Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cyberchondriacs Unite!

Bristol-Meyers-Squib (BMS) announced a couple weeks ago that it is moving away from direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing, such as television and magazine ads, and will be investing its marketing money in direct-to-patient marketing. They hope that by focusing their money on grabbing the attention of people who are already being treated by doctors, as opposed to DTC's scatter-shot appeal to the entire population, they’ll make more sales.

It’s a smart strategy. Any Marketing 101 course will teach you to focus your resources on the people most likely to buy your product, and to avoid campaigns targeted to the “general public.”

Do you wonder how they plan to pull off direct-to-patient marketing? Through doctors? Nope. Through pharmacists? Uh-uh. Through posties and the mail? Wrong again. The patients will be reached via the Internet.

According to David Stern, VP-Marketing at Serono, Rockland, Mass. (As reported at

"It's a tumultuous time. The return on investment for traditional advertising is really waning . . . the Web is where we can get a return on our investment."

Stern said DTC spending had skyrocketed, but patient demand at the doctor's office was relatively flat. He suggested one alternative was to custom-build Web sites for individual doctors who could then recommend their patients seek more health information from the site. The pharma marketer would then end up knowing more about the patients' interests than the doctor would, Stern said -- invaluable for sales reps on their next visit with that doctor.
Sweet mother of darkness.

And of course, those sales reps will have nothing but my best interest at heart when they're telling my doctor about their latest miracle cures.

No doubt BMS’s decision to switch advertising media was based on some solid research that lead them to believe they would get a better ROI from websurfers than from channel surfers. Studies, perhaps, such as the one recently done by polling house Harris Interactive.

Now, the target audience for the poll that Harris Interactive did is pharmaceutical company decision-makers, not the public. It's not you or me. I raise this point to draw attention to the language that BMS is using regarding their new strategy as compared to the language the polling company is using for what would be the same target audience.

While BMS is talking about marketing their products “direct-to-patients via websites,” Harris Interactive calls the people who look for health information online “cyberchondriacs.”

I think that much can be gleaned from this choice of a moniker for pharma’s target audience. Of course, a hypochondriac is a person who has imaginary symptoms or ailments. A cyberchondriac, more than just being a person who looks for health info online, implies that this person is someone who goes online to find the disease that matches his or her symptoms. I’m very happy to be challenged on my leap of logic, but that’s how I read the word.

And, if a cyberchondriac really is someone looking to match their symptoms with an identifiable cause (disease, condition, you name it), then are they really “patients” or, are they “want-to-be-patients,” or perhaps, “primed-to-be-patients?”

Given that the word was used in a report directed to pharma industry folks, I suspect in the full report (which I cannot access) the word is well-defined and defined in such a way as to indicate that cyberchondriacs are ready and willing to be moved to action, which is what BMS clearly said it wants its advertising to result in: "patient demand at the doctor's office."

So, what did Harris Interactive find out in their research?
  • In 2004, 117 million American cyberchondriacs went online to look for health or medical information.
  • That cyberchondriacs look for health info online an average of 7 times per month.
  • That 90% of the adults surveyed say the information they find online is either “very reliable” (37%) or “somewhat reliable” (53%).
  • And that 57% of people who have sought health information online say they have discussed the information with their doctors at least once.
And that, dear readers, would have been exactly the kind of info BMS needed to know before deciding to pull their money from TV and mag ads: that if 117 cyberchondriacs are looking for health info online, and that 90% of those folks believe the info they read is reliable and then 57% (or somewhere in the area of 60 million people) turn their web surfing into a conversation with a doctor, who is inclined to write a prescription…well, that’s money well-invested.

Just think about this. Pharma builds the patient-oriented websites that have your trusted doctor’s face and name on it. The website surveys you and collects all kinds of data that you feel comfortable telling your trusted doctor. The website gives you information about the symptoms that match diseases you have indicated you are either predisposed to or concerned about in your survey. The solution that is presented is the name of a drug and the ubiquitous, “See your doctor if you have further questions.” The doctor, of course, is complicit, having his website paid for by the pharma company, so he is primed to write the prescription to you, his patient, the cyberchondriac.

Maybe I’m a conspiracy theorist…but industries don’t manage to earn billions of dollars a year unless they are very strategic. And this approach to grabbing market share is pure brilliance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Case Study in Poor Journalism

Oh happy day! A vaccine article in the New York Times I can challenge!

All you readers who say you want to scream when people like me challenge the vaccine status quo – I await your comments with great anticipation. Don’t hold back. I’m itchin’ fer a fight.

So the headline of the article in question is:

A Dose of Potent Advice: Don't Mess With Tetanus
Very cute play on the extremely effective Don’t Mess With Texas public education campaign.

And the opening paragraph reads:
If you scare easily, maybe you'd better not read this column. Then again, maybe a good scare is really what you need to get your immunization against tetanus up to date.
Read all 1200 fear-mongering words if you feel inclined.

I want to draw your attention to the paragraph that is third from the end of this article (on the second page), which, as every journalist knows, will be read by precious few people since folks tend to read the headline, the opening one or two paragraphs and then scan the rest of an article, losing interest long before they reach the end. And having to click to a second page with online articles is deadly.

So here’s the paragraph you probably didn’t read even if you linked to the article:
Before routine childhood immunization began after World War II, the United States had 500 to 600 cases a year (about 40 per 10 million people). The numbers have dropped steadily, to about 50 to 100 a year. But in recent years, there's been a disturbing increase among people under 40, partly linked to drug users in California. Self-piercing and tattooing may also be a factor.
Such a rich paragraph! Every sentence a gem, particularly when taken in relation to the rest of the article which sets up our reason to be very afraid.

The way the first two sentences are written, mentioning childhood immunization, creates a false conclusion that immunization was the reason the tetanus numbers have dropped steadily since WWII. One could just as accurately written, “At a time when people relied on horses for transportation, the United States had 500 to 600 cases a year.” Or, “At a time when the majority of citizens lived in rural areas…” Or, "At a time when tens of thousands of Americans were fighting and being injured in wars."

Unfortunately, the website that has the historic chart for all so-called vaccine-preventable diseases is down tonight. My memory is that incidence of tetanus began to decline long before the introduction of the vaccine, except, perhaps, among soldiers who were having the bullet wounds treated in make-shift hospitals.

As for those final two sentences of the paragraph in question... "But in recent years, there's been a disturbing increase among people under 40, partly linked to drug users in California. Self-piercing and tattooing may also be a factor."

I looked at my favourite CDC webpages to find out how many of the 50 to 100 tetanus cases are dieing and how old those people are. The CDC has data for the years 1999 to 2002 and here’s what it says:

Total deaths due to tetanus in 2002: 5
55-59 years old: 1 death
65-69 years old: 1 death
75-79 years old: 2 deaths
80-84 years old: 1 death

Total deaths due to tetanus in 2001: 5
55-59 years old: 1 death
65-69 years old: 1 death
80-84 years old: 1 death
85-89 years old: 2 deaths

Total deaths due to tetanus in 2000: 5
65-69 years old: 1 death
70-74 years old: 2 deaths
80-84 years old: 1 death
90-94 years old: 1 death

Total deaths due to tetanus in 1999: 7
30-34 years old: 1 death
55-59 years old: 1 death
60-64 years old: 1 death
75-79 years old: 3 deaths
85-89 years old: 1 death

What does this prove other than the fact that deaths due to tetanus are outrageously low in the US (1 in 60,000,000) and that not one single under 40 drug user or self-piercer has died from tetanus? Nothing more than the journalist was using partial facts and misleading phrase clusters to prove her thesis that we must all rush out and get our tetanus shot – or, more likely, the thesis of an industry-funded organization since most health stories are generated from the issuance of a press release.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get your tetanus vaccine updated. That's a decision each person must make for herself once she has all the facts. It’s called informed consent…and the NYT article does nothing to help inform you about the actual and relative benefits and harms of contracting tetanus or getting the tetanus vaccine.

Shame on the New York Times for such sloppy and biased journalism.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Skeptic's Guide to Selling Sickness

Apparently, Canadians are more skeptical as a culture than Americans. I wonder what that’s about, what the difference can be traced back to.

Could it be that although we are a capitalist society, our socialist values lead us to question authority more than our southern neighbours?

Maybe it’s the influence that the French culture from Quebec has on all Canadians who live in a country that allows one province to have its own Constitution and legal system. Maybe that makes us all more inclined to see and accept many angles of any story.

Could the way we accept new Canadians into our country, as bringing new ideas as opposed to creating a melting pot, be influencing our collective skeptical nature?

Perhaps it’s due to our founding principles of Peace, Order and Good Government, which is quite different from the American’s Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

For whatever reason, Canadians tend to be more skeptical citizens than our American cousins (and, in my case, siblings). And, our skepticism about the pharmaceutical industry’s motives have lead one Canadian, Alan Cassels of British Columbia, to co-author quite an eye-opening book. It’s called,
Selling Sickness: How the World’s Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies are Turning Us All Into Patients.

(Disclosure: I am a friend and work colleague of Alan’s and am currently house-sitting for him. In fact, my laptop is sitting on Alan’s desk as I type this entry).

I’m on holiday. Relaxing. Reading. And while my husband is unraveling the mysteries of the Half-blood Prince, I am unraveling the mysteries of how every American and Canadian has become a patient in need of some pharmaceutical magic pill.

Selling Sickness is a must-read if you are skeptical about the ulterior motives of Big Pharma and need some good arguments to help make your point at parties and to your pill-popping parents.

If you are not skeptical about Big Pharma’s motives, having been hoodwinked by industry greed, it’s even more important for you to read Selling Sickness. I will offer you a money-back guarantee* that, after reading this book, you will live a happier life knowing what’s really going on behind the prescriptions your doctor is writing to treat your high cholesterol, depression, menopause, adult ADD, high blood pressure, social anxiety disorder, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, osteoporosis, irritable bowel and/or syndrome female sexual dysfunction.

The best quote from the book so far:

“Thirty years ago, Henry Gadsden, the head of Merck, one of the world’s largest drug companies, told Fortune magazine that he wanted Merck to be more like chewing gum maker Wrigley’s. It had long been his dream, he said, to make drugs for healthy people so that Merck could “sell to everyone.” Gadsden’s dream now drives the marketing machinery for the most profitable industry on earth.”
You can read an excerpt from the chapter on shaping public perceptions with a case study on the creation of the newly created social anxiety disorder. (Oh my god…I have that!).

*Okay. Not really. But I still stand behind my belief that this book is one of the most important you can read to wrangle control of your health care away from profit interest and back to your own self-interest, which is really where your health care provider's attention should be directed, don’t you think?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Those Darn Toxic Unborn Babies

If the conservative faction of Americans who get all excited about babies rights want to do something really worthwhile with their energy and money, I propose they change their focus from preventing abortion to getting stricter pollution laws passed.

According to a new report by the Environmental Working Group, Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns :
Researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.

Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.
What makes me just a tad upset is all the effort that cancer organizations put into the blessed Walk/Run/Cycle/Swim for the Cure events to raise money to find some elusive vaccine to prevent cancer, while the real cause of the ever-growing cancer rates is left unchallenged and for the most part, under-researched. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the leap that industry-created toxins in our air, food and water aren’t good for us.

Rather than expose us to that crap and then try to cure the illness with injections of more toxic cocktails, why can’t we focus on reducing the toxins in the first place? I’m sure corporations could figure out how to turn a profit from helping people stay healthy…

Friday, July 15, 2005

There are no bad foods, only bad children

New York Times today. Headline: Food Industry Defends Marketing to Children.
ABOUT 350 food company executives, government officials, consumer advocates and academics packed a meeting room at the Federal Trade Commission's offices yesterday to discuss a wide range of issues on marketing food to children.
Amazingly, neither the government nor industry reps were in favour of government regulations. The industry, with the blessing of the Federal Trade Commissioner, has its own 5 person self-regulation organization called the Children's Advertising Review Board, or CARU. According to the CARU website:
CARU is the children's arm of the advertising industry's self-regulation program and evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material in all media to advance truthfulness, accuracy and consistency with its Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising and relevant laws.
Well that’s good news, isn’t it? Turn on the tube, Mabel and let Johnny watch the Cap’n Crunch Cardio-Kids Hour.

But there were some dissenting voices in the crowd. According to Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa:
"CARU has become the poster child for how not to do self-regulation," said Senator Harkin, who was one of the few speakers to use the phrase "junk food." The board, he said, "has shown itself to be a captive to the industry."
Well, given that Senator Martin is a Democratic and we don’t know what his alterior motives are it’s hard to accept such an assertion without supporting evidence.

At the table were also representatives from the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association. They’ve published their own report on advertising food to kids, and claim that “data collected by Nielsen Media Research shows that children are viewing less food, beverage and restaurant advertising today than they were a decade ago.”

I guess that’s good news.

Unfortunately, for the GMA and all of the makers of kid-directed junk food advertising, their spokesman, Richard Martin seems to have missed the meeting where their key messages to media were outlined. (I also doubt this guy has kids). This has to be one of the dumbest quotes I’ve seen in several months:
The association says is it is opposed to nutritional guidelines because it does not believe there are any bad foods. “Any food can be responsibly consumed by everyone, including kids,” Mr. Martin said.
Hey, Mr. Martin, your industry funding is showing. Two points for Senator Harkin’s side and for common sense.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Got Milk? Eat my shorts!

Don’t expect this will be making mainstream news. From a marketing e-newsletter I subscribe to:

NEW YORK -- GOT MILK? the catchy trademark of the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), will soon appear on men's boxers and baby clothes sold in Wal-Mart and other major retailers.

GOT MILK? will be cross-licensed with character properties such as Cookie Monster, Garfield and the Pillsbury Doughboy. GOT MILK? designs will be sold through Wal-Mart. Plans call for expansion into women's apparel via Target Corp. within the next six months.

Cutie Pie Baby, New York, will feature GOT MILK? on baby and toddler apparel, including bodysuits, burp cloths, bibs and blankets and on select hardgoods such as baby bottles and sippy cups. The line will retail at Babies "R" Us, Buy Buy Baby, Baby Depot and beginning in September.

The CMPB, a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase milk sales and consumption in California, is funded by California milk processors and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. It began its licensing program in 1995 with GOT MILK? Barbie and now has more than 100 product licensees.

San Francisco advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners created the GOT MILK? ad campaign in 1993.
Now, you don’t have to have experience working with non-profits or in marketing to see the problem in the CMPB being labeled (and given government approval to be) a non-profit organization given its mission to “increase milk sales and consumption in California.” This is an industry-funded, arm’s length marketing department for milk producers. D’uh!

So, many may say, what’s the problem with trying to get more people to drink milk? After all, milk is one of the most healthy drinks available. For goodness sake, without milk our babies would never grow up big and strong.

And that’s the problem with industry creating fake non-profits to support their business goals. Where do you think this myth, that drinking cow’s milk helps build strong bones, came from? Well-funded, so-called third party organizations like the CMPB, of course.

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. Milk equals bone-builder is one of those entrenched myths that have been repeated so often it’s attained indisputable fact status. Read the milk fact sheet at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The PCRM is a non-profit organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.

These folks ran a clever counter Got Milk? ad that challenges Dr. Phil to Get Real about his assertion that milk helps people lose weight.

And a very well-researched article on milk, the not-so-perfect food, can be found in the July edition of Shared Vision.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Master Hooper

I'm so busy with work that I don't even have time to read the blogs I love, let alone read the news or comment on anything.

Just wanted to share one of the many talents of my boy! He's got 5 hula hoops spinning and a 6th is about to be tossed on top. Sadly, the weight of 6 hoops (1 inch PVC piping!) knocked him backward - you can see his feet leaving the ground with "just" the 5!

Want to make your own cool hula hoops? The recipe used to make these hoops can be found at the Hollyhock Leadership Institute. Didn't you know - all great leaders can hoop!?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Little Boy Blue

I’ve always been naturally inclined to question authority – especially when that authority (be it my own parents, a doctor, politician, or teacher) tells me I need to do something that doesn’t feel right to me.

So, when Adisen's kindergarten teacher, at our very first parent-teacher meeting informed us that Adisen was a challenging child to have in her class, that daily he interrupted her lectures with commentary that made other kids laugh, and that unless we “changed his personality” he would have trouble through his school years, I started to look into what the characteristics of a “good” personality for a 5-year old are. I mean, there would be no point in changing his personality to another “wrong” or “bad” personality, right?

I spent hours doing web searches to find the set of personality characteristics that would please an elementary school teacher. By the end of the day I hadn’t found a single definition for “the perfect child/student.” What I found was list after list of the kinds of behaviour that are not acceptable or desirable in a child. I also determined that my sweet son exhibited every single behaviour trait of a kid with ADHD and most of the personality traits of a child with bi-polar disorder. Oh – and that his behaviour was classic of gifted children.

I concluded that the only way I could give the teacher the student she wanted was to put Adisen on a psychoactive drug that would effectively change his five-year old personality. Problem was, I love all of Adisen's personality traits. When he argues with me, I envision him as a future lawyer. When he obsesses over building the perfect Lego character, I imagine him as a scientist. When he explodes into a rage that I’m not being fair, I see the human rights activist in him. All of his personality traits, as challenging as they sometimes are coming from a child, have the potential to serve him well as an adult. I simply could not imagine him as broken or sick, needing to be fixed or cured of the personality he was born with.

Sadly, millions of parents in the United States and around the world are convinced that that their young children would somehow be “better” if put on a prescription drug to alter their moods and behaviour. Over the past decade, the increase in the number of very young children placed on Ritalin or similar psychoactive medications has been staggering. Recent studies cite a 300 percent rise in the number of two- to four-year olds taking these medications and estimate that nearly 20 percent of school-aged children in the USA are taking personality changing drugs. In addition to the psychoactive drugs, in 2002 in the United States, over 11 million children were prescribed an anti-depressant.

So I made a film, called Little Boy Blue, with the hope that it would encourage parents, teachers and care-givers, doctors and soccer coaches, to discard the notion that there is a firm definition of how a model child behaves, to reject society’s template of what a “good” and “emotionally healthy” child looks like, and to embrace and accept that many different behaviours are good and healthy – even if those behaviours make it hard for teachers to manage a class, or for both parents to work full-time, or even if they expose deep flaws in the environments we as a society are forcing our kids to adapt to.

People are buying played in another festival this weekend...slowly but surely the message is getting out. I go to bed feeling grateful tonight.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Flu-related blogs worth taking a look at

There are some really smart and well-educated folks out there blogging about the avian flu! If this is a subject that intrigues you, you can see several arguments to my post from yesterday and the day before both in the comments at my blog and at the following links (all of the comments are different, although there are some folks who are responding at more than one site). I promise you, you’ll learn at least one new thing.

HN51 – News and Resources about Avian Flu
Effect Measure

As I mention in a couple of replies, my background is NOT in medicine, rather my experience is in social marketing. I know how to use the media and other strategies to help a public change behaviour (and sometimes beliefs).

The folks posting replies to my call for level-headed reporting on avian flu seem to have more background in medical areas. I've learned a great deal from them. (However, I’m still not buying the need for avian flu pandemic fear-mongering via the mainstream media.)

Take a look - and join in the conversation! Through discussion we can find areas we all agree on and, the bonus, ways to move forward that serve all of our needs and goals. It's true! The conservative right-wing, anti-gay-marriage, anti-abortion crowd have been successfully using this strategy for two decades. Important change takes time. And lots of talking. C'mon. Join in!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I think my head is going to explode

Thanks to Gina at RenegadeMom, I found another “oh sweet jesus the pandemic flu is upon us” article. This one from CNN last Friday.

I’m seriously irritated right now. Shallow breathing. Nauseous. Light-headed. Shoulders tense.

I feel like I’m the butt of some depraved reality life experiment, like the Truman Show, or The Matrix, or the episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Sandy Squirrel longs for her Texas homeland.

You know that old saying that if you repeat a lie often enough it will become truth? Well, the god-forsaken media have repeated the lie about how many Americans die from influenza so many times that it is nearly impossible to argue otherwise. It has become an accepted fact.

In this CNN article they state, “In an average year, influenza kills an estimated 36,000 Americans and puts 200,000 into the hospital.”

This is a commonly cited stat. But it’s an utter fabrication! May I say, it’s bullshit!

Arrgghhh! How can people make informed decisions about when to rely on medical interventions (such as vaccines) and when to rely on their otherwise good health to keep them feeling groovy?

Here are the facts, from the most reputable health monitoring agency in America – the Center for Disease Control. Their stats about deaths due to influenza come nowhere near this mythical 36,000.

Follow along with me if you’re skeptical. I will help shatter those rose-colored glasses…actually, in this case the glasses are black, like death, covering our ability to see clearly:

Go to this CDC webpage

Now go to the second PDF file in the list on this page, G00.1-L00 (1,110 pages) (or link from here)

You can now either search for the keyword “Influenza” and find 12 mentions of it, or, you can simply read the following list. Either way, you’ll get the identical information. These are all American influenza death statistics:

  • Influenza due to identified influenza virus: 99
  • Influenza with pneumonia, influenza virus identified: 38
  • Influenza with other respiratory manifestations, influenza identified: 59
  • Influenza with other manifestations, influenza identified: 2 (that’s not a typo, it’s two)
So far, that’s a total of 198 Americans who died in 2002 from identifiable influenza virus. Under 200 people. And more than half of those folks were over 80 years old! Just 16 kids under 10 died from influenza in 2002. Sixteen! Why in God’s name are we giving flu vaccines to hundreds of thousands of infants and children?!

But wait, there’s more. The CDC also lists the number of people who die from something that is called influenza but was not actually identified as such. Doctors who don’t test to see if the patient died from influenza but think that influenza was the cause. Here are those numbers:
  • Influenza, virus not identified: 628
  • Influenza with pneumonia, virus not identified: 291
  • Influenza with other respiratory manifestations, influenza not identified: 323
  • Influenza with other manifestations, influenza not identified: 14
And that’s it. Those are the actual deaths attributed to influenza from the actual Center for Disease Control in 2002. Again with these numbers, more than half were people who had already seen their fair share of days.

198 confirmed influenza deaths. 1,256 unconfirmed influenza deaths. From the CDC itself.

So where does the magic 36,000 deaths a year come from? You see, the CDC doesn’t require doctors to report deaths due to influenza, so they make up a number that feels right based on computer models and statistical projections. Please! The question begging to be answered is, “why?”

Why doesn’t the CDC require doctors to report cause of death when it’s influenza, but requires cause of death reporting for cancer, car accidents, gun shots, and so on and so on and so on? Why?

Of course, I don’t know why, but most people who don’t ask for information don’t want it. Is it possible that the CDC doesn’t want to know how many people in the USA die from influenza since, if the numbers really are as low as they appear based on the reporting that is done, the public may stop fearing the flu, stop getting their annual shot, and maybe even resist all of the anti-terrorist vaccines that will one day be forced on us all?

Back to all the noise about the imminent flu pandemic…experts predict up to 7.4 million people globally will die. They cite the avian flu as a real possibility to set the pandemic in motion. But so far, nobody has died from the avian flu – just a lot of birds living in pretty crappy conditions. When I did math a couple decades ago in school, I thought I learned that any number multiplied by zero was zero. I wonder how the computer model that came up with 7.4 million got that number.

Must drink scotch now.

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    A nice cup of tea with a dash of milk and a spoonful of fear

    I have a typical morning routine. I wake up when my early-rising and wonderful husband places a cup of tea at my bedside. I turn on CBC radio. Sometimes it’s just before the 7:00 news, sometimes, just after. And I lay in bed until I’ve heard both the national and regional newscasts. It’s usually a nice way to start the day.

    Today, however, was not one of the nice days. I missed the 7:00 AM national news but caught the newscast at 8:00 while brushing my teeth. I wasn’t fully focused, but tuned right in when I heard some spokesperson breathily predicting Armageddon. Asserting that a killer flu pandemic will inevitably hit Canada once the avian flu starts to mutate and spread among humans.

    This maestro of mental mayhem also warned that we must be prepared for universal flu vaccination programs and then worried about the fact that some people may be reluctant to get the avian flu vaccine.

    I’ve had to deal with school bureaucracies, telling me my son can’t attend unless his vaccines are all up-to-date (which is utter bullshit since no child in Canada can be denied an education simply for not having been vaccinated). I’ve had to deal with very snarky emergency room hospital staff and doctors when taking my son in to get a cast or stitches (of course, a parent who refuses to follow the government mandated vaccination schedule is suspected of other types of child abuse and neglect).

    The deal is that childhood vaccines are not mandatory anywhere in Canada, so I get some flack but am ultimately left to make the health care decision for my child. This newscast, and some other stories from Ontario in the last months, are preparing the public to accept forced immunization.

    So I’m left with the feeling that the time is now to start organizing. Organizing what, I have no idea. Get myself a lawyer perhaps…find funding to launch an education campaign…build a small shelter to protect my family from the forced needles.

    There are already American states where parents have had their non-vaccinated children taken from them and been charged with neglect. The kids are immunized and returned to their family.

    Even if you are a firm vaccine supporter, this kind of talk about forced immunization for an event that may never happen – or may happen with a strain of disease that is not contained within the vaccine vial – should make all citizens angry.

    The thing I’m most upset about right now is that the fear mongering is actually affecting me. I am scared. But not of the flu pandemic. I’m terrified because it’s clear that our government (and the American government, too) is clearly setting the stage to change immunization policy so they can legally force vaccines on us.

    Individual rights? Sorry folks, we’re at war. And the chickens are winning.

    Monday, July 04, 2005

    Better to be a rat than a grandma…

    …if you live in Canada and find yourself participating in research to test new drugs and medical treatments, that is.

    A few posts ago I mentioned how appalled I was at my mother-in-law’s treatment by drug researchers when she was waiting for a surprise triple by-pass. Now a new study, Towards the Ethical Governance of Canadian Research Involving Humans: Principles, Policies, Practices and Outcomes, shows her experience is not unique.

    The researchers conclusion: “The governance of research involving animals in Canada is not only more stringent, but better.”

    Those crazy academics with their fancy ten dollar words...what he's saying is, lab rats are better cared for in drug testing than humans are.

    How many Canadians are recruited into studies to test new drugs? About one million. And who are they? They are the disposables, of course, grey hairs and folks who are chronically ill. Like my son’s granny T.

    And, to make the story even more disturbing, the overview of the report concludes that,
    "It is far easier to find out about research mishaps in Canada from U.S. authorities than from Canadian authorities."

    Apparently, while the Canadian research community refuses to disclose when investigators or institutions are involved in misconduct, such as misspending funds, falsifying results or mistreating patients, several Canadian researchers and universities have in recent years been publicly questioned and sanctioned by U.S. regulators.

    With all due respect to my American cousins, I can’t say I feel happy about having the country with one of the highest mortality-due-to-doctor-invention rates being Canada’s drug research watchdog…