Death by a Thousand Cuts: When the Cures of Big Pharma are Worse than the Diseases
The more chemicals, drugs, vaccines, additives, toxins they make, the more difficult it is to escape from big business’ straight-jacket
The vaccine debate and prying into Planned Parenthood’s Standard Operating Procedure are two arenas I have not gravitated toward. Genetically-engineered crops, industrial farming, confined feeding operations (CAFOs), dams killing wild salmon, these are my fortes.
The news daily is like death by a thousand cuts for me tied to new studies on collapsing ecosystems, indigenous people fighting against mines and other extractive industries, and more and more on climate change/global warming.
I never thought I’d be embroiled in a fight for my livelihood because I questioned the rampant vaccination of girls (and now boys) with the Merck marketed HPV vaccine, Gardasil. To date, more than 270,000,000 doses have been distributed worldwide, this HPV vaccine (World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety) distributed by both GlaxoSmithKline and Merck versions. There are scientists who say the human papillomavirus is not the cancer threat posited by the drug manufacturers and their paid-off doctors; that most immune systems can fight off the HPV; that the vaccine only hits two of the more than 40 different HPV phenotypes.
My story with HPV vaccine started when I was in a Planned Parenthoodtraining last month, a mandatory course for social workers titled Fundamentals of Sex Ed. For a total of possibly 30 seconds out of a 16-hour two-day training (I was kicked out after day one, eight hours worth), I voiced my opinion about the potential risks associated with Gardasil.
The opinion was put down on a slip of paper, then, and thrown in with dozens of other comments from the 40 participants. This is in Seattle, one of the bigger Planned Parenthood locations, and the comments I made were specifically sold to us all as “an anonymous forum.” I went further with two more comments on the slips of paper — about 60 words answering this first day evaluation question: “What could Planned Parenthood have done differently today in the training?”
I am really disappointed that Planned Parenthood in Seattle is so lock-step in line with Big Pharma. Especially in the case of Gardasil, which is a vaccine that has gotten tens of thousands complaints about it. Anyone, including my 16- to 21-year-old clients, could easily Google ‘Gardasil Dangers’ and find a plethora of very disturbing and legitimate information about its dangers. I wish Planned Parenthood showed more critical thinking and independent pedagogical standards, including informed consent.
Less than two hours after the training, I was called at my hotel room by my supervisor from Portland, who let me know:
The Planned Parenthood trainers said they do not want you back for the second day of training. I am putting you on administrative leave. I am looking into what happened in Seattle. Do not return to the office until further notice.
That was October 15, and I have since been terminated, have been on the job market, am attempting to collect a few weeks of unemployment assistance, have a lawyer investigating my case, and started writing about my case on multiple forums. You can read my posts “My Fate as a Social Worker Sealed by a Vaccine Named Gardasil“; “Planned Parenthood, A Vaccine, Double-think Alive and Well in the World of Non-profits“; “Gardasil and the American Bald Eagle – What Would Rachel Carson Do?”
The Sordid History of the HPV Vaccine
I have collected a hundred reports, articles, documentaries and blogs tied to the HPV vaccine, which has been in use since 2006. Here are just few: How Much Does the Vaccine Cost?, Sacrificial Virgins, Gardasil Did It/ Fue el Gardasil. The treasure trove is enlightening, intimidating, depressing and validating. Every drug and chemical in the world should have this amount of scrutiny, and yet, the depressing part is that once something is introduced into our systems of medicine, food production/ processing, and modern industrial existence, the unintended consequences and synergistic downsides are more difficult to elevate to a level of grave public concern.
The PR firms, legal teams, government agencies, law makers, and politicians all have a stake in the game with trillions of dollars in profits at stake. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry is the single largest contributor (number two being insurance industry) to congressional accounts in the United States, spending almost 2.5 billion dollars the past decade in lobbying efforts, more than double the spending of the defense industry. This is, of course, in addition to the many billions more spent on marketing their products to both consumers and directly to physicians.
The issues whirling around Gardasil represent a microcosm of all that is wrong with our healthcare industry. It is difficult at best and impossible for most to speak out against the power purchased with these multi-billion dollar budgets; in many cases, Big Pharma is killing us with their practices, marketing and products. If you are a citizen, a consumer group, a watchdog agency or journalist going against the grain, the road to hell is paved with threats, lawsuits, and vitriol. We are labeled conspiracists, Luddites, anti-science extremists and crazies or nuts. Death by a thousand cuts!
Here is an anonymous comment emailed to me, and it’s endemic of the HPV vaccination controversy involving thousands of victims (and deaths) ascribed to the vaccination doses given these young girls and women:
I’ve been extensively investigating vaccines for 23 years and I believe that vaccines are one of the biggest contributors to the childhood epidemics of chronic disease. Over half of the kids in this country have been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Not only is it not prudent to mandate vaccines, it is in violation of informed consent and an affront to parental rights. The rush to get Gardasil (and all vaccines) approved is about one thing: $$$. Gardasil is not mandatory though in any state. It’s recommended but not mandatory – yet. It’s one of the most dangerous vaccines and should be completely avoided.
Whether it is vaccines, medications, agricultural or industrial chemicals, questions of safety are rarely tolerated. I knew this from my background in environmental studies, writing and activism. Even so, I was caught off guard by these recent events.
Toxic History and Citizen Action: The Fight Never Ends
I cut my teeth as a budding reporter in Arizona working on issues tied to sprawl, city and county politics, the cop shop, and more as a community journalist for several dailies. I also ate up journalism from other great venues, including one that links tangentially to the Gardasil story. It was on the Love Canal case (a neighborhood near Niagara Falls, NY) in the 1970s. Love Canal’s toxic history began when Hooker Chemical Co. used an abandoned canal from 1942 to 1953 to dump 21,800 tons of industrial hazardous waste (‘Love Canal’ still oozing poison 35 years later).
Later, the slurry was “capped,” and then hundreds of homes and a school were built on top of it. A harsh winter in 1977 with several meters of snow resulted in a spring melt seeping into the buried 16-acre canal which forced chemical waste into groundwater and to the surface, oozing into yards and basements (Superfund).
Residents began complaining of miscarriages, urinary and kidney problems and mental disabilities in their children. A quiet mother and homemaker began putting pieces together and contacted scientists and state government agencies.
Headlines like this anchor what she did as just a common person: “Lois Gibbs, a housewife leads the charge for evacuation, compensation and warns against resettling the area.”
That case led to the formation in 1980 of the Superfund program, which helps pay for the cleanup of toxic sites (From homemaker to hell-raiser in Love Canal).
As I have set up this series with environmentalist-scientist Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, this fourth article around this controversy (for DV) dovetails with environmentalist Lois Gibbs. How insane is it that she revisited the Love Canal site on the 35th anniversary in November 2013 and witnessed a new generation of mothers and fathers locked into lawsuits with Occidental Petroleum Corp., the new caretaker of the land, again, because of the toxic soil and health implications for them and their families (Happy Birthday, Love Canal). Rashes, stomach sickness, fainting, seizure. Insanity, the ooze that Gibbs tied to birth defects was recapped (mitigated) with new homes built where those in Gibbs’ old neighborhood had been demolished.
It was so weird to go back and stand next to someone who was crying and saying the exact same thing I said thirty-five years ago, Gibbs said.
More than 1,000 tons of contaminated soil are being now being shipped to an incinerator in Lincoln, Nebraska (Love Canal soil going to Kimball incinerator). We don’t know who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” but Albert Einstein did say, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Like Carson, Gibbs penned a few books – Dying from Dioxin (1995); Love Canal The Story Continues (1998); Love Canal: and the Birth of the Environmental Health Movement (2010) – and founded an organization fighting toxins:
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice which supports a nationwide network of more than 300 local community groups to achieve critical policy impacts at the local, regional, statewide and national levels. The communities we serve are largely rural, low-wealth or working class—the kind of areas where toxic chemicals, polluting facilities and other environmental dangers are sited.
Get Lit with Literature!
The biggest influences for me in regard to social justice and the power of collective action came to me through the arts, poetry and literature, at a young age. For me, the game changer was considering Herman Melville’s short story, Bartleby the Scrivener, or Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby, in a singular mild, firm voice, replied, ‘I would prefer not to.’— Herman MelvilleThe mind of man is capable of anything–because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage–who can tell?—but truth–truth stripped of its cloak of time.— Joseph Conrad
This very concept of those willing to kill and maim and conquer for a profit came to bear quickly after reading Conrad and so many other thinkers. The idea, though, of this strange man, Bartleby, basically intoning his manager, “I would prefer not to,” symbolizes one of the world’s most powerful phrases. “I would prefer not to.” How many among us can say the same when faced with ethical challenges.
Fact is Stranger than Fiction
What I am finding in my own nascent life tied to Gardasil and Planned Parenthood is a type of bearing witness, knowing there are deeper and more layered and nuanced ways of looking at the mad men in advertising, marketing, propaganda and more existential ways of contemplating the insanity of unlimited growth, the consumer assault and battery from the merchants of death.
The leap from literary/poetic to environmental and science writing was not a high one. I was still reading writers like Eduardo Galeano, Vonnegut , Ursula Le Guin, Denise Levertov and Jorge Luis Borges, but I did devour Carson’s Silent Spring when I was 16, and that too put me on a course toward writing literary works, and poetry, as well as becoming a journalist hoping to cover science. Carson was on the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 16 years and was highly cognizant of the fact the government played a huge role in promoting and defending chemical poisons.
“The crusade to create a chemically sterile, insect-free world,” Carson wrote, “seems to have engendered a fanatic zeal on the part of many specialists and most of the so-called control agencies.”
She believed that she was living in an era …
dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half-truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts.
The cross-pollination of a huge marketing campaigns with scientists and medical companies and pharmaceuticals is both bizarre and business as usual. Here, in 2006, from one of those marketing firms:
More than 95 insurance plans–covering 94 percent of insured individuals–have decided to reimburse Gardasil, according to Merck. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also added the vaccine to its Vaccines for Children Contract, making it available to Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, under-insured, or Native American children up to the age of 18.Analysts are optimistic about the vaccine’s market potential. ‘It’s very clear that patients are going to be interested in it,’ said John Lebbos, MD, therapeutic area director of infectious diseases at market research firm Decision Resources. ‘From what I’ve seen, it’s going to be a blockbuster.’Education about the vaccine is going to be a critical piece–due both to a lack of understanding about HPV as well as early controversy that vaccination might lead to teen promiscuity.
Note the terminology of the purveyors of capital and profit-making health care: “vaccine’s market potential” and “it’s going to be a blockbuster.” Words from an MD whose Hippocratic oath states first do no harm!
From the onset of Gardasil, after the fast-tracked shoddy FDA approval (Examining the FDA’s HPV Vaccine Records), Merck deployed the services of one of the world’s propaganda firms, AKA PR outfits:
The PR genius behind all stages of Merck’s HPV and Gardasil campaigns is the PR giant Edelman. The world’s largest independent PR firm, Edelman boasts more than 2,100 employees working in 46 wholly owned offices worldwide, plus the additional resources of more than 50 affiliates. Apparently Merck is hoping that most, if not all the states in the US, will mandate a vaccine against HPV as a pre-requisite for school attendance. And beat rivals to it, before GlaxoSmithKline gets FDA approval for its Cervarix.
In the dozens and dozens of articles in the New York Times, in reports by PR Watch and Judicial Watch, scant few mentioning of the untold physical incapacitation, chronic illness and deaths tied to Gardasil by many citizen groups with some scientists behind the calls to stop the Gardasil-Cervarix mass vaccination program (TruthWiki US Court Pays $6 Million to Gardasil Victims Judicial Watch: a, b, c Are You Concerned Over Genetically Modified Vaccine? HPV Researchers, Planned Parenthood Win Prestigious Lasker Medical Awards).
But, 11 years ago, even before FDA approval, Merck and Edelman were on the PR war-path beating the cervical cancer drums:
Merck used its deep pockets to make sure that even before the FDA had approved Gardasil, there was a growing awareness of and concern about HPV and its link to cervical cancer. According to Bloomberg News, Merck spent $841,000 for Internet ads alone relating to HPV in the first quarter of 2006 — months before the FDA had even approved Gardasil (Part One: Setting the Stage).
Again, this series on Gardasil-Merck-Planned Parenthood-and-my-termination looks at the funding and ties to non-profits, but also at the new documentaries and court cases illuminating the young girls and women who say they have been injured (and many family members of deceased girls say killed) by the HPV vaccine.
Here’s just one tip of the iceberg in this non-profit collusion with the funders, health care for-profits, and this is a three-part series written for PR Watch in 2017 by journalist Judith Siers-Poisson:
According to their website, “Women in Government is a national 501(c)(3), non-profit, bi-partisan organization of women state legislators providing leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums, and educational resources to address and resolve complex public policy issues.” The campaigns that they feature on their home page deal with kidney health, Medicare preventive services, higher education policy, and the “Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer,” which was publicly launched in 2004.On February 2, 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry, against the wishes of his conservative base and to the surprise of critics, signed an executive order mandating HPV vaccination for girls entering seventh grade. Then, unfortunately for Perry and Merck, details of his many connections with both Merck and Women in Government became public.
Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe noted, “It turned out that Perry’s former chief of staff is now a lobbyist for Merck. Did that look bad? Whoa, Nellie. Did it look bad that Merck had funded an organization of women legislators backing similar bills? Whoa, Merck.” USA Today reported that Perry’s current chief of staff’s mother-in-law, Texas Republican State Representative Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government. Perry’s wife, Anita, a nurse by training, addressed a WIG summit on cervical cancer in Atlanta in November 2005. Perry also received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign.
In 2004, more than 20 WIG funders were pharmaceutical companies or entities heavily invested in health care issues that could come before state legislators. A short list includes both Merck & Co., Inc and Merck Vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline (which will soon have the second HPV vaccine on the market), and Digene Corporation (which manufactures an HPV test). Other drug interests listed as donors to WIG include Novartis, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Bayer Healthcare, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb (both the company and their foundation), and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also known as PhRMA, one of the largest and most influential lobbying organizations in Washington representing 48 drug companies.
The funders of Women in Government today, as I am looking at their website, are still those big ones listed above and others in the for-profit health care fields.
What comes next will be articles tying Planned Parenthood to the makers of Gardasil, and how the science behind the HPV vaccine is not only faulty, but in some ways corrupted. The influence of these private for-profit drug makers to ruin scientists lives is also a big part of the story coming up (Biologist Peter Duesberg was all but banished from science for his views on HIV) The next part of the series will look at the cases of young girls damaged and killed and whose cases are being highlighted in documentaries and added to class action and personal liability cases against Merck and GSK.
Part one of the series over at Hormones Matter & DV was getting the reader’s feet wet effort: Gardasil and the American Bald Eagle. What I am hoping to elicit from this second part is reader’s feedback on the collusion of marketing and science. How do readers see that interplay affecting what they eat, consume, use and purchase? How can a citizen get a handle on all the complicated findings and PR spin and manufactured consent the for-profit world enlists as their marketing schemes?
GMOs, Genetic Engineering, Recombinant Drugs, Vaccines
I end with a lament, since I opened this piece around my background researching and writing about mostly environmental and social justice issues (certainly forced vaccinations in USA and other countries is a social injustice issue). I have many friends and sources in the arena of GMO — genetically modified (engineered) organisms and that giant, Monsanto. In fact, Gardasil is a genetically-engineered virus. The news today exploded with mainstream media touting a new study “clearing” Round-up, also known as glyphosate, of any definitive cancer-causing links.
Of course, this one study is not the final word on cancer and Round-up. One study, versus thousands linking Round-up to all sorts of problems in humans and animals. But then Monsanto is a giant with connected politicians, Supreme Court Justices and PR firms. Monsanto and others like Bayer subsidize entire university programs and departments. Autism and Round-up? Here. Glyphosate in vaccines?
It all ties together, this better living through chemistry-plastics-GE drugs. Even Stephen Hawkins is weighing in on this Genetic Engineering of vaccines.
My friend, who is now deceased, Mae-Wan Ho, submitted to an interview by me a few years ago, and this passage from it elegantly discusses the inherent dangers of GMOs:
The new genetics, for example, is enchanting; it is completely different from the old obsolete genetics that motivated genetic engineering and genetic modification. It has turned conventional genetics upside down. Instead of a one-way flow of information from DNA (the genetic material) to traits (biological function) to the environment, there is a circular feedback from the environment and the organisms’ experience that marks out which genes are to be expressed or not, even changing the genes themselves. I call this natural genetic modification. It is an intricate molecular dance of life that is essential for survival. Natural genetic modification is done with finesse and precision by the organisms themselves, without damaging the genome. In contrast, artificial genetic modification done in the laboratory by genetic engineers is crude, imprecise, uncontrollable, and ends up scrambling and damaging the genome with totally unpredictable effects on safety. It also interferes inevitably with the natural genetic modification process, and that is ultimately why artificial genetic modification is inherently hazardous.
Some writers say “vaccines are the Third Rail for writers. Otherwise totally progressive sites have drunk the Pharma Kool-Aid and [shut down] journalists for simply suggesting that vaccines are neither all safe or all unsafe! Imagine!” (a recent email from a writer answering my questions, preferring to stay anonymous).
Add to my dilemma as a white male, Marxist, 60, dare to complain about anything to do with Planned Parenthood, even this bizarre personal attack on me, as Planned Parenthood Seattle ended up pressuring the former non-profit I worked for to sack me because of my recalcitrance, aggressiveness and non-compliance of a “zeig heil” to all vaccines, manufactured and distributed (sold) by Merck and GlaxSmithKline, not exactly the angels in Big Pharma.
I’ve got compatriots, luckily, at DV, in the writing and voice of Martha Rosenberg —
Of course there are many reasons women may veto the vaccine for themselves or their children. Even though the vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing precancerous cervical lesions and protects against the two HPV strains that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts, it isn’t effective against all HPV strains. It is also not more effective against cervical cancer than a Pap smear and even when it does work, may require a booster. Nor do researchers know how long protection lasts.The HPV vaccine is also the most expensive of all recommended vaccines at $359.25 for all three doses says Pew Research.And then there’s the morality issue.“I was greatly offended that Merck suggest I vaccinate my nine-year-old daughter against an STD,” says Kelley Watson, a mother of two in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. “Especially insulting to me was that there was never any mention of HPV as being a sexually transmitted disease. It was presented as something women can contract through tampons or nylon stockings — as if men played no part.”Actually, men’s part in transmitting HPV is beginning to be acknowledged. Last year FDA also cleared the vaccine for boys, in whom the virus can cause genital warts and anal cancer. Even when an individual declines vaccination, his or her chances of infection are lessened as more people, both men and women, vaccinate — a concept called herd immunity.
Thanks to intrepid and thick-skinned writers like Rosenberg, the public might have a chance at getting real news about pharmaceuticals and all the other snake oil and PT Barnum shell games Big For-Profit Medicine pedals. I’ll attempt to be part of that phalanx of writers skeptical of capitalism’s parasitic infestation of things that should not be given to millionaires, billionaires and their financial vultures for profits and rip-offs — education, health, social security, energy, the commons, banking, and community rights to public health, safety and protection. Add the incarceration complex to the mix, and then also think about how infected farming, food, transportation, and telecommunications and media have become through the perversions of big capital and bigger profit schemes of the financial hit men (and women).
Just a year ago, here, Martha’s Counterpunch piece:They Aren’t All Safe: Pharma is Willing to Look “Unscientific” to Sell VaccinesPharma is unwise to cast such parents, of whom there are many, as “nuts.” The degeneration of their child is not their imagination. Also, there is no defensible reason for vaccines to be given all at once to a child, which many say heightens risks. Administering clusters of vaccines–once not given to children–has been called a major, new profit center for pediatricians.But anti-vaccination activists should also not be absolutist. Would anyone refuse a rabies vaccine after being bitten by a rabid raccoon? A tetanus shot after a serious wound? Would responsible parents deny their child a whooping cough or polio vaccine?Like all drugs aggressively marketed these days, patients and parents need to do their own research and weigh benefits and risks—never forgetting Pharma’s spotty safety record.
Seems like sanity to me, as a parent, patient and press member!