Monday, February 07, 2005
Bush Puppets Push For New Law To Protect Drug Companies
By Evelyn Pringle
Autism rates across the country have grown over 1000% since 1990, according to the National Autism Association. Autism was first diagnosed as a disorder in the 1950s. The symptoms described then are essentially the same as those used to diagnose autism today. They may include, limited speech, impaired social interaction, and repetitive behaviors such as arm flapping. In the broader autistic spectrum of less severe cases, children may speak but have unusual behaviors and learning disabilities, or they may have high IQs but great difficulty with social interaction.
What used to be a very rare condition has now become a nationwide epidemic. The difference in the new cases of autism is that the symptoms did not appear at birth. They appeared shortly after a child received vaccinations in the second year of life.
According to the 2004 spring issue of Mother Jones magazine, “In 2002, an estimated 1 in 250 American children was diagnosed with autism, up from 1 in 500 in 2000, and 1 in 5,000 in the 1980s.”
Research has now determined that the cause of the escalation is Thimerosal, a mercury-based product that until recently was added to childhood vaccines as a preservative in multi-dose bottles to increase profits for the drug companies that manufacture vaccines.
Over time, these Thimerosal-containing vaccines were administered to millions of children. In 2000, during a review mandated by the Food and Drug Modernization Act, it was determined that infants were receiving more mercury in the first six months of life than was considered safe under federal guidelines.
The review found that a twelve-to-fourteen month old child receiving vaccines under the Universal Childhood Immunization Schedule, which typically delivered four to six shots in one doctors visit, was receiving as much as forty times the amount of mercury considered safe according to EPA guidelines. The EPA guidelines were confirmed to be accurate through an independent evaluation conducted by the National Research Council, which published its conclusion in July 2000.
During the 1990s, when some 40 million children were vaccinated, the number of Thimerosal-containing vaccines given to children nearly tripled, while autism rates inexplicably increased tenfold, according to Mother Jones.
There is an indisputable correlation between the increase in autism and the increase in the amount of Thimerosal that children received during the 1990s, when the number of vaccines containing the preservative rose from less than 10 to nearly 40. Research shows that the more Thimerosal a child was given in a year, the more likely the child was to develop autism or a related neurological disorder.
While for years Thimerosal was considered to be in the category “generally recognized as safe standard” by the FDA, when the agency conducted its own Over the Counter drug review, its opinion changed. The FDA determined that mercury used as active ingredients in OTC drug products was not “generally recognized as safe.” In fact, at that time, on its own website, the FDA stated, “lead, cadmium, and mercury are examples of elements that are toxic when present at relatively low levels.”
In response to its findings, in 1999 the FDA called for the removal of all Thimerosal-containing over the counter products from the market.
However, nothing was done about the Thimerosal in vaccines. Throughout the 1990s, new vaccines continued to be added to the list of required shots for children, and the amount of mercury being injected into babies nearly tripled.
“Astonishingly, as each new vaccine was added, no one bothered to total up how many micrograms of mercury children would receive as a result. By 1999, a baby who received all recommended vaccines at her two-month checkup could be injected with up to 62.5 micrograms of mercury -- 118 times the EPA's limit for daily exposure,” according to Mother Jones.
The magazine reports regulators “chose not to act aggressively to reduce infants' exposure to Thimerosal, and as a result TCVs mandated for infants remained on the US market until November 2002.”
This is ironic in view of the fact that Thimerosal was removed from animal vaccines in the early 90s. Rita Shreffler, the mother of son diagnosed with a form of autism, told Mother Jones about the time she tried to explain that her son had been vaccinated with Thimerosal to Wayne Middleton, of Middleton Microbiological & Environmental Testing Laboratory, in 2001: “When I explained that a vaccine preservative called Thimerosal had exposed babies to excessive levels of mercury, he said that couldn't be true because he used to work for a lab that made animal vaccines, and Thimerosal had been discontinued in vaccines for cattle back in the early 1990s. He was sure it wouldn't be allowed in children's vaccines.”
Lawmakers Try To Ban Preservative
In 2002, some lawmakers did try to have Thimerosal removed from vaccines. On July 18, 2000 the House Committee on Government Reform conducted a hearing entitled, “Mercury in Medicine: Are We Taking Unnecessary Risks?” During the hearing, the FDA admitted that children were being exposed to unsafe levels of mercury through vaccines containing Thimerosal.
However, instead of calling for the immediate removal of all Thimerosal from vaccines, the FDA chose to allow pharmaceutical companies to merely phase out their use of Thimerosal, which meant mercury-containing vaccines continued to be administered at public and private health facilities all across the country, even though an FDA witness had testified that each of the vaccines on the Childhood Immunization Schedule was then available for use in a Thimerosal free version.
A couple months later, on October 25, 2000, Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN), Chairman of the House Committee, wrote a letter to then HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, asking her get the FDA to recall all vaccines containing Thimerosal.
“We all know and accept that mercury is a neurotoxin, and yet the FDA has failed to recall the 50 vaccines that contain Thimerosal,” Burton wrote, “Every day that mercury-containing vaccines remain on the market is another day HHS is putting 8,000 children at risk,” he said. “Given that Thimerosal-free vaccines are available, and the known risk of mercury toxicity, to leave Thimerosal-containing vaccines on the market is unconscionable,” Burton added.
“I implore you to conduct a full recall of these products,” he wrote. “If the only action ... is a gradual phase out, children will continue to be put at risk every day,” Burton warned. “These vaccines will continue to be injected in children for years to come -- putting our nation's most vulnerable population...at risk for mercury poisoning, he added.
Congressman Burton’s heartfelt pleas and warnings were ignored. Had our government acted on his advice, who knows how many children could have been saved from autism.
Other Republican lawmakers are going up against their peers and leading the charge to ban the use of Thimerosal. A case in point is Senator Roy Holand (R-MO), a physician, who presented a bill to Missouri’s legislators to prohibit Thimerosal in childhood vaccines in his state. The bill passed the Missouri state House of Representatives by 152 to four, the biggest landslide victory in recent state history.
“As a physician, I’ve been concerned about the rising levels of autism, and the more I’ve learned about Thimerosal, the more convinced I am that it causes neurological damage,” said Holand. “Mercury has no place being injected into children.”
Senator Ken Veenstra (R-IA), who introduced a similar bill to Iowa’s Senate Human Resources Committee, put it simply: “I’ve studied Thimerosal and talked to people on both sides of the issue. There is enough evidence I’ve seen to make it clear to me that we need to get Thimerosal out of the products we give to our children.” The Iowa senate committee voted in favor of the ban as well.
Nightmare For FDA, CDC, & Pharmaceutical Industry
For drug companies, the global market for vaccines containing Thimerosal has been a goldmine. For instance, UNICEF, the World Health Organization’s parent body, buys 40% of all vaccines used in developing countries, and Merck is its sole supplier. Merck makes Recombivax HB, a Hepatitis B vaccine that contains Thimerosal. Eli Lilly invented Thimerosal, and it has licensing agreements with drug companies in 40 countries that make the product.
However, the successful marketing of the preservative has now turned into a legal liability nightmare for drug companies, the FDA, and the CDC, since its link to autism has been confirmed.
“If current statistics hold up, over 150,000 children will be diagnosed with classic autism, and as many as 250,000 more will be diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders, and possibly 2 million more with developmental disorders,” according to Mother Jones.
“If vaccine manufacturers and government agencies are found liable for ... damage to millions of infants, TCV litigation could rival that of tobacco or asbestos. Currently, some 3,500 families of autistic children are slated to go before a special federal vaccine court -- a step that Congress has required before they engage in any civil litigation, but one that will probably be just the first in a long legal battle,” Mother Jones reports.
“The political hurdles are the bigger problem,” claims New York Attorney Krakow, who filed a case on behalf of his autistic son. “This is so big and gets to the heart of lots of issues, like what I call the government-pharmaceutical complex,” he warns, “These kids are not going to die. They are going to live 50, 60 years and the cost will be monumental,” he said.
Krakow may be correct because records of a CDC meeting in June 2000, prove that CDC committee members knew about the dangers of Thimerosal and knew that concealing the results of a study that identified the problems could lead to lawsuits.
At the meeting, Committee member Robert Brent, a developmental biologist, voiced his concerns, “The medical/legal findings in this study, causal or not, are horrendous,” Brent said. “If an allegation was made that a child's neurobehavioral findings were caused by Thimerosal-containing vaccines, you could readily find a junk scientist who would support the claim with 'a reasonable degree of certainty.' But you will not find a scientist with any integrity who would say the reverse with the data that is available…. So we are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits if they were initiated, and I am concerned,” he added.
However, the results of the study were not released and the CDC has now been accused of colluding with the drug companies at the June 2000, meeting to prevent the release of a report that showed a link between Thimerosal and neurological disorders including Autism, ADD/ADHD, Stuttering, Tics and Speech and Language Delays, because the study’s author, Thomas Verstraeten, and other CDC employees, published a different version of the report saying there was no link, in the November 2003 issue of Pediatrics.
The autism advocacy group, SAFE MINDS, obtained copies of Verstraeten’s earlier reports that were never published by filing a request for copies under the Freedom of Information Act.
The records reveal that Verstraeten’s first report in February 2000 found a significant risk for neurological developmental disorders at age 3 months, as the babies received increased amounts of Thimerosal, and that the risk of autism rose 2.48 times greater for infants getting higher amounts of the product, compared to infants who received Thimerosal-free vaccines. An earlier analysis by Verstraeten also reported a link between Thimerosal and developmental delays in language and speech during the child’s first 6 months.
Verstraeten’s motives for concealing the damning results of his studies became highly suspect when critics learned that shortly after he gave his presentation at the June 2000 meeting, he left his job at the CDC and became employed by the vaccine maker GlaxoSmithKline in Belgium.
Independent Studies Of Same Government Data
Research conducted since the CDC meeting shows a definite link between Thimerosal and disorders such as autism. One of the larger studies came from an independent review of the exact same data that was analyzed by Verstraeten, contained in the CDC's Vaccine Safety Datalink.
Dr Mark Geier, a medical doctor with a PhD in genetics, and fellow researcher David Geier were the lead investigators in the discovery of the link. The Geiers were able to use the CDC database to compare autism rates among more than 85,000 children who received a TCV for diphtheria/tetanus/acellular pertussis, against rates of nearly 70,000 children who received the Thimerosal-free version of the vaccine. In the TCV group, the risk of autism was 27 times higher.
Which means autism developed due to TCVs has a higher connecting risk factor than the correlation between lung cancer and smoking, which according to the American Cancer Society is only 22 for men and 11 for women. “This absolutely confirms what parents have been saying for years,” says Jo Pike, President of the National Autism Association.
The Geiers compared children who had received varying amounts of Thimerosal. They examined the recipients of two kinds of vaccines, one containing 25 micrograms of Thimerosal, and one containing none. By comparing medical records, they were able to determine which type of vaccine each child received.
They knew that fully vaccinated children would have received four DTaP shots by the age of 18 months, which enabled them to divide the children into five groups, ranging from those who received no Thimerosal, to those who received four doses of the preservative. Next, they searched for the International Code of Disease for autism in the children’s records to identify the number of autistic children in each of the groups.
The results of the comparison were amazing. The group of children who received no Thimerosal had no autism, while the rate of autism escalated in the other groups as the children received higher-doses of the preservative.
The kids who received 100 micrograms of Thimerosal were over 10 times more likely to have autism than the kids who received none. “At first I didn’t think it was right,” David Geier said. “I ran the program several times, and each time it turned out the same -- the kids in group five were over ten times more likely to have autism than the kids in group one,” he explained.
Bush Puppets Push For New Law To Protect Drug Companies
Under the guise of protecting Americans, Republican Senators Frist, Gregg, Sessions, DeWine, Allen, Santorum, McConnell, and DeMint have introduced bill S. 3, Protecting America in the War on Terror Act of 2005, which calls for sweeping changes in pharmaceutical product liability, vaccine regulation and policies, research and The Vaccine Injury Compensation Act.
By introducing this bill, Republicans are attempting to merge the autism issue into unrelated anti-terrorism programs.
For example, the bill includes raising the death benefit for soldiers killed in Iraq from $12,000 to $100,000, a measure every American would support. The authors of the bill knew that all Americans would support an increase in benefits for our troops, so they intentionally merged the provision to protect drug companies with the benefits provision so that any parents of autistic children who raise objections to the bill will appear to be against our troops. Some of the parents have written letters to lawmakers about this:
“As parents and loyal Americans, however, we believe that S. 3 has been carefully crafted to unfairly paint parents who seek justice for vaccine injured children into a political corner. Similar to the legislative sleight of hand employed in the Homeland Security Bill fiasco in 2002 the sponsors of S.3 are manipulating the political process by tying domestic programs affecting every American's health and safety to unrelated "anti-terrorism" programs. In this way they are attempting to make legitimate opposition to S. 3 politically unacceptable,” one letter reads.
Keep in mind that the drug giant Eli Lilly is the company that invented Thimerosal and, therefore, stands to lose the most. Bush and his Republican puppets in Congress tried using the Homeland Security Act to protect Lilly from lawsuits in 2002, when they slipped a provision into bill at the very last minute when nobody was looking.
At that time, critics were quick to point out how much money Eli Lilly had donated to Republicans and that the drug and health products industry was the largest corporate contributor to the National Republican Senatorial Committee while Frist was its leader.
However, other members of Congress on both sides of the aisle saw the Homeland Security provision for what it was, a political pay-off to drug company contributors, and it was quickly repealed. This time around, the same members of Congress will hopefully demand that the provision be stricken before the bill is passed.
The cost of educating and caring for an autistic child over a lifetime is estimated at between $5 and $10 million. Mark Geier maintains, “One in eighty males is diagnosed with autism today. Many of them will not be able to work. How are we going to pay for their care?” he asks. Geier's prediction means it is crucial that these families get financial justice from the drug companies who caused the damage.
For autistic children, doomed to life-long suffering, the introduction of this new bill adds insult to injury. I can’t believe this corrupt band of Republicans can have the audacity to draft this kind of legislation and still sleep at night.
Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.