HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Pointing to evidence that HIV is not the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS

Archive for December, 2007

PARENZEE AND THE PERTH GROUP: A Correction

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2007/12/20

A valued observer of this blog was horrified to see me repeat the inaccurate claim that the Perth group had tried to prove that HIV doesn’t exist (COMMUNICATING VIA PERSONAL E-MAIL, 17 December).

Had I gone first and straight to the primary source–the Perth Group’s website–I would have seen among the FAQs:

DOES THE PERTH GROUP REALLY BELIEVE HIV DOES NOT EXIST?
The Perth Group does not broker beliefs and has never claimed HIV does not exist. (Neither have we claimed AIDS does not exist although we and our colleagues are often referred to as ‘AIDS Denialists’). What we have argued on numerous occasions in our publications and presentations is there is no proof that a retrovirus HIV does exist. Not in test-tubes, not in AIDS patients and not in anyone who is ‘HIV’ positive. We freely concede that our assertion may be wrong but to date no HIV expert has responded with any argument that has convinced us otherwise. There is a tradition in science that those who propose theories provide the proof. According to this tradition it is up to the HIV protagonists to come up with proof that HIV does exist. A scientist cannot employ the ‘Martian’ argument. That Martians exist because there is no proof they do not exist. It is our long held view that the laboratory phenomena documented by Montagnier and Gallo in Science in 1983/84 (which are still the best papers on this particular topic) are not specific for retroviruses and do not constitute proof of isolation of a retrovirus. In regard to Montagnier’s ‘discovery of HIV’ please read our recent paper mhmont.pdf

I offer a sincere apology in all directions.

In case to understand is to excuse: several newspaper accounts asserted explicitly that Parenzee’s defense insisted that HIV doesn’t exist, for example “Shadow of doubters” (originally published by Ruth Pollard in the Sydney Morning Herald).

I was reminded by another friendly correspondent that perhaps one ought not to believe everything one reads in the newspapers.

* * * * * *

On the plus side:

1. PEER REVIEW

It’s extremely reassuring to me that alert and knowledgeable observers of this blog tell me about mistakes and other deficiencies.

I’ve been interested for many years in the role that heresies and heterodoxies play in the progress of science. A crucial point is that the orthodoxy is highly structured and organized whereas those who dissent from the orthodox view tend to be unorganized (not to say DISorganized). Tangible benefits accrue from belonging to mainstream organizations, whereas being a dissenter brings anything but benefits.

To the extent that science has been self-correcting and increasingly reliable, those virtues stem from mutual critiquing among researchers, in other words, “peer review”. Dissenters don’t usually have the benefit of peer review. The orthodoxy is dismissive and doesn’t offer constructive, substantive criticism. Individual dissenters may be reluctant to criticize details of other dissenters’ views because they are all “in the same boat”; and they may also be more interested in pursuing their own pet ideas than becoming familiar with and constructively discussing the ideas that other dissenters have. Whatever the reasons, it is rare that dissenters are able to organize for effective, unified action.

So I’m truly grateful to those who provide me the benefit of peer review by telling me of deficiencies and outright errors.

2. SETTING AN EXAMPLE

I would like to think that by striving for all possible accuracy, and by acknowledging and correcting errors, HIV skeptics can stand in stark contrast to the dogmatic defenders-of -HIV dogma-at-all-costs who stick by mutually contradictory assertions and refuse to acknowledge even the facts published in their own articles, say, the plain fact that Padian failed to observe even one instance of HIV transmission during the course of her study; “Over time, the authors observed increased condom use (p <0.001) and no new infections [emphasis added]” (Abstract); “We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study” (p. 354)—Padian et al., American Journal of Epidemiology, 146 [1997] 350-7.

* * * * * *

I remain with the central point in my discussion draft, canwelearnfromparenzee.doc : “the need to identify exactly what is necessary to establish sufficient doubt about HIV = AIDS dogma”, and to find some way of bringing those points effectively to the attention of the general public.

Another way of putting it: Keep it as simple as possible. Reporters find it difficult to recognize, or to write accurately about, such distinctions as between “has not been proven to exist” and “does not exist”.

* * * * * *
* * * * * *

FURTHER READING AND ADVERTISEMENTS FOR MYSELF:

That peer review constitutes the actual scientific method is discussed in Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method. Scientific knowledge begins as hunches, which generate frontier research from which relatively reliable understanding eventuates after running the gauntlet of the knowledge filter, whose efficacy depends on how disinterested and conscientious peer review is.

The differences between orthodox scientific activity and the strivings of dissenters and heretics, and the corollaries and consequences of those differences, are discussed in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies; The Enigma of Loch Ness: Making Sense of a Mystery (especially chapter 6, The Quest, and chapter 10, Nessie, Science, and truth); Beyond Velikovsky (especially chapter 8, Pseudo-Scientists, Cranks, Crackpots, and chapter 15, Some realities about science).

Characteristics of science and of unorthodoxies are discussed in Fatal Attractions: The Troubles with Science.

Posted in HIV skepticism, HIV transmission, Legal aspects, sexual transmission, uncritical media | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

FIRST: DO NO HARM!

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2007/12/19

That’s supposed to be the medical profession’s motto. If unsure whether available treatments will help, and especially if there’s a chance that they might harm—do nothing; practice “watchful waiting”.

HIV/AIDS practices take the opposite approach. In the determination to get rid of HIV, it is sometimes forgotten that the whole point is to make people better (WHAT HIV DRUGS DO, 15 December 2007).

“HIV-infection” has never been demonstrated in more than 1% of the immune-system cells that HIV supposedly targets. Antiretroviral drugs cannot discriminate between infected and non-infected cells of this class. To prevent the infected cells from producing more virus, we administer substances that kill all the cells. To get rid of 1 guilty party, we execute 100 or more innocent ones.

Cells are not persons, of course. But if we kill or damage enough innocent cells in a person—cells that are innocent but essential to health—, then we certainly harm and may kill that person.

* * * * * *

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto . . . the least of these . . . , ye have done it unto me
(attr. Jesus)

Babies are certainly persons.

It’s estimated that 15-30% of HIV-positive mothers pass “HIV infection” on to their babies—between 1 in 3 and 1 in 6 of their newborns are HIV-positive, in other words. To avoid that, HIV/AIDS experts recommend that all HIV-positive mothers be treated with substances that are known to produce serious damage to the babies. To perhaps safeguard 1 baby from the possible but not certain deleterious effects of HIV, harm is knowingly done to between 2 and 5 babies who would otherwise be healthy.

Dissidents would point out that this ratio, between 2 and 5 to 1, is excessively conservative. Being born HIV-positive does not prove the presence of active infection. Upwards of 75% of HIV-positive newborns revert spontaneously to HIV-negative in about the first year, because their HIV-positive test was triggered by “passive” antibodies transferred from the mother (see p. 97 ff. in The Origins, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory). So the odds are increased by a factor of at least 4: to prevent the birth of 1 “HIV-infected” baby, between 8 and 20 newborns who would otherwise be healthy are knowingly exposed to harm.

I said “possible but not certain” deleterious effects of “HIV infection” because
1. Some unknown proportion of HIV-positive people are “elite controllers” or “long-term non-progressors” who remain, untreated, in good health.
2. On average, it is supposed to take 10 years before “HIV infection” leads to symptoms of illness.

Research continues apace to develop better and less toxic treatments for “HIV infection”. Research continues apace for vaccines which, even if not effective in preventing “infection”, might nevertheless enable HIV-positive people to become, in effect, long-term non-progressors. With any luck, some success along those lines might be attained within a decade or so. That would be in time to help an appreciable proportion of babies now being born “HIV-infected”.

So: It is anything but certain that any given HIV-positive newborn will actually experience harmful consequences; and it is anything but certain, how serious those consequences will be if they do eventuate.

By contrast, the damage done by perinatal antiretroviral treatment is certain and serious. Very serious. Perinatal antiretroviral treatment brings both short-term and long-term harm, documented in considerable detail in the dozen-and-a-half articles in Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, 48, #3-4, April-May 2007, which a correspondent drew to my attention recently.

The lead review article (by Kohler & Lewis, pp. 166-72) cites “therapeutic experience”—that is, observations on human babies—that NRTIs, the backbones of standard antiretroviral treatment, damage the mitochondria.

Further: “Clinical and biological observations of mitochondrial dysfunction in children exposed to zidovudine (azidothymidine, AZT) during the perinatal period rapidly followed similar observations in animal experiments”—these were uninfected children born to HIV-infected mothers. One third of the babies had hyperlactatemia, which seemed to reverse within some months after treatment ceased but did sometimes lead to lactic acidosis, which can be life-threatening. Between 1 in 20 and 1 in 35 babies also developed severe neurological symptoms during the first 2 years of life, a phenomenon confirmed in several other studies (Benhammou et al., pp. 73-8).

Again, in the article by Sherine Chan et al. (pp. 190-200): “mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage has been observed in both human and mouse neonates following perinatal exposure to AZT and AZT/3TC” as well as “NRTI-induced heart damage . . . in human infants”. Divi et al. confirm that “Transplacentally exposed human and monkey newborn infants show similar evidence of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-induced mitochondrial toxicity”. Witt et al. (pp. 322-9) reiterate that “transplacental ZDV exposure is genotoxic in humans”.

One can predict with reasonable certainty that damage to the mitochondria of infants will have seriously debilitating consequences, probably during the whole span of a life that is also significantly shortened. Mitochondria are the energy centers of all mammalian cells. Their dysfunction can lead to a number of degenerative diseases and their deterioration over time, as mutations in their mtDNA accumulate, is one of the causes of senescence, perhaps even the most important one (Linnane et al., “Mitochondrial mutations as an important contributor to ageing and degenerative diseases”, Lancet 1989: 642-5 and further references in Linnane & Eastwood, Mitochondrion 2004: 1-11).

Should the children with damaged mitochondria live long enough, they are likely to contract cancers: “perinatal exposure to nucleoside analogs puts children at elevated risk of developing cancers later in life” (Wogan, pp. 210-4). In cultured cells, AZT produced “micronuclei, chromosomal aberrations, sister chromatid exchange, shortened telomeres, and other genotoxic effects” (Olivero, pp. 215-23). In experiments with mice, “Mutagenicity experiments with ABC [abacavir] alone, or in combination with AZT-3TC, were complicated by the extreme cytotoxicity of ABC” (Torres et al., pp. 224-38); “all NRTIs with antiviral activity against HIV-1 may cause host cell DNA damage and mutations, and impose a cancer risk” (Carter et al., pp. 239-47). “AZT, 3TC, and the combination of AZT and 3TC are transplacental mutagens” (Von Tungeln et al., pp. 258-69). Rats and mice dosed with AZT developed hemangiosarcoma (a “rare, rapidly growing, highly invasive variety of cancer”), mononuclear cell leukemia, liver cancers, and gliomas (brain tumors) (Walker et al., pp. 283-98); also “alveolar/bronchiolar adenomas and carcinomas . . . benign and malignant lung neoplasms”, since “incorporation of AZT or its metabolites into DNA, oxidative stress, and genomic instability may be the contributing factors to the mutation profile and development of lung cancer” (Hue-Hua Hong et al., pp. 299-306).

* * * * * *

AZT and its cousin NRTIs damage the mitochondria, whose proper functioning in all cells is essential to health. AZT and its cousin NRTIs also cause mutations that lead to all sorts of cancers.

The toxicity of AZT was known long before its introduction as an antiretroviral drug: it had been found too toxic to be used in cancer chemotherapy. Several of the papers cited above refer to similar damage in humans as in rats, mice, and monkeys: either there had not been studies in animals before the drugs were used in human beings, or the drugs were used in humans even though animal studies had shown cell and mitochondrial toxicities and carcinogenicity. Olivero (215-23) attempts an excuse: “Detailed information on the mechanisms underlying NRTI-associated antiretroviral efficacy, toxicity, and metabolic resistance were not available when AZT was first approved for use as an antiretroviral agent”; sure, “detailed information” wasn’t available, but it was certainly well known that AZT is toxic—see the oft-reproduced label below, and note the irony of “For laboratory use only. Not for drug, household, or other uses.” That’s how this chemical was described when it was introduced as an antiretroviral drug.

aztlabel.jpg

* * * * * *

Trying to understand how anyone could treat pregnant women and babies in this fashion, I can only conclude that the single-minded determination to wipe out HIV has outweighed all other considerations. Half-a-dozen of the cited articles emphasize that perinatal antiretroviral treatment has been shown to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as though this were the prime necessity by comparison to the damage known to be done by the drugs:

Acknowledged was “the necessity for effective protective strategies against NRTI-induced side effects” (Walker et al., 283-998). But what “protective” strategies are conceivable? Other than not using NRTIs, of course.

There is a repeated disingenuous call for careful monitoring of the damaged children, as though any amount of monitoring could undo the damage:
“the importance of continued surveillance of these children for increased cancer risk and . . . less genotoxic alternative agents” (Wogan, 210-4) ; “the mutagenic effects found in mother-child pairs receiving AZT-based treatments justify their surveillance for long-term genotoxic consequences” (Escobar et al., 330-43). “While these data support the continued use of AZT-based therapies during pregnancy, infants receiving prepartum AZT should be monitored long-term for adverse health effects” (Meng et al., 307-21). “Long-term monitoring of HIV-uninfected ZDV-exposed infants is recommended to ensure their continued health” (Witt et al., 322-9)–as though monitoring could “ensure continued health”!

* * * * * *

When AIDS was first noticed, the belief became embedded that it is inevitably fatal. When HIV was subsequently designated the cause of AIDS, the belief became that “HIV-positive” is inevitably fatal. That belief has continued to co-exist in company with its own disproof: the knowledge that some proportion of HIV-positive people (“elite controllers”, “long-term non-progressors”) never become ill, that HIV-positive people live a healthy life on average for 10 years before HIV-induced symptoms appear, and the shibboleth that “HIV is now a manageable disease”.

Damaging the mitochondria of newborns and subjecting them to significant risk of cancers is incompatible with current knowledge. A doubtful benefit to one newborn is being achieved at the cost of serious damage to at least 2, and perhaps 20 or more newborns who were never at any risk in the first place.

Is anyone reminded of burning witches at the stake in order to save their souls and wipe out the devils that had possessed them? Or, in more recent times, destroying a village in Vietnam in order to save it for democracy?

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, experts, HIV in children, HIV tests, HIV transmission, HIV varies with age, HIV/AIDS numbers | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

P.S. re PARENZEE CASE

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2007/12/18

Much useful material about this matter is available at http://garlan.org/Cases/Parenzee/: newspaper reports, transcripts of testimony by mainstream experts, and commentaries

Posted in experts, Legal aspects | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

COMMUNICATING VIA PERSONAL E-MAIL

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2007/12/17

I’m happy to converse via personal e-mail, but please understand that I can only respond if the e-address you give, and that comes up when I use ”Reply”, is a valid one. For example, I had an e-mail from ”anonymous@anonymous.com” and my reply was rejected by the Internet delivery system.

************

After I had posted this,  textgenie wrote:
So Henry, don’t waste it. Put the exchange up here on your blog.

***********

Thanks, textgenie! Should have thought of it myself. “Anonymous” had said:

Hello, Dr. Bauer. I’m a writer and scientist (keeping a low profile) who’s been impressed by your HIV Skeptic blog and am curious about your thoughts on the Parenzee case. I have seen and reviewed HIV dissident arguments in the past and thought this case, as summarized below, was a particularly strong blow to the dissident argument. I’d be interested to know your response — perhaps, if I may be so bold, it could merit discussion in your blog? Thank you.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andre_Chad_Parenzee

************************

hhbauer replies:

(There remains at least one other possible avenue for an appeal on Parenzee’s behalf)

My thoughts on the matter are given in some detail in the attached, which I circulated soon after Judge Sulan’s rejection of the first appeal. I haven’t revised it since the later rejection by the full Court.

canwelearnfromparenzee.doc

In substantive terms, I think the case is irrelevant to the scientific arguments, because the criteria for judging are entirely different in science and in the law.

Parenzee’s legal defense team, when he was first on trial, was unaware of the existence of dissident views. Then it became aware of them through the Perth Group. The latter have published some very important material, BUT they insisted on being the only expert witnesses on Parenzee’s behalf AND committed the strategic mistake of trying to prove that HIV doesn’t even exist. Insofar as the scientific arguments could influence the legal considerations, this tack taken in the first appeal may make it impossible to bring in the scientific dissident case “from scratch”, though the defense did try to shift ground in the hearing by the full Appeals Court, from the grounds that HIV doesn’t exist to trying to show errors in Sulan’s decisions.

I don’t understand the legal situation well enough to venture a guess whether another appeal is possible or what grounds would be available and to what extent the scientific case would be relevant.

I’m glad you’ve found my blog worthwhile, and I will certainly keep the Parenzee case in mind for it. Just now I’m preoccupied with the question of antiretroviral treatments; when I read the whole of the official guidelines I was rather horrified; and there are a few other gross deficiencies in the orthodox views “champing at the bit” to be addressed!

If you can take the time, I urge you to go over the data from HIV tests in the US, which I’ve summarized in my book and in several earlier articles that can be downloaded from my website. There are so many aspects and complications–what IS AIDS? what IS HIV? etc etc, but one thing seems simple and clear: what HIV tests have detected in the US over the last quarter century is not an infectious agent, and it is not correlated with the incidence of AIDS. That means HIV was not the cause of AIDS, and all the subsidiary questions need to be re-examined in that light. Several of them cannot be answered without considerable new research; for example, why do gay men apparently test HIV-positive so frequently?

Best regards, anonymous!

Posted in experts, HIV does not cause AIDS, Legal aspects | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2007/12/15

Healthy people are told to take drugs known to cause severe “side” effects that some find literally intolerable (see WHAT HIV DRUGS DO, 15 December; OFFICIAL GUIDELINES FOR HIV TREATMENT, 14 December; ANTIRETROVIRAL DRUGS: HISTORY AND RHETORIC, 12 December; BEST TREATMENT FOR HIV: THIS YEAR’S ADVICE, LAST YEAR’S, OR NEXT YEAR’S? , 10 December 2007).

These debilitating drugs are recommended by people who have vested financial and career interests in them through connections with drug companies–a clear case of conflicts of interest. This in itself should discredit, thoroughly and completely, everything in the Treatment Guidelines featured in those recent posts.

The Panel responsible for the December 2007 Guidelines had two co-chairs, both with financial connections to drug companies. Only 3 of the 24 Panel members disclaimed such a conflict of interest. More details about the connections of some HIV experts to drug companies can be found at http://www.shillfactor.net/.

Recall that the most important criterion for each recommendation is “expert opinion” (BEST TREATMENT…, 10 December). Perhaps the most basic fact about conflicts of interest is that they influence opinions.

The significance of conflicts of interest is widely ignored in contemporary affairs in the United States, and not only in science and medicine. Circumstances have become accepted as normal which, if occurring in other countries, would be easily recognized as utterly corrupt. Here’s a synopsis of Conflicts of Interest 101.

If I teach a class that has my daughter in it, no conscious effort on my part can ensure that she will be treated in exactly the same manner as the other students. Subconscious and unconscious emotions can influence my thoughts and actions in ways that I am unaware of and therefore cannot do anything about. No matter how consciously honorable and upright I may be, no matter how unfailingly rule-abiding and law-abiding and ethical in all my other interactions, there can be no guarantee that my daughter will not receive some degree of special treatment.

THE ONLY SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE POSSIBLE INFLUENCE
OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IS TO HAVE NO CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.
PERIOD.

Once upon a time, this was widely understood. That time was not even so long ago. When President Eisenhower nominated Charlie Wilson, the CEO of General Motors, as Secretary of Defense, Wilson was asked about a possible conflict of interest. His response was,

“What’s good for General Motors is good for the country,
and what’s good for the country is good for General Motors”.

The naive absurdity of that response was so widely appreciated at the time that it was featured in cartoons and comic strips and late-night comedy shows. Collections of quotations and infamous sayings still feature it. Check it out: just Google “What’s good for General Motors”.

Nowadays, the experts who draw up Treatment Guidelines, and the people who choose those experts to make up the Panel, are telling us implicitly that what’s good for the drug companies and for those who consult for them and get grants and presents from them is also good for the rest of us, for the people who will be using the drugs and for those who will be paying for the drugs.

At a conscious level, no doubt these are all ethical, well-intentioned, upright people who would never allow possible financial gain to sway their expert scientific judgment. But they are no more able to control their subconscious drives than I could control mine about my daughter in class.

In fact, to venture some amateur psychological speculation, the most consciously upright and ethical people are also those most likely to succumb to subconscious corruption, because they are least on guard against the possibility. Furthermore, human beings are protected against acknowledging to themselves their own misdeeds, through the phenomenon of compartmentalization: we can and do hold incompatible views simultaneously, and we manage to do things while imagining not only that we are not doing them but even that we never would do them:
Think Jimmy Swaggart and other sinners who preach against sin.
Think ex-Senator-to-be Larry Craig.
Recall the sublimely naïve response of David Baltimore when asked about a potential conflict of interest: “I think people are entitled to ask that of me. But I do think the statements and decisions I make come from the highest sense of integrity” (Chemical & Engineering News, 15 March 1982, 12).

Of course he thinks that. They all do. WE all do.
That’s why we have to be protected against ourselves, against doing for unconscious reasons what we would not wish to do. That’s why the only protection against undue influence is to have no conflicts of interest at all.

THE ONLY SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE POSSIBLE INFLUENCE
OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IS TO HAVE NO CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.
PERIOD.

 

Andrew Stark, in the book “Conflict of Interest in Public Life”, makes it very clear. There are three aspects of a conflict of interest:
1. The connections
2. The associated state of mind
3. Actions that may stem therefrom

For example:
1. My daughter is a student in the class I teach
2. My feelings about her and my attitudes toward grading
3. I assign a grade

Or:
1. X consults for a drug company
2. X’s judgments about the drug company’s products
3. X recommends wider use of the company’s product

Stark points out that there is no way of knowing or finding out, what my state of mind was when I awarded the grade, whether my love for my daughter influenced it one way or the other, favoring her or overcompensating against favoring her; and there is no way of knowing whether X’s attitude toward the drug company influenced the decision to recommend its product.

However, any number of studies have amply confirmed that on average, statistically, such situations do influence the resulting actions: those experts with conflicts of interest are more likely than others to judge favorably toward approval of a drug. For instance, when the question was, should Vioxx and the other drugs in this class, Bextra and Celebrex, be allowed to remain on the market, this is how the experts voted:

Vioxx: Full panel: 17 yes, 15 no. Panel without those with conflicts of interest: 8 yes, 14 no.
Bextra: Full panel: 17 yes, 13 no. Panel without those with conflicts of interest: 8 yes, 12 no.
Celebrex: Full panel: 31 yes, 1 no. Panel without those with conflicts of interest: 21 yes, 1 no.
(Goozner, AARP Bulletin, May 2006, p. 10, citing New York Times, 25 February 2005).

Industry sponsorship made studies 4 to 8 times more likely to be favorable to beverage companies (Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 January 2007, A27-8). “Psychiatric drugs fare favorably when companies pay for studies” (Elias, USA Today, 25 May 2006, 1A). Those are just a few of the innumerable such social-science studies all confirming what plain common sense already knows. Doctors with financial stakes in analytical labs prescribe more lab tests than those without such interests. And so on and on.

THE ONLY SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE POSSIBLE INFLUENCE
OF CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IS TO HAVE NO CONFLICTS OF INTEREST.
PERIOD.

 

Many individuals, institutions, and organizations simply don’t understand that when they blather about “apparent” or “negligible” or “potential” conflicts of interest. There are no such things. A conflict of interest is Stark’s aspect 1: the connections.
Either there is a connection or there isn’t.
PERIOD.
“Apparent”, “negligible”, “potential” are intended to address stage 3, to express doubt as to whether the connections will actually exert an influence. As Stark points out, that cannot be known. What is known, beyond any doubt, is that conflicts of interest exert a statistical influence. No matter how hard human beings may try, they cannot know or control or counteract their subconscious or unconscious motives.

To recuse people who have conflicts of interest, to exclude them from particular activities, is not to accuse them of being consciously swayed by those conflicts of interest, still less is it to accuse them of being consciously self-serving evil-doers. Recusing people with conflicts of interest is to their own benefit, to protect them from doing what they would not consciously wish to do. Recusing people with conflicts of interest is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that paths to Hell are paved with good intentions.

* * * * * *

Some of the above I’ve taken from my seminar “Ethics in science” posted at http://www.chem.vt.edu/chem-ed/ethics/hbauer/hbauer-ref.html and being reprinted in “Against the Tide: A Critical Review by Scientists of how Physics and Astronomy get done”, M. López-Corredoira & C. Castro (Eds.), 2007 (in press).

While the titles of some of the following books may suggest sensationalist muckraking, that is far from the case. All the authors are respectable mainstream figures: senior tenured faculty, a couple of former editors of top medical journals, a former university president, and several respected journalists. All the books are written in matter-of-fact prose with proper citation of sources.

For corruption at the National Institutes of Health through conflicts of interest, see the series of articles by David Willman in the Los Angeles Times, 7 December 2003, pp. A1, A32-35, and 22 December 2004.

For further reading on the corruption of science and medicine in general, start with Daniel Greenberg (2001) “Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion” and Sheldon Krimsky (2003) “Science in the Private Interest”.

For the corrupting influence of Big Pharma, see John Abramson (2004) “Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine”; Marcia Angell (2004) “The Truth about the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do about It”; Jerry Avorn (2004) “Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs”; Merrill Goozner (2004) “The $800 Million Pill: The Truth behind the Cost of New Drugs”; Jerome Kassirer (2004) “On The Take: How Medicine’s Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health”.

For the commercial corruption of contemporary academe, see for example Derek Bok (2003) “Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education” and Jennifer Washburn (2005) “University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of American Higher Education”.

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, experts, prejudice | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »