Tuesday, August 09, 2005

RFK Jr.'s suggestion re: Thimerosal

This topic is well outside my sphere of "expertise", but within my concerns as a parent and as a friend of other parents.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggests here that if researchers are interested in studying the link between Thimerosal and autism, it would be well within the "Duh!" range to compare American populations of vaccinated kids with their non-vaccinated peers in Amish communities et al.

Like I said, I'm shamefully uninformed on the controversy, beyond what little I've heard in the mainstream press here and in the U.K. (it was a hot topic while we lived there, with much pressure coming from British parents to ban the MMR combined-vaccine).

If anyone has any good resources for getting up to speed on the topic, I'd be grateful if you'd share. Thanks.

12 comments:

les said...

OK, I tried this once, but was anonymous, and lost the whole f'in thing so without the explanation:

http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/thimerosal_distortions/

http://autismdiva.blogspot.com/

I also said you write good stuff, and I especially like the Galileo quote, but now I'm pissed about the admin and I won't say it. But ya do.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Thanks for the links, Les. Much appreciated.
Hope the registration requirement wasn't too much of a pain. I've got it turned on to discourage drive-by comments (I mean, what fun are those?).

Oh, and please. Don't censor or in any other way stand on propriety here, for heaven's sake. We prefer you "naked", as it were.

Liz said...

CD,

Finally figured out how to leave a comment. And now I have a blog. I think I am better at reading than writing but we shall see, getting out of my comfort zone.

Anyway, in the medical literature it has been disproved many times that MMR and other vaccines do not cause autism. The vaccines used in the US are the same as those across the world. Other countries have different vaccination schedules then we do. The incidence in other countries of autism is the same as it is in the US. The reason there appears to be a correlation is that we give the last MMR at age 15-18 months. This is also the time that a child has matured enough to figure out that they have autism. I believe however that there is some ongoing research in the area of autism that allows it to be diagnosed earlier. Now there has been an explosion of autism diagnosing. Mostly because it has been poorly understood and difficult to treat. Pediatrics is not my specialty

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Thanks for weighing in, Liz (and happy to have you here!).
What concerns me are the allegations that the studies "disproving" the link were funded and conducted by the vaccine manufacturers themselves (i.e. indicative of possible bias) and that the concentration of Thimerosal in American vaccines is significantly higher than that in the vaccines given abroad.
That being said, I think the point about diagnosis is valid. Any time we start tracking something that was previously underrported, it's naturally going to look like there's an explosion in occurence.

les said...

Well. Allright. If you can stand me naked, I'm yours. Oh, yeah, the topic. Mistrust of studies by the drug companies is warranted--they may have to be a little straighter than the tobacco gomers, but still... I think the reporting issue is a biggie; I have a daughter diagnosed ADHD, and there's lots of raving about the increase in that as well; I don't doubt the diagnosis, but lots of her behavior might have been called just...well, cantankerous, or something...not that long ago. And the tests keep getting better. It's tempting to latch on to somebody/something to blame, but it sure looks like countries with significantly different programs and drugs have had similar number experiences.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

I've read some interesting things regarding suspicious connections between diet and ADD/ADHD, and it's given me pause to think in light of an afflicted extended family member. As I understand it, the usual culprits that mess with blood sugar (copious amounts of refined carbs & sugar) may be interacting on some biochemical level or another and producing symptoms that mimick, almost indistinguishably, ADD/ADHD. Watching what the aforementioned family member has been eating since he was a baby, I can't help but wonder if the correlary is actually causal.
This isn't to suggest that there are parallels between this and autism incidents, but it triggered my memory re: increased reporting.
Not to get into your personal business or anything, Les, but is your daughter in treatment (on meds or behavioral therapy)?
One of my friend's daughters is autistic -- or so they were told, but she's responded more positively to therapy than most kids with her kind of diagnosis. I haven't posed the vaccination question to her mom, since she's in the target age group and I'm concerned about hitting a sore nerve...

les said...

Daughter M has done some therapy, behavioral and physical; but the current theories have the condition as essentially chemical, and talking type therapy doesn't do much. And it's a real debilitating mish-mash; "symptoms" include the classic difficulty in focus/attention; but she shows some dyslexia, the audio version of dyslexia, short term memory issues, emotional lability, fine motor control issues, etc. and etc. Ritalyn type drugs help, but you have to continually mess with dosage, they can make her tired and they seem to destroy appetite. Zoloft helps the mood issues, but... We try to keep her even during the school year, and let her decide during the summer. Sorry to run on, off topic; it tends to be on my mind.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

No apology needed. I'd be a bit consumed by it, too. I like what you've decided re: school year vs. summer, and would presume it'll give her a sense of control in an otherwise fairly powerless situation. If I come across any interesting articles & such on the topic, I'll be sure to whip up an entry. Good luck to you, Mrs. Les and Miss M.

Liz said...

Les, my heart goes out to you and hope your daughter finds the right balance in her life.

A couple of comments. Since I prescirbe drugs every day for my patients I too understand the mistrust of Big Pharma. Believe me, I know first hand the hard sell to get me to use their drugs. I tend to prescribe cheap and older. Why? Better research but mostly because if my patient looses their insurance then they can still continue on the medications and stay healthy.

As far as the Thimerosol, I think its due to the self life of the vaccine. I will research that and let you know. I know that I only carry those that have a long shelf life because they are damn expensive to throw out.

On a personal note, all my life I have had some wierd little things that were almost impossible for me to learn, I was almost in the 7th grade before I understood how to tell time and holy crap to this day I can't tell my left from my right without looking at my hands. And forget about spelling and numbers, reversals all the time, I will know its wrong but can't figure out what's wrong about it. I bless microsoft for spell check. The wedding ring is on the left, gives me a good visual. This is a form a dyslexia. I am a very bright person and have figured out how to compensate for this "handicap". My Godchild and niece (who was born on my birthday) is also dyslexic to a much greater extreme. She has had educational help with this but it really took her to figure out some work arounds to succeed. She is taking Latin and getting an A, pretty good. Les, it seems your daughter has some further issues.

So what was my point. I don't remember. Oh, what happened to these people a generation ago? Is the quick and simple answer more drugs more focus? I am not sure. I have seen lives turned around because of a drug but are we too relient on them? I'd love to hear thoughts.

les said...

Liz, all I know for sure is that, drugs or no, none of it has been quick or simple. Your description of yourself could as well be M; 7th grade, big problems with spelling, elementary math, letter/number reversal, on and on. She's learning coping skills, and the schools have (after loads o' pushin') been helpful. Even with meds, she can't do good "attending", which is too bad since just looking at teachers can fool a lot, whatever's going on inside. But she can pay attention somewhat, even while looking like she's totally not, which is almost impossible without. And without something like Zoloft, she just can't interact socially--anger, tantrums, apparently (from the outside) unprovoked and largely out of her control. We're not crazy about the drugs; but we can see the benefits. And I don't want to sound too morbid; with it all, she's clearly bright and creative, she's a great dancer, she's great with younger kids (somehow much easier for her than her peers); she's a good kid, and she soldiers on.
A generation ago? I fear they were the kids (at least in small town mid-America) who got detention, got held back until they were obviously too old for their classes, got pointed at; and hopefully found a way as adults.

Lily said...

Just to throw on my "behavioral social work" hat, my most recent job was working with autistic children, and I have fifteen years "in the field" so to speak. Many of my "clients" also had ADD/ADHD as well. Learning disabilitiesare also not uncommon, particularly perceptual and fine motor such as dysgraphia. Autism literature has changed alot in recent years, as have the treatment approaches. "Spectrum" paradigms have prompted changes in thinking.The link to diet has been controversial and some parents, for example, swear by gluten free or sugar free products. Some have jumped on dairy and use soy. There is a mixed bag of results, and certainly nourishing children with healthier, organic food would contribute to improved brain function for most children. It might help, it might be one factor in many, but certainly it does not seem to hurt to try. The literature has been mixed in our training. We know some parents that will simply try anything, and one can hardly blame them for that. Chances are good that the parent that goes broke in the organics shop is also likely to be attentive with services, engaged with providers, and involved in the school. Diet interventions require a dedication unusual among more inattentive caregivers and it has been theorized that this skews the results of dietary data.
We also need to balance our distrust of the FDA and food additives, medications, chemicals, etc. against the fact that the alternative/herbal market is a growing and not necessarily reputable information source. We must be discerning in either case. Some of us parents have been going back and forth on issues like flouridation and immunization stabilizers for years!
I have seen great results when a family uses medication as only a part of the equation, certainly the parents that think a pill solves all are often dissappointed. A good behavioral specialist to help coordinate the in-home wrap around services such as TSS and BSC never hurts but gets expensive. Sadly, many of the people spending the medically prescribed hours with these children are new to the field and while nobody can blame them for being entry level, the body of knowledge needed at such a critical time for the children results in opportunities lost. And it is important to simply support parents, whether they decide on medication or not. Undermining parents or accusing them of "drugging their child" is never helpful. On the other hand, every time a child is (as stated) "cantankerous" the school does not necessarily have to push for a medical intervention. I know some doctors that are extremely cautious about zoloft and such classes of drugs in young populations. Perhaps our pharmacist blogger can speak to that.
This is also the product of our "disease" culture that puts so much emphasis on children's deficits. In a meeting, two parents were asked to list some strengths about their child. Mom quickly said "I can't think of any."
Can you imagine? How can medication help a little child whose own parents cannot think of something good about her?

Liz said...

Greenlily, thanks for your assessment. This is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive evaluation by a team of people, including the parents and the child when old enough. I don't know what the answer is but it won't be simple.