridated water used during processing or reconstitution after harvest renders many conventional fruits and vegetables fluoride saturated.
Admittedly, many organic crops are also exposed to fluoride via irrigated water just like conventional crops are. But at least organic crops are not sprayed with fluoridated pesticides after harvest, and many organic foods are processed after harvest using purified water, as indicated on their ingredient labels, which means they contain less overall fluoride than their conventional counterparts.
The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) has also created a helpful guide entitled 7 Ways to Avoid Fluoride in Beverages and Food that will help you discern how best to avoid fluoride when shopping for other types of food: http://www.fluoridealert.org/content/grocery_guide/
Half of France’s drugs are ‘useless’ and five percent are dangerous, a book by two top French doctors claimed. The duo believes the pharmaceutical industry is forcing ineffective drugs on the market, costing taxpayers up to ten billion euros a year.
The duo reviewed 4,000 French drugs and found that 50 percent were ‘useless,’ 20 percent were ‘badly tolerated’ and five percent had adverse effects.
Philippe Even, former head of the Necker Hospital in Paris, and Bernard Debré, doctor and member of parliament for the UMP party, recently co-authored a book titled ‘The Guide to 4,000 Useful, Useless or Dangerous Medicines.’
The book claimed that France could save up to ten billion euros a year by halting social security reimbursements for drugs that are hazardous or have no health value.
The pharmaceutical industry is “the most lucrative, most cynical and least ethical of all the industries,” Dr. Even said. He claims that in order to reduce budget shortfalls in France’s healthcare system, “one simply has to take the dangerous, useless and ineffective medicines off the market.”
The book was written in light of a Mediator Affaire report Dr. Even and Dr. Debré conducted in 2011 for former President Nicolas Sarkozy, where they investigated an incident where some 2,000 people were killed by a prescribed diabetic drug before the medicine was taken off the market.
Their report stated that the French medical system was in dire need of reform, spurring Dr. Even and Dr. Debré to write their book.
The two made a list of drugs that pose health risks, including cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory and anti-smoking drugs, and contraceptive pills.
Statins, drugs taken to lower cholesterol, were just one of the many drugs found to be “completely useless,” Dr. Even said in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur. “[Statins] are taken by three to five million French people, which costs France two million euros per year.”
France a top drug consumer
According to 2011 study, France is the world’s fifth-largest market for pharmaceuticals, with the average French person having 47 pills and prescriptions in their medical cabinet. The combined cost of those medicines is around 532 euros per person, with the state covering 77 percent of the price, France24 reported.
“We have to do a big clean-up of our pharmacies,” Dr. Even told Le Parisien. “France has a huge public debt and the state can make considerable savings.”
“Meanwhile in the UK, where people take far fewer medicines than us, people are no less healthy as a result,” he said.
The two believe that, while there is no room for ‘useless’ drugs on the market, people should certainly continue to use effective drugs. “Antibiotics are the best [medical] discovery of all time,” Even told Le Parisien. “Antiretroviral drugs have given us a very real lead on AIDS and a large number of anti-cancer medicines have had an immense impact on our treatment of the disease.”
Book blasted by medical establishment
The Professional Federation of Medical Industrialists (LEEM) criticized the book as un-academic and unclear. The group argued that the doctors’ assertions could have a destabilizing effect, needlessly alarming ill patients into ceasing treatments for their diseases.
“We must not forget that the state exercises strict controls on drugs. France has specialist [government] agencies responsible for the health of patients and of controlling what information is given to them [about drugs],” LEEM President Christian Lajoux told AFP.
Just as it is in the west, the HPV vaccine is being heavily marketed in India. The heavy pressure to roll it out has resulted in tragic deaths of girls given the vaccines. Now, a report by the British Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has come out with a study demonstrating that the HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, cannot be justified in India. More scandalous, though, is that their results clearly reflect that these vaccines are even less justified in the western world, including the USA, UK, Europe, Canada, and Australia. That, though, is never mentioned in their report..
The primary point brought out by the study(1) is that the rate of cervical cancer is not high enough to justify the cost and risks associated with Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines. Further, the authors noted that the rate of cervical cancer in India has dropped dramatically in a little more than 20 years, from 43 cases per 100,000 in 1982-83 down to 22 per 100,000 in 2004-05. This point alone should clarify that the cause of cervical cancer is likely mostly associated with something that’s controllable in the environment. India’s standard of living has risen dramatically in the last 25 years, and that may be the most significant factor in cervical cancer rates.
The Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), which has close ties with the Bill Gates Foundation(2), is the primary force behind pushing HPV vaccines in India. Of course, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) also actively push them because they manufacture the vaccines.
The British study has harsh words for the conclusions that PATH reached. They quote the PATH document, “Shaping a Strategy to Introduce HPV Vaccines in India, “Results from the HPV Vaccines’ states that ‘in raw numbers, India has the largest burden of cancer of the cervix of any country worldwide.” Then, they state.
This claim is not supported by the references, moreover data from the cancer registries in Gujarat or the Cancer Atlas were not cited.
PATH selected Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat ‘based on cervical cancer disease burden’ and because they were ‘in the middle range for certain variables (e.g., immunization coverage)’. There are no references provided for this statement.
Of the five studies that PATH cites in relation to cervical cancer or HPV epidemiology, one study could not be traced; the HBCR report is not comprehensive and does not provide age-adjusted cervical cancer incidence rates; and the three remaining studies did not examine epidemiology of cancer but reported on HPV prevalence and type distribution. Only one study was conducted in Andhra Pradesh and none in Gujarat. The three studies were conducted in rural populations in the south, and urban populations in the south and north of India.
In other words, the British study found that the claims made by PATH are not supported by any evidence!
The authors concluded:
Neither the epidemiological evidence nor current cancer surveillence systems justify the general rollout of a HPV vaccination programme either in India or in the two states where PATH was conducting its research. HPV vaccination programmes should only proceed where there is both strong epidemiological evidence and where there are adequate surveillance and monitoring systems.
The cervical cancer rate does not justify the costs or risks for the HPV vaccine.
Study Implications for Industrialized Nations
This study about the lack of justification of the HPV vaccine in India has strong implications for its massive rollout in the west. All we need to do is compare the incidence of cervical cancer in India with those of western nations:
India United States of America United Kingdom
22 per 100,000 8.0 per 100,000(3) 10.5 per 100,000(4)
Even in terms of cancer rates, these are low. In the UK, the total annual rate of cancer as of 2008 was 466.3/100,000(4). In the US, the rate for 2008 was 517.6/100,000(5). The study did not give an overall cancer rate in India. It did, though, focus on the fact that the mortality rate (not incidence, but actually death rate) of Indian women from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases was 283/100,000, and compared it with the death rate from cervical cancer: 7.7/100,000.
In the US and UK, the cervical cancer rate is less than half that found in India. This study found that giving the HPV vaccine makes no sense in light of both its cost and harmful effects. This doesn’t even consider the fact that no cause-and-effect connection between HPV and cancer has ever been shown, so there is nothing to demonstrate that the very expensive HPV vaccines even accomplish what they claim.
The implication of this study for the industrialized nations is that the HPV vaccines make no sense, even without taking into account the question of whether they actually do prevent cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a relatively rare disease. It isn’t even in the top ten cancers. Whether we like to accept it or not, the fact is that cost of medical treatment does matter. If we spend too much on one thing, then we won’t have enough to spend on something else. So, we must make rational decisions.
So, the question is: Does it make any sense to promote a vaccine for HPV? Consider these facts:
There is no proof that it prevents cancer.
The cost of the vaccine is extremely high and must be repeated at least three times for initial coverage and again every few years.
The rate of cervical cancer is quite low.
The cure rate of cervical cancer is quite high.
The adverse effects are devastating.
Clearly, it does not. Whether in India or a western nation, there simply is no justification for the HPV vaccines—unless, of course, you’re Merck or GSK.
Video of Study Author Discussing Problems Found in the PATH Claims
Professor Allyson Pollock, one of the paper’s researchers, is interviewed in this video. She states quite clearly that it will take at least 30 years to know if the vaccine works to prevent cancer and specifically states that PATH is hugely irresponsible in pushing the HPV vaccines in India. She clarifies quite clearly why the HPV vaccine makes no sense in India. It’s a shame she didn’t expand her comments to the use of these vaccines in the west [8:55]: