The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Big Pharma’

Charlatan Kevin Trudeau Goes to Prison

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 22, 2014

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about that most infamous of anti-medical charlatans, Kevin Trudeau, and how he was doing all that he could to dodge both common decency and the law by continuing to push his “Natural Cures” nonsense…

Many times you’ll hear skeptics venting their spleens about this huckster or that charlatan and “How is it possible they’re allowed to get away with this crap?!”  One of the worst such pseudoscientific offenders in recent years has been “natural cures” quack Kevin Trudeau, who has used his infomercial sales pitches to convince countless people that he has a cure for cancer (he doesn’t) and that they shouldn’t trust modern, science-based medicine because “‘They’ don’t want you to know the truth”.  I think it would be reasonable to say that Trudeau has not only bilked people out of millions of dollars with his bogus “cures”, but in addition that his nonsensical anti-scientific conspiracy mongering has even gotten some people who believed him killed. …

… Well, I think this is one case in which the charlatan is getting his just-desserts.  Of course, to Trudeau’s followers, this will likely be interpreted as more evidence of their “Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big Government” conspiracy theory, and they will paint Trudeau as a martyr for the alt-med cause. Which is fine with me, so long as Trudeau is a martyr in jail. [emphasis added]

Well, today I am happy to report that, while the wheels of justice do indeed grind slowly, Kevin Trudeau has finally gotten what he deserves: a long stay in prison :)

TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau gets 10-year sentence

Best-selling author Kevin Trudeau, whose name became synonymous with late-night TV pitches, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for bilking consumers through ubiquitous infomercials for his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”

As he imposed the sentence prosecutors had requested, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman portrayed the 50-year-old Trudeau as a habitual fraudster going back to his early adulthood. So brazen was Trudeau, the judge said, he once even used his own mother’s Social Security number in a scheme.

“Since his 20s, he has steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own gain,” Guzman said, adding that Trudeau is “deceitful to the very core.” …

I could go on, but suffice it to say that despite Trudeau’s lame attempts to defend himself and his actions, the judge was having none of it.  Too often hucksters and liars like Trudeau play upon the fears and ignorance of science and critical thinking among the general population in order to line their own pockets or push an agenda (other notable examples include the late Sylvia Browne and creationist Ken Ham).

What is so satisfying about this outcome is the fact that, when the chips are down and someone like Trudeau and his ilk wind up in court, what really matters isn’t talking points, it’s all about evidence and logical arguments.  That’s why creationists have consistently lost in the courts, and that’s also why Trudeau is now going to prison… because they have no evidence to back up their baseless claims.

Personally, I’d like to see more of this kind of thing; hopefully, it will send a message to those pseudoscientists who want to play doctor but not actually be responsible for what they say.  But for now, I shall bask in the afterglow of Trudeau’s epic pwning…

pwned-facekick

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WTFF’s “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” Campaign Gets a Shout Out from… the Huffington Post?

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 31, 2011

Wow.  I’m pretty stunned by this development.  Many of you know that in the past I have been highly critical of the Huffington Post (a.k.a. the HuffPo) for their tacit acceptance and promotion of various kinds of medically-related nonsense, especially the fact they provide a big platform for anti-vaccination kooks.

However, in an interesting twist, one of their prominent writers – science correspondent Cara Santa Maria – has written a very solid and in-your-face pro-vaccine article.  Not only that, but she also gives a big shout out to the WTFF’s Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated campaign! :D

Perhaps there’s hope yet for the HuffPo…

Talk Nerdy to Me: Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated

Yesterday I got a flu vaccine at work. The coughs and sneezes are beginning to sound like bad muzak around the office, so I figured it was time to give flu season the finger. I’ve actually never had a flu vaccine before. It just never occurred to me to do so. But now that I work in a corporate office environment, the handwashing signs over the bathroom sink and little pumps of antibacterial hand sanitizer glistening on individual desks are beginning to make sense to me. I don’t want these people making me sick. I don’t want to make them sick either. I like my coworkers a lot, but I wish we lived in a country that understood the value of a sturdy facemask. I live in Hollywood, a city so image-obsessed that the only time you see somebody wearing one of those is if they’ve just gotten their nose done.

But I digress. I noticed when I proudly bore the sticker proclaiming to the office masses today that I got my vaccination, a lot of people responded that they “don’t do that” or they “don’t believe in it.” That struck me as funny. It made me wonder why, if a free flu vaccination is offered to you only steps from your desk, you would opt not to partake. …

… The truth is, even though a new meta-analysis published in The Lancet only two days ago showed an overall efficacy for influenza vaccination hovering around 59% (in adults age 18-65, spread over the last 44 years), I’ll take 59% over 0% any day. And not getting a vaccine is 0% effective against the spread of influenza. By the way, if you are one of those people who opt out of prophylaxis, please do your part by washing your damn hands. And sneeze into your sleeve, not all over your disease-laden paws. Of course, I’m now a lot less worried about your germs making me sick. So, hug me! I’m vaccinated.

 

Posted in media woo, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Vaccines!

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 2, 2011

In a bit of good news, it seems the SCOTUS has produced a pretty strong science & reason-based ruling on the issue of vaccinations and lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.  This is also, indirectly yet very importantly, a big blow to the anti-vaccination movement

Supreme Court rules for vaccine makers on lawsuits

The Supreme Court ruled that federal law shields vaccine makers from product-liability lawsuits in state court seeking damages for a child’s injuries or death from a vaccine’s side effects.

The high court on Tuesday ruled for Wyeth, which is now owned by Pfizer Inc, in a lawsuit brought by the parents of Hannah Bruesewitz, who suffered seizures as an infant after her third dose of a diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine in 1992.

Pfizer and other vaccine makers had argued that a Supreme Court ruling for the plaintiffs could open the door to a flood of lawsuits — many by families who believe vaccines cause autism — and threaten the supply of childhood vaccines. … [emphasis added]

That last point is a major win for the pro-vaccine team, folks.  That’s because if the SCOTUS had ruled differently, you can bet your bottom dollar that Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield, and their legions of true-believing followers within the anti-vax movement would have been clogging up the courts for years (or decades, even) with frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit lamenting about how “vaccines caused my kid’s autism” or “the jabs took my little Johnny’s soul away” or similar garbage (because, yes, some people actually believe that crap).  And since I am on the topic of mentioning frivolous lawsuits, allow me to reference the SCOTUS ruling on that point…

“Vaccine manufacturers fund from their sales an informal, efficient compensation program for vaccine injuries; in exchange they avoid costly tort litigation and the occasional disproportionate jury verdict. Congress enacted this deal to coax manufacturers back into the vaccine market,” [Justice] Scalia said.

In short, if the vaccine manufacturers didn’t have at least some kind of protection against lawsuits, they would get out of the (not-very-profitable) vaccine business altogether, with the resulting loss of widespread vaccination & herd immunity being highly detrimental to society.  Of course, one reason why the anti-vaxxers would have liked to have seen this SCOTUS ruling go the other way is because then it would have opened the door to a tsunami of frivolous lawsuits, which then would have led to many vaccine manufacturers giving up the business, which would lead to lower vaccination rates…

which would kill a lot of people. But hey, the anti-vax goons would feel pretty good about that, wouldn’t they, because then at least those “evil vaccines” weren’t around any more, right?

Of course, the response from the anti-vax loons is all-too-predictable.  I’m going to use my “amazing psychic powers” and guess that it’s going to be something along these lines:

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Huffington Post is Boycotted by More and More Science-Based Bloggers

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 21, 2011

Some of you may recall that I wrote a scathing post a couple of years ago, when The Skeptical Teacher was still young (in Internet time), about the progressive online newspaper called The Huffington Post (or, the HuffPo, as I call it).  In it, I essentially accused the HuffPo of becoming a front for left-leaning woo, such as various forms of New Age nonsense, “alternative” medical quackery, and vaccine denial. Well, the good news is it seems that the number of science-oriented bloggers criticizing the HuffPo is growing, as evidenced by this post over at the Red State Progressive blog…

Huffington Post Spreads Misinformation and Pseudoscience

Many progressives get their news, at least in part, from The Huffington Post. I think this is unfortunate, and I side with a growing number of bloggers who will not promote them with links or retweets. As I have explained previously, they promote a dangerous sort of quackery, including creationism, homeopathy, antivaccination propaganda, and pseudoscience. It seems that Ms. Huffington has a soft spot for this sort of drivel, and HuffPo has become notorious for it.

If you are still not convinced, you might consider examining the growing body of evidence:

In keeping with this trend, I encourage you all to NOT promote the HuffPo with links and retweets.  The more people who hold them to account for the dangerous pseudoscience they are spreading, the better.

Posted in media woo, medical woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

In a Sign of the Apocalypse, Jenny McCarthy Gets a TV Show

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 14, 2010

Wow… this is bad news, folks.  Uber anti-vaccine loon Jenny “Body Count” McCarthy is getting her own television show thanks to Oprah Winfrey.  We should all be on the lookout, because I think if we thought that McCarthy’s whacky alt-med, anti-vax, and just plain goofy views on medical science in general were getting a lot of press, just wait until her TV show hits the airwaves.  Ugh…

June 14, 2010, 12:19 PM EST

WENN

Jenny McCarthy is set to follow in the footsteps of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey after signing a deal to develop her own TV series with the media mogul.

The Playboy model-turned-actress has landed a development deal with Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

Harpo executives have not elaborated on the content of McCarthy’s series, but they insist it won’t be in a similar format to the TV star’s current chat show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which will go off the air next year.

Executives have yet to confirm if McCarthy’s series will launch on Winfrey’s new TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

A Harpo spokeswoman tells the New York Post, “We do not have anyone taking over for Oprah. We do have a development deal with Jenny McCarthy. We are exploring possibilities across a number of platforms.”

In response to Oprah’s utterly dumbfounding decision to grant McCarthy this broader platform to spread her nonsense, I can only say…

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Have Fun PWNing Anti-Vax Nut Wakefield: Add Your Own Caption!

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 28, 2010

As if the whole debacle of anti-vaccination guru Andrew Wakefield’s pathetic attendance at his rally (only about 100 people showed up – some “rally”) wasn’t hilarious enough, the following photo was acquired from the Age of Autism website…

It seems that the Countering Age of Autism blog has a “fill in the caption” contest underway to see who can come up with the most snarky caption making fun of Wakefield.  Have at it! :)

Posted in humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Skeptical PWNage of Darth Wakefield & His Anti-Vax Woosters Continues

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 28, 2010

I just want to provide a quick follow up to yesterday’s post about how the Women Thinking Free Foundation’s (WTFF) crew from the nascent Hug Me! campaign skeptically ninjaed the anti-vaccination rally hosting uber-douchebag Andrew Wakefield. It seems that since I blogged about it, the story has exploded all over the skeptical blogosphere, with the famous photo of Wakefield getting skeptically pwned making many appearances :)

The two skeptical ninjas shown here on either side of Andrew “Douchebag” Wakefield are Jamie Bernstein and Bruce Critelli.  In the words of another of my skeptical colleagues, these two “are the mayors of Balls City!”  Indeed :D

Jamie recounts her experience of the rally over at The Friendly Atheist – feel free to follow Jamie via Twitter .@UAJamie

and

Bruce shares some really interesting video he shot at the rally

Of Bruce’s video, the most unnerving part was, to me, a story that Wakefield told the “crowd” (less than 100 people is hardly a crowd) with one woman who was talking about her son…

About 15 years ago a mother from London approached him and said “Do not judge me too harshly Dr. Wakefield, but when I die I am taking my son with me. You see, I’m all he has. I’m the only one who loves him.”

“I didn’t judge,” said Wakefield. “I was moved by the love that a mother must have for her child that she would take his life rather than have him fall upon a society that really didn’t give a damn.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Skeptics PWN Anti-Vax Scumbag Wakefield at His Own Rally

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 27, 2010

**Update: Check out my follow-up post for more news, photos, and video of this event.

============

Well, congratulate me folks – I’m now officially part of a squad of skeptical ninjas :)

Today, there was an anti-vaccination rally in Chicago, and the king of anti-vax woo & nonsenseAndrew Wakefield himself – showed up.  I suppose he decided to hang with his anti-vax homies here in the U.S. seeing as how he’s essentially lost his license to practice medicine in the United Kingdom because of his fraudulent work there.

Anyway, the new skeptical group I’m part of, the Women Thinking Free Foundation (WTFF), caught wind of this wave of woo headed our way (we’re based in Chicago) and we decided, with two days notice, to mobilize and counter protest… and we did!  I did not personally attend the counter protest, as I had to teach today, but I and many others were working behind the scenes to help organize it.

The word went out like wildfire across the Internet – via email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and message boards – and we were able to gather a group of about 10 people there.  In addition, our WTFF ninjas were able to hand out plenty of pro-vaccine literature to passers-by who might have otherwise thought that Wakefield and his ilk weren’t batcrap crazy.  Here are some examples of our handouts we whipped up as part of WTFF’s new “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated!” campaign…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments »

Vaccine Court Finds No Link to Autism

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 13, 2010

Breaking news just in from CNN – good news for science-based medicine and skeptics, bad news for alt-med, anti-vaccine nutwads like Jenny McCarthy. It’s interesting what happens when these issues are hashed out in a court where evidence & logical reasoning are required for argumentation, as opposed to the usual overly-emotional & irrational nonsense spouted by the anti-vaxxers in public.  Of course, just wait until they start moaning about how the vaccine court is part of the Big Pharma / Big Medicine / Big Government conspiracy, and that’s why they lost (and definitely not because they are deluded or driven by ideology – nah, couldn’t be that!)

What is the vaccine court?

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was established in 1988. Through the program, known as the “vaccine court,” people who believe they suffered injury as a result of compulsory childhood vaccines may petition the federal government for monetary damages. The claims are decided by the Office of Special Masters, a part of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Here’s the article from CNN…

Vaccine Court Finds No Link to Autism

A federal court ruled Friday that the evidence supporting an alleged causal link between autism and a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines is unpersuasive, and that the families of children diagnosed with autism are not entitled to compensation.

Special masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims released more than 600 pages of findings after reviewing three test cases and finding all the claims wanting.

“Petitioners’ theory of vaccine-related causation is scientifically unsupportable,” wrote Special Master Patricia Campbell-Smith in her conclusion about William P. Mead, whose parents, George and Victoria Mead, had brought one of the suits.

“In the absence of a sound medical theory causally connecting William’s received vaccines to his autistic condition, the undersigned cannot find the proposed sequence of cause and effect to be logical or temporally appropriate. Having failed to satisfy their burden of proof under the articulated legal standard, petitioners cannot prevail on their claim of vaccine-related causation.”

Read more…

But if you think this is the final word on the subject, think again – also a recent related story from CNN…

Supreme Court accepts appeal over vaccine safety

Parents who say that a range of preventive vaccines given their young children can cause serious health problems will have their appeal heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices Monday agreed to decide whether drug makers can be sued outside a special judicial forum set up by Congress in 1986 to address specific claims about safety. The so-called vaccine court has handled such disputes and was designed to ensure a reliable, steady supply of the drugs by reducing the threat of lawsuits against pharmaceutical firms.

The questions in the latest case are whether such liability claims can proceed, if the vaccine-related injuries could have been avoided by better product design, and if federal officials had approved another, allegedly safer drug. Oral arguments in the dispute will be held in the fall.

Read more…

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“Natural Cures” Quack Kevin Trudeau in Big Court Trouble

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 13, 2010

Many times you’ll hear skeptics venting their spleens about this huckster or that charlatan and “How is it possible they’re allowed to get away with this crap?!”  One of the worst such pseudoscientific offenders in recent years has been “natural cures” quack Kevin Trudeau, who has used his infomercial sales pitches to convince countless people that he has a cure for cancer (he doesn’t) and that they shouldn’t trust modern, science-based medicine because “‘They’ don’t want you to know the truth”.  I think it would be reasonable to say that Trudeau has not only bilked people out of millions of dollars with his bogus “cures”, but in addition that his nonsensical anti-scientific conspiracy mongering has even gotten some people who believed him killed.

Well, now it seems that Trudeau has finally gone too far.  Recently he was in an Illinois federal court as the latest chapter in his long-running battle with the Federal Trade Commission, and he messed up, BIG time when he encouraged his followers to send emails to the judge.  Here’s the Chicago Tribune article on the matter…

Best-selling author and infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau was held in criminal contempt Thursday and threatened with jail after he urged visitors to his Web site to unleash a massive barrage of e-mails that crashed a federal judge’s computer in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman’s computer became hopelessly clogged with e-mails from admirers of Trudeau’s diet book and other volumes, the judge told a hearing. Court technicians had to be called in to make his inbox usable again. Something similar happened to his BlackBerry, Gettleman said.

Gettleman has overseen Trudeau’s long-running legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission, which claims ads for Trudeau’s books offering cures for dozens of ailments — from faltering memory to hair loss — misrepresent the facts.

The judge said Trudeau urging the deluge of e-mails was harassment.

“The penalty I will impose will probably include some custody and a fine,” the calm, soft-spoken Gettleman said after holding Trudeau in direct criminal contempt. He ordered Trudeau to post a $50,000 bond and surrender his passport.

Gettleman said the glut of e-mails delayed court business and will force the U.S. Marshals Service to do a threat assessment.

Trudeau arrived in court voluntarily after Gettleman threatened to send marshals to bring him in. He sat silently through the hearing before being led away for fingerprinting and a mug shot.

Well, I think this is one case in which the charlatan is getting his just-desserts.  Of course, to Trudeau’s followers, this will likely be interpreted as more evidence of their “Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big Government” conspiracy theory, and they will paint Trudeau as a martyr for the alt-med cause. Which is fine with me, so long as Trudeau is a martyr in jail.

Posted in medical woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

 
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