Wednesday, 9 October 2013

BBC assume leading role in promoting new GSK malaria vaccine

There is a new vaccine about to be launched upon us. It is for Malaria. And the BBC are acting to promote it, on behalf of the drug manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

This article appeared on 8th October 2013. UK firm seeks to market world's first Malaria vaccine.

The BBC has been hyping up the benefits of this vaccine now for some years - as always, keen to provide us with 'good' news about drug and vaccine 'breakthroughs'. These are just a few of the BBC articles on the Malaria vaccine during the last two years.

So, all would appear to be well, then? Well, not really. As usual, this is a piece of BBC News reporting that does little more than parrot the 'good news' press releases of Big Pharma drug companies. The BBC seems content to act as the sales promoter of their vaccines and drugs - without the least attempt at seeking balance in their reporting.

Like everyone else, the BBC is aware that conventional drugs and vaccines have 'side-effects'. What they don't recognise is that the 'side-effects' to which they admit are actually much worse than this phrase suggests. Conventional drugs and vaccines regularly and routinely cause 'disease-inducing-effects', or DIEs.

So what about this new vaccine. Has there been any attempt at balance? Who undertook the study? Has there been any questioning of the validity of the study, or any concern about possible DIEs for the patients who will receive this vaccine? Will this vaccine be any safer, or any more effective for patients than other vaccines have proven to be?

If the 'promising' trial results are analysed there are already indications of early signs of over-hyping, and danger for patients. Heidi Stevenson did such an analysis in June 2013, and commented:

          "Before accepting claims of a vaccine’s efficacy, it’s wise to look at the study and who financed it. A new study for a malaria vaccine is a case in point. It was financed by the manufacturer and the lead researcher is a co-patent holder! It should come as no suprise that there are gaping flaws in the study, as discussed here".

So, the BBC is quite willing to report 'promising' trial results without bothering to tell us that the trials were funded and conducted by the drug company itself. A 72% efficacy rate? Wonderful. No question about it then, as far as the BBC thinks anyway. Perhaps they continue to believe that there are no 'vested interests' in such trials, and that drug companies are entirely honest in the way they conduct and interpret them! But Stevenson found much more to be concerned about, not least that the findings on the safety were 'wildly exaggerated'.

She found that many people who had received the vaccine developed a series of mild adverse reactions, including induration, pain, tenderness, swelling, erythema, hyperpigmentation, hyperemia, fever, and headache. But these were not considered to be a result of the vaccine. Stevenson asks the question - how can this exclusion be justified? A question notably not asked by the BBC.

The more serious adverse reactions identified were upper respiratory track infections, body tinea, rhinitis, vulvovaginal candidiasis, and gastrointestinal disease. The study shows that those who received the vaccine experienced more of these conditions than the control group, and this was Stevenson's analysis.

          "Apparently, the researchers didn’t consider this to be significant. However, when you consider the relatively small size of this study compared with the millions who would be vaccinated if (the vaccine)  were approved, the seriousness of these results becomes quite apparent.

          "Let’s say that one million children receive this vaccine. Then, if the adverse effects occur at the same rate, an extra 127,000 children would suffer from upper respiratory tract infections. Since the targeted population is poor, that means many would not be healthy enough to manage it, and some would likely die. Add to that the gastritis case that occurred in the trial, and you’d have more than 25,000 people who’d suffer severe gastritis.

Whether it is appropriate for a drug company, with vested interests in the commercial success of the vaccine, should be allowed to get away with this is one thing.

That a public broadcaster, like the BBC, should allow them to get away with it is quite another. 

The BBC, unlike most parts of the private media industry, does not have a vested interest in GSK, or any other drug company. But it does (or at least it should) have a vested interest in its licence payers, who are patients, and so potential users of this vaccine.

Stevenson's study also looks at the claimed efficacy rate of 72%, and finds that such claims, based on this study, cannot be substantiated. She comes to this conclusion:

"It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the following flaws exist:
  • Efficacy, the primary point being hyped, was not the primary end-point of the study.
  • The primary end-point, adverse effects, were significant, likely resulting in a very large percentage of subject developing serious health effects. Though the authors of the study toss off a claim that they were not related to the vaccine, looking at the numbers makes that claim appear quite doubtful.
  • The section of the trial that that utilized children as test subjects failed to test them for prior exposure to malaria. This seems highly questionable and may be part of the reason that the efficacy results seem so good.
  • The other reason for apparently good efficacy results may be that the post-trial study used a control group that was chosen at a different time than the rest of the subjects. Looking at the results would tend to suggest that this is the most significant factor in apparently good efficacy.
It is notable that the BBC failed to pick up any of this, or even sought to do so. The close link between this public broadcaster and Big Pharma companies appears to be more about the views and allegiences of their science and health correspondents, who seem to be willing to proclaim positive, pro-drug, pro-vaccine news; whilst at the same time discounting any negative evidence that these drugs and vaccines are actually doing harm to patients, and causing disease. 

Yet 'rogue employees' are no excuse. The BBC is responsible for the news it broadcasts, and how it is broadcasted. Its editorial guidelines are supposed to be committed to 'balance' and 'impartiality'. However, with regard to most matters relating to health it repeatedly, and consistently shows a disregard for both. It shows absolutely no interest in informing its licence holders of the potential damage conventional drugs and vaccines are known to cause.

The 'new malaria vaccine' is a developing story. Most conventional drugs and vaccines come to the market with similar fanfares about its efficacy and safety - only to be withdrawn and banned a few years later because of the damage they cause to patients. There is no reason to assume that this new vaccine will be any different, or that it will be any more successful in the prevention and treatment of Malaria than current conventional treatments - which have totally failed.

So I will keep a watching brief on this one, and report on the issue as they develops. My prediction?
  • The testing has probably been done: it will not be seriously questioned. 
  • Approval by the drug regulator will be the next step: and they usually rubber-stamp any new drug or vaccine, controlled as they are by Big Pharma placemen. 
  • And then it will be our turn - we will be encouraged to receive the wonderful new vaccine by Government, the NHS and even our doctors. 
  • When subsequently there are signs of serious DIEs the conventional medical establishment will deny them, or play them down.
  • When the DIEs become undeniable, the vaccine will continue to be prescribed, but restricted in some minor way.
  • Eventually, but usually not until there is another (if questionable) replacement drug or vaccine, the vaccine will be withdrawn or banned. But not until thousands, if not millions, are harmed by it.
My advice? As with any conventional drug or vaccine - just say - "No thanks" - and look into what Homeopathy, and other safer and more effective alternative therapies can offer.