‘Wellness Warrior’ Jessica Ainscough dies from cancer

Comparing the eternally positive reflections of Jessica Ainscough with the reality of her recent passing from epithelioid sarcoma just two days ago, one cannot help feel somewhat disturbed. The ABC website has a leading description of Jessica’s struggle;

When initial mainstream cancer treatment didn’t work, one woman chose alternative methods that offer a different perspective on health and wellbeing.

Jessica initially underwent isolated limb perfusion. Her left upper limb was treated with chemotherapy. Initial signs were positive but within a year or so her tumor had returned. The surgical option she then faced involved amputation of not just her arm but the shoulder also. This disfiguring alternative may have offered some hope and Orac writes that before the choice of perfusion arose, Jessica may have been preparing herself to face the surgical option [2]. Ultimately she didn’t decide on surgery. A disturbing cornucopia of woo, “positive affirmations”, “cancer thriving”, coffee enemas, “the tribe”, etc… and surrendering to what the universe had in store led to The Wellness Warrior. Jessica also took on promoting the widely discredited quackery known as Gerson Therapy with gusto. You can read what Cancer Council Australia write about Gerson, and also check some citations here. This summary is from an article in today’s news.com.au;

Australia’s leading cancer organisations do not endorse Gerson therapy as a means of treating cancer. The National Cancer Institute says: “Because no prospective, controlled study of the use of the Gerson therapy in cancer patients has been reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, no level of evidence analysis is possible for this approach. “The data that are available are not sufficient to warrant claims that the Gerson therapy is effective as an adjuvant to other cancer therapies or as a cure. At this time, the use of the Gerson therapy in the treatment of cancer patients cannot be recommended outside the context of well-designed clinical trials. Cancer Australia says there is “little evidence” that alternative therapies are effective in cancer treatment. “Most have not been assessed for efficacy in randomised clinical trials, though some have been examined and found to be ineffective.” If you’d like to know more about cancer treatment in Australia, visit cancer.org.au or call 13 11 20.

The scale of denial Aiscough was in for so many years comes across in her piece published on ABC’s The Drum website. Eg;

How have I managed to escape the frail, sickly appearance that is so firmly stamped on the ‘cancer patient’ stereotype? I refused to follow the doctor’s orders. […] Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. It is really that simple. Our bodies don’t want to die. […] This is the basis of natural cancer-fighting regimes. While conventional treatment is hell bent on attacking the site of the disease and destroying tumors with drugs, radiation and surgery, the natural approach aims to treat the body as a whole. […] This stuff isn’t new. Reading Plato shows that holistic modalities have been understood for centuries: “You ought not to attempt to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you to attempt to cure the body without the soul… […] …I will spend three weeks being treated at the Gerson Clinic. The basis of the Gerson Therapy is a diet, which includes eating only organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking 13 glasses of freshly squeezed juice per day in hourly intervals. The idea is to strengthen the immune system and load you up with heaps of minerals, enzymes, beta-carotene, Vitamins A and C, and other antioxidants that attack free radicals and ultimately the cancer.  According to the late Dr Max Gerson, if you can stick to the strict regime for a minimum of two years, Gerson Therapy has the ability to cure cancer like no drug can. Alternative treatments like Gawler and Gerson offer patients hope, choice and understanding. They also offer them a cure, not just remission. To me, that sounds like the much more attractive option.

The Cancer Council of Victoria has some great advice on the topic, “How will I know if claims of a cure are false?”. On page 39 of this booklet they note that the dishonest and unethical may;

  • Try to convince you your cancer has been caused by a poor diet or stress: they will claim they can treat you or cure your cancer with a special diet
  • Promise a cure – or to detoxify, purify or revitalise your body. There will be quick dramatic and wonderful results – a miracle cure
  • Use untrustworthy claims to back up their results rather than scientific-based evidence from clinical trials. They may even list references. But if you look deeper these references may be false, nonexistent, irrelevant, based on poorly designed research and out of date
  • Warn you that medical professionals are hiding “the real cure for cancer” and not to trust your doctor
  • Display credentials not recognised by reputable scientists and health professionals

Comparing Jessica’s beliefs and a small amount of advice from Cancer Council (Victoria) indicates Ainscough was entertaining a range of dangerous ideas about what both caused and might treat or even “cure” her cancer. Plainly the Cancer Council would reject Gerson Therapy based on its major traits. Tragically Jessica’s mother died from breast cancer after following her into trusting the disproved belief system. Orac writes in October 2013;

From what I can gather, it is the story of a death from quackery, a death that didn’t have to occur. Even worse than that, it appears to be a death facilitated by the daughter of the deceased, a woman named Jessica Ainscough, who bills herself as the “Wellness Warrior.” It’s a horrifying story, the story of a woman who followed her daughter’s lead and put her faith in the quackery known as the Gerson therapy.

An excellent blog is The View From The Hills by Rosalie Hilleman. It is an excellent examination – through postulation, questioning and evidence – of Jessica’s extensive deception and manipulation of her readers in order to maintain two illusions. One being that Gerson offers some efficacy. The second being that Jessica’s epithelioid sarcoma was not progressing with the morbidity expected for that condition diagnosed at the time it was.

EDIT: Jessica insisted she was “thriving”. Readers could easily be left with the impression that Gerson Therapy is effective. All the more because most don’t associate “cancer” with the bright, positive Jessica. This is why questions raised in The View From The Hills were and are so necessary. Gerson was actually doing nothing. In reality her cancer was markedly indolent – very slow to progress.

But it was progressing. It always was. Clinically, just as cancer of this type does progress. And now like her mother, Jessica Ainscough has died from cancer.

JessAinscough

The awful autism obsession of the antivaccinationist

On page 11 of the most recent Health Care Complaints Commission investigation into the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network, we see the absurdity of vaccines causing autism rearing its head.

The AVSN claim to present on their website 68 “medical journal studies [that] support the link between vaccination and autism”. According to the HCCC the expert they consulted concluded a case of correlation confused as causation was evident. A read of the list shows the expert is being kind in no small part. Given that the AVSN claim these studies show a link between vaccines and autism, the list is quite absurd.

Despite the absence of mercury in childhood vaccines we get much on environmental mercury and autism, ADHD and blood mercury levels, swollen brains and autism, etc. But we have a numeric problem Houston. Of the 68 (cough) articles, I could count just 30 that included the word “vaccine” or “vaccination” in the title, abstract or conclusion. But maybe I’m expecting too much. Articles are numbered but items 5, 12, 48, 49 and 68 don’t exist. At all.

The AVSN use the typical misinformation that succeeds at confusing young worried parents and educated, affluent parents who can afford lots of Internet time. Such as citing the damage huge doses of certain toxins or heavy metals can do, without stressing vaccines contain either another variant or minuscule amounts long shown to be perfectly safe. Since having changed their byline from Love them, Protect them, Never inject them to Because every issue has two sides, they have done a poor job of presenting both sides.

The AVSN for example do not provide access to the Institute Of Medicine publication, Adverse Effects Of Vaccines; Evidence and Causality. This has been pointed out by the HCCC along with a host of biased schemes the AVSN execute in the hope of driving the public away from vaccination. In addition the hubris-riddled response that has been crafted for the HCCC and published online, is indicative of a mindset with no concept of community responsibility.

Myths and concerns about vaccination note on page 29 under “Mercury in vaccines can cause autism”:

There is no evidence that thiomersal (a mercury based preservative) in vaccines has caused any health problems, except perhaps minor reactions such as redness at the injection site. […] The form of organic mercury contained within thiomersal is “ethyl mercury” which doesn’t accumulate in the body, unlike the closely related methyl mercury which does accumulate and is neurotoxic. […] MMR vaccine and other live attenuated viral vaccines never contained thiomersal.

Of course there is a dollar to be made insisting vaccines cause autism and other disabilities. As reported recently by Fairfax:

The Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing has confirmed it is investigating ”problems” in the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network’s financial statements.
The anti-vaccine group has raised nearly $2 million in the past seven years but has never done any ”charity”, according to Stop the AVN, a coalition of critics formed after the parents of a baby who died of whooping cough were targeted by the network. […]

The 2008 financial statement said the group had more than $50,500 of assets, yet in its 2009 statement, assets from 2008 are listed as only about half that amount.
And nearly two-thirds of $281,855 in expenses listed on its 2010 financial statements are not explained, given only the title ”other expenses”. The 2012 statement for the group has not been submitted.
A chartered accountant who examined the documents for Fairfax Media, but declined to be named for fear he would be harassed, said the documents were ”the worst set of financial statements I have ever seen”.

$2 million! And where is that money? Well, you see… no-one really knows. A visit to this document reveals a copious tally of financial irregularities and charitable breaches by the (then) AVN. Both the Charitable Fundraising and Charitable Trusts Acts are called into question, “on a number of occasions” according to the NSW state watchdog, the OLGR.

Published just recently at Diluted Thinking the article, AVSN Pays Meryl Dorey is a must read. It is a thorough breakdown of financial irregularities and unanswered questions from 2004 to 2008.

It is of course beyond ironic that a hero of the AVSN is disgraced “vaccine/autism” fraudster, Andrew Wakefield. It’s old news that Brian Deer was able to track Andrew Wakefield’s scam because the latter had left a trail of intriguing financial records and/or references.

Follow the money was what Deer did in true investigative journalistic style. It is indeed somewhat silly that the anti-vaccine lobby today bellow follow the money, but in doing so can draw only one step from a vaccine to its manufacturer. The money trail Deer uncovered was far more impressive.

Wakefield was paid £150 plus expenses per hour by Richard Barr’s law firm. In total this came to £435 643, which was arguably to create a syndrome to drive the class action of anti-vaccine and genuinely misled (by Wakefield) litigants.

But Wakefield needed to ensure he profited from all the sufferers of his syndrome. Once the world had been fooled into believing “autistic enterocolitis” was a genuine syndrome, then it would have to be diagnosed. First he filed for his March 1995 Diagnostic patent that claimed in part:

Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may be diagnosed by detecting measles virus in bowel tissue, bowel products or body fluids

Based on this, on September 9th 1996 a client of Richard Barr known as Child 2 was the first child subject to what the GMC later described as a “clinically unwarranted” ileocolonoscopy.

The day after Child 2 had undergone his ileocolonoscopy Wakefield produced a document headed, Inventor/school/investor meeting 1. 4 which calculated that by working on MMR litigant samples, profits of £72.5m per year were to be had. This document left no doubt as to from where the money should be sourced. The profits would go to a yet to be formed company specialising in molecular viral diagnostic tests:

In view of the unique services offered by the Company and its technology, particularly for the molecular diagnostic, the assays can command premium prices. The ability of the Company to commercialise its candidate products depends upon the extent to which reimbursement for the cost of such products will be available from government health administration authorities, private health providers and, in the context of the molecular diagnostic, the Legal Aid Board.

More could be gleaned from a confidential submission (1999) to the Legal Aid board in his quest to secure the future of an immunodiagnostic business he would be director of. Unigenetics Ltd was incorporated in February of that year with Dublin pathologist, John O’Leary and would be registered in the Republic of Ireland. Here Wakefield argued the link b/w MMR and autism had been shown. Unigenetics scored £800 000 of tax payer funds to conduct PCR tests of dubious pursuit.

In addition to these petty “legal costs and salary” monies Wakefield would get another £90 000 per year – more than half of which was for travel. Deer reported that trading was to be fronted by another planned immunodiagnostic company Carmel Healthcare Ltd (also registered in the Irish Republic) and named after Wakefield’s wife. Within this venture Wakefield would take 37% of the earnings, the parent of child “Number 10″ would take 22.2%. A venture capitalist would get 18%. Royal Free’s professor of gastroenterology, Roy Pounder would get 11.7% and Professor John O’Leary another champion of “MMR causes autism” would get 11.1%.

Deer was given a copy of a prospectus 35 pages long.

This included confirmation of planned “litigation driven testing” from the USA and UK, along with delightful profit. Of course all business relied upon Wakefield’s new syndrome which at this point remained to be proven. As he had not found Crohn’s disease in the 12 children, Wakefield coined the term “autistic enterocolitis”. The prospectus sought to raise an investment of £700 000.

It is estimated that the initial market for the diagnostic will be litigation driven testing of patients with autistic enterocolitis from both the UK and the USA… It is estimated that by year 3, income from this testing could be about £3 300 000 rising to about £28 000 000 as diagnostic testing in support of therapeutic regimes come on stream.

[…]

Once the work of Professor O’Leary and Dr Wakefield is published, either late in 1999 or early in 2000, which will provide unequivocal evidence for the presence of the vaccine derived measles virus in biopsy samples the public and political pressure for a thorough, wide ranging investigation into the aetiology of the bowel conditions will be overwhelming.

As a consequence of the public, political and legal pressures brought to bear, the demand for a diagnostic able to discriminate between wild type and vaccine derived measles strains will be enormous.

Deer reported on yet another new company which was for the running of a joint business with the UCL medical school. Immunospecifics Biotechnologies Ltd would produce immunotherapeutics, vaccines and a diagnostic test. Beneficiaries were as with Carmel. Wakefield, the parent of “number 10”, the venture capatilist, Pounder and Prof. John O’Leary.

There are issues around Wakefield’s immunodiagnostics which antivaccinationists should simply admit, and by not admitting such merely lend their cause less credence (if that were possible).

  • Transfer factor for use in vaccines and treatments had basically been written out of the literature. A lack of evidence, risk of infection and unjustified cost had relegated this 1940’s blood product to the realm of an Internet peddled cure-all scam.
  • The Neuro Immuno Therapeutics drama run by Hugh Fudenberg. To cure autism – which he reckons is caused by MMR – Hugh would use, you guessed it, Transfer factor. In August 2004 Brian Deer caught up with him. At the time he was under sanction for use and prescription of controlled drugs. Help yourself to a search-and-read on Hugh. If you remember Bill Maher’s claim that a flu shot five years consecutively equals a ten-fold increase in the chances of developing Alzheimers, you might be relieved to know that the source is Hugh Fudenberg.
  • The Dublin measles tests which could not deliver consistency of results, emerged as a problem years later, during vaccine related lawsuits in the USA and Britain.

One caper of Wakefields that many know of is his “safer vaccine” patent for a monovalent measles vaccine. As the Royal Free Hospital approached the release of his paper Wakefield made copies on tape as to how he should announce his bogus findings. One – which is in circulation today – includes:

There is sufficient anxiety in my own mind for the long term safety of the polyvalent vaccine—that is, the MMR vaccination in combination—that I think it should be suspended in favour of the single vaccines

But of course! Just as well that like the patent for immunodiagnostics he had the “safer vaccine” patent for the single measles vaccine. And he filed for this nine months before his now retracted paper was published.

Wakefield patent

The opening paragraph is breathtaking:

The present invention relates to a new vaccine for the elimination of MMR and measles virus and to a pharmaceutical or therapeutic composition for the treatment of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease); particularly Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis and Regressive Behavioural Disease (RBD).

After falsely claiming MMR vaccination leads to Crohn’s disease and other forms of IBD we read on page two (far right) above (bold mine):

What is needed therefore is a safer vaccine which does not give rise to these problems and a treatment for those with existing IBD. I have now discovered a combined vaccine/therapeutic agent which is not only most probably safer to administer to neonates and others by way of vaccination, but which also can be used to treat IBD whether as a complete cure or to alleviate symptoms.

This was first revealed in the UK Sunday Times. Wakefield denied this “conspiracy”:

The claim appears to be that, whilst at the Royal Free Hospital, I was developing a new vaccine to compete with MMR and that I conspired to undermine confidence in MMR vaccine in order to promote this new vaccine, and that this represented a conflict of interest. This is untrue. The facts are that: […]

it has never been my aim or intention to design, produce or promote a vaccine to compete with MMR; […]

A provisional patent filing was made for the use of measles virus-specific TF in regressive autism and inflammatory bowel disease (Regressive Bowel Disease; RBD).

The reference to the possible use of TF to protect children against measles infection – the thrust of the Sunday Times’ conspiracy theory – was put in as an afterthought in the patent. It was entirely speculative and never pursued in any shape, manner or form.

The provisional patent filing was entirely speculative and was for a possible therapy; as such, it had no bearing on the 1998 Lancet paper.

That the patent application with its firm conclusion of an MMR derived pathology appeared nine months before publication of his paper is not the only Crystal Ball caper by Wakefield. A fortnight before selecting any children that eventually made up his insignificant 12 child sample, Wakefield and Richard Barr co-authored a letter that included (bold mine):

Children with enteritis and disintegrative disorder, form part of a new syndrome. The evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology

That claim would have taken the word of Hugh Fudenberg at that particular time in history.

The end for Wakefield came just after plans for Carmel Healthcare were finalised, potentially making way for his incredibly profitable business. A new head of medicine, Mark Pepys was appointed to the UCL Medical School (once known as the Royal Free and University College Medical School). He is a fellow of the Royal Society and ensured impressive grant money. He wasn’t impressed by Wakefield, threatening to not transfer his own unit to UCL if Wakefield was even there.

With the help of theoretical physicist Chris Llewellyn-Smith he made his move in December 1999. A mere two months after Pepys moved to the Royal Free Wakefield was called to UCL’s London head offices. There, at last, he was made to face the audacity of his scam and handed a two page letter of his very own to have and to hold and of course, to read. It included:

We remain concerned about a possible serious conflict of interest between your academic employment by UCL, and your involvement with Carmel. This concern arose originally because the company’s business plan appears to depend on premature, scientifically unjustified publication of results, which do not conform to the rigorous academic and scientific standards that are generally expected. […]

Good scientific practice now demands that you and others seek to confirm or refute robustly, reliably, and above all reproducibly, the possible causal relationships between MMR vaccination and autism/“autistic enterocolitis”/inflammatory bowel disease that you have postulated.

Yay verily.

UCL were keen to help, offering him an ongoing position on staff or a full twelve months paid absence to allow for further research. 150 subjects would be provided to Wakefield. 12.5 times larger than his initial sample. Wakefield agreed.

Time passed.

After three months he was asked for a progress report. Six months later in September 2000 Wakefield replied:

It is clear that academic freedom is essential, and cannot be traded. It is the unanimous decision of my collaborators and co-workers that it is only appropriate that we define our research objectives, we enact the studies as appropriately reviewed and approved, and we decide as and when we deem the work suitable for submission for peer review.

Fail. By October of 2001 he was asked not to let the door hit his lying backside on the way out. In January of 2010 the General Medical Council found Wakefield had been “dishonest, irresponsibile and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain of children.”  [Science Based Medicine]

After close to a decade of multiple studies had failed to replicate his “findings” or any link between MMR, its components and autism the Lancet retracted the Wakefield paper [Science Based Medicine] [BMJ] on February 2nd 2010. The journal’s editor, Richard Horton described the statements in the “fatally flawed” paper as “utterly false”.

On May 25th of that year he was struck off the medical registrar by the General Medical Council.

Still today, as is clear above, there are scam artists profitting from peddling the lie that vaccines cause autism. Their paper-thin efforts may well be pathetic but still have a measurably negative effect on public health. With no regard for evidence or responsibility for the consequences of their actions, one can hope that these arrogant fraudsters will one day too face the weight of the law.

Yay verily.

Of chiropractic tripe and the odd zebra stripe

When we think of chiropractic and Equidae, it’s usually unicorns that come to mind.

The search for the chiropractic subluxation has been as fruitful as the search for the unicorn. In fact perhaps less fruitful, as we know with a high degree of accuracy what the unicorn looks like. Yet with the chiropractic subluxation our fairy tale is limited to conjuring mystical malaise or blaming dastardly disease as the work of this elusive evil.

chiro face palm

Do not be alarmed. This man has not seen a unicorn.

Rather, he had just been told that chiropractic subluxations

involve some type of “static” in the spinal cord.

Doctors (real doctors) report that he made a full recovery

after his palm was removed from his face.

Interestingly enough, whilst chiropractic teaches that areas of subluxation are invisible and can be “detected” only by the presence of symptoms, Simon Floreani, erstwhile president of the Chiropractors Association of Australia, has other ideas.

Check out the Catalyst video below at 1min, 45sec. Using the apparently magical Activator – or the “stick that goes click” – on an infant, Floreani announces:

Areas of subluxation that I can feel there, that are immediately improved after you adjust it like that…

You can read more about the Sonic Screwdriver-like Activator here in The Medical Observer. Just be prepared for some tongue in cheek observations. In September 2011 it was reported in Australian Doctor that the Federal Government had been asked to investigate both the Activator and “the Nervoscope” as they had been reported as having, “no biomechanical or physiological effect and cannot diagnose or treat any health condition”.

Fortunately, whilst new-age chiropractors continue to push their ineffective devices, practices and claims onto an unsuspecting public, genuinely motivated supporters of evidence based medicine are busy exposing their scams.

Check out the videos below to see just how devoid of facts claims made by the resurgent followers of Daniel David Palmer, really are. And keep an eye out for Simon and his zebra.

Catalyst – July 11th 2013


Floreani’s penchant for cutting his own path may help explain why he has chosen the zebra over the unicorn.

zebra floreaniFloreani positions a young subluxee on his treatment table cunningly disguised as a zebra

Lateline – July 6th 2009


Zebra floreani2

Floreani seems to be watched over by a zebra

Today Tonight – December 2011


Today Tonight – March 14th 2013

Natasha Bita: Award winner to crisis spinner?

The TGA is concerned by assertions that a number of deaths resulted from influenza vaccinations. In fact there have been no recorded deaths from influenza vaccine in Australia.

– Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration respond to Natasha Bita’s article “linking” vaccination to fatality –

Natasha Bita published Virus in the system on May 28th, 2011.

The article presents an extended account of the heart wrenching story of Saba Button who suffered permanent brain damage due to the CSL Fluvax influenza vaccine, in April 2010. A combination of H1N1 and seasonal influenza strains Fluvax is tolerated very well by adults. However for children under five a febrile convulsion rate of 0.33% was later clearly established in the only state to involve this age group: Western Australia.

At the time the ABC reported hundreds of reactions. Of the 47 children taken to hospital, The West Australian reported 23 admissions. Saba Button was one such admission. Bita doesn’t provide these details, though to her credit does report that in 2009 fifteen kids under the age of 15 died after contracting swine flu. Each year between three and nine children die from influenza in Australia.

The situation in W. A. following the use of Fluvax on small children reflects a 2006 study in which 1 febrile convulsion was recorded in a sample of 272. What emerged as deeply concerning is that 2006 fever (not convulsion) trial data rates were 39.5%. Yet Fluvax manufacturer CSL informed the TGA of their 2005 trial data on fever. A much lower 22.5%. Public confidence in regulation, safety, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and ultimately use is vital. I’ve previously looked at the importance of holding CSL to account.

A primary reason is that such stories are fodder for anti-vaccination lobbyists. Public confidence in immunisation was at stake, and proper context was much needed. One glaring absence from Bita’s article was reinforcement of the importance of vaccination in preventing influenza. With the internet awash with dangerous anti-vaccination propaganda readers need to know that all vaccination schedules are of paramount importance.

The day Bita’s story was published anti-vaccination guru Meryl Dorey falsely claimed that “the skeptics” and Stop The AVN were “organising forces” to complain.

Meryl Dorey’s Yahoo! Twitter and Facebook libellous claims

I emailed Natasha that day seeking confirmation. After no reply I tried again on June 1st and CC’d The Australian online address. 16 days later I repeated this. Natasha eventually replied that no, she had received no complaints. Not one. However she had been away, she qualified. Strange, I thought. Was Bita suggesting that her absence equated to an inability to access emails, either later or indeed at any time?

I began to feel somewhat uneasy about Bita’s impartiality. Clearly she knew who Meryl Dorey was. She was the woman who had just hijacked her published account to falsely claim, “babies were being used as guinea pigs in a trial that was paid for by the drug companies involved.” Dorey was also harassing the Buttons by phone and had appointed herself the family’s unofficial conspiracy consultant.

Shortly after I’d finally received a reply from Natasha Bita she published an article on the very rare past occurrence of transverse myelitis following oral polio immunisation. Bita did little to quell the fear and uncertainty to follow in the wake of Virus in the system. The purpose of her piece was to report on the MJA article, A no-fault compensation scheme for serious adverse events attributed to vaccination published by Kelly, Looker and Isaccs. I was familiar with the article having referred to it myself almost three weeks earlier.

It’s inexcusable that Australia lacks such a scheme when we note Germany began theirs in 1961 and across the Tasman no-fault compensation has been a reality since 1978. Seventeen other nations have a scheme that relies upon WHO criteria for Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI). It is of even greater relevance in Australia because arguments for its implementation rely upon factors anti-vaccination lobbyists deny. Firstly that vaccination provides immunity and secondly the principle of herd immunity.

The authors write:

Any person who is injured while helping to protect the community — for instance, by contributing to herd immunity, such that there are sufficiently many people immunised to prevent widespread disease transmission within the community — should not bear the consequences of injury alone. In essence, the community owes a debt of gratitude to that person.

Natasha Bita, whether consciously or not, fed the anti-vaccination machine. The piece firmed her position as a journalist lacking in scientific literacy or having a grasp of risk-benefit ratios. She belittles the term “adverse reaction” and leaves the most crucial fact that Australia’s current inactivated polio virus vaccine carries no such risk, until the last few words. In a poorly written piece she completely misses the reality that Australia’s vaccine injury chic groupies will not back this scheme, have never mentioned it and deny the merit raised by Kelly, Looker and Isaacs.

When Virus in the system won Natasha Bita a Walkley for Sustained Coverage Of An Issue Or Event, she was embraced totally by the Dark Side. Her appearance on conspiracy and vaccine denialist site The Refusers perhaps underscored just how important a few lines reminding parents that vaccines save lives can be.

On August 3rd, as Queensland mum Katrina Day lay fighting for her life against influenza, Natasha Bita published a fraudulent article falsely “linking” 10 deaths to influenza vaccines. Bita ignored the TGA warning on interpretation of data. The article highlights how dangerous it is to allow sensation-seeking journalists to consult such information. Her headline outs her as unconscionable and callous as she proceeds to ignore any difference between correlation and causation.

Bita writes misleadingly:

TEN deaths have been linked to the nation’s flu immunisation program since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, including elderly patients and unborn babies.

The CSL flu vaccine, Panvax – which taxpayers spent $131 million stockpiling for the 2009 swine flu outbreak – triggered 1716 adverse-event reports, including seven deaths.

Whilst it is well understood that seasonal influenza vaccines will not include all circulating strains (meaning one may still catch influenza) she offers:

The Therapeutic Goods Administration database of adverse events, made public this week, lists the death of a grandmother who caught the flu after vaccination last year.

This is exactly the problem faced by VAERS in the USA, which is set to be superseded. Events are reported so that trends will be picked up and viable research launched in response to perceived problems. Nonethelesss all events remain on the database. Here we have an apparent award winning journalist reporting 10 deaths “linked” to ‘flu vaccines, whilst the total is actually zero. Visitors to TGA’s Database of Adverse Event Notifications are met with:

Her article drew the following response on the same day from the TGA:

TGA is concerned by a media story that may mislead consumers and could potentially discourage them from receiving influenza vaccinations.

Vaccinations play an important role in the prevention of diseases such as influenza, which can be life threatening in some patient groups. […]

The first line of text on the Database of Adverse Event Notifications states that: An Adverse Event does not mean that the medicine is the cause of the adverse event.

The TGA is concerned by assertions that a number of deaths resulted from influenza vaccinations. In fact there have been no recorded deaths from influenza vaccine in Australia. […]

To my knowledge Natasha Bita is yet to publish a retraction, explanation or apology. On August 27th it was reported that Katrina Day had passed away after falling into a coma. The 38 year old leaves behind four children and a husband.

Yesterday new directions for the CDC were reported in Flu Creates High Risk Of Death In Children With Neurological Problems:

A disproportionately high number of children with neurologic disorders died from influenza-related complications during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, according to a study by scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report in the journal Pediatrics underscores the importance of influenza vaccination to protect children with neurologic disorders. CDC is joining with the American Academy of Pediatrics, Families Fighting Flu and Family Voices to spread the message about the importance of influenza vaccination and treatment in these children.

Influenza kills and vaccination saves lives. For certain groups this is a very real decision arising every year. In very, very rare cases adverse reactions occur. To date in Australia no fatalities have been conclusively linked to influenza vaccines, including during the CSL debacle.

It’s a shame that so-called “consumer editor” Natasha Bita has to mislead her readers to suit her own agenda.

Advanced Medical Institute: The “unconscionable conduct” continues

In a nation awash with health scams that pitch themselves as natural alternatives to medicine, it’s less common to find scams that position themselves as “medical”.

Even further apart are the medical tricks that prey upon vulnerable members of the public, such as Dr. Death Sartori. Or those that position themselves in a predatory manner, ready to strike when average Aussies suddenly find themselves vulnerable and in unfamiliar territory.

This definition easily applies to the one third of Aussie men aged over 50 who deal with sexual dysfunction or erectile dysfunction every year.

Enter Advanced Medical Institute whose defence against The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for “false and misleading” conduct goes back at least to 2003. The man behind the scam is Soviet Era trained doctor, Ukrainian Jack Vaisman, unregistered in Australia. He apparently also earned a PhD from the USA which enables his title as “Doctor” to get a misleading airing.

Another company he earlier owned, On Clinic led Professor David Handelsman head of andrology at Concord Hospital’s ANZAC Research Institute to remark under oath in 2009:

I’ve got to say, one of the most scarifying experiences as a medical practitioner I’ve had [was] seeing just how low quality this sort of medical care can be,” he said. ”It really shouldn’t occur in Australia in the 21st century … It goes back to a pre-thalidomide type of regulatory standards.

Professor Handelsman was referring to his mid 1990’s encounter with Vaisman. At that time Professor Handelsman was sitting on a Health Care Complaints Commission inquiry into On Clinic, called by the NSW Government. In 1996 the company pleaded guilty to charges of illegally importing individual constituents of Vaisman’s penile injection concoction. Each component was unregistered with the TGA, mixed in unregulated conditions then provided to patients with a syringe and instructions.

In March 2003 another company Vaisman (below) had acquired, Australian Momentum Health Pty Ltd, was convicted of supplying unregistered therapeutic goods. Even before AMI kicked off the last person Aussies needed dealing with male sexual dysfunction was Jack Vaisman.

Advanced Medical Institute gamble on blokes being too embarrassed to seek recompense for ineffective and outrageously priced off label use of dangerous or common and cheap medications. These are sold under long term contracts costing thousands of dollars in a practice described in 2009 as “pernicious, nasty and unethical”.

Of serious concern also is that erectile dysfunction may be an indicator of diabetes, kidney dysfunction, drug interaction, neuroses, neurological disorders, blood pressure irregularities or cardiovascular disease, prostate problems, penile conditions and other chronic conditions.

By hitting below the belt as it were with the famous “Longer Lasting Sex” advertisements, Vaisman was both targetting a symptom in older men and appealing to vanity or anxiety in younger men. A phone call was all it took.

Clearly, as the most cursory checkup – for example taking BP or physical examination – cannot take place over the phone, patient health wasn’t, and still isn’t part of the deal. This practice of “consulting”, diagnosing and prescribing medication ensuring locked in contracts over the phone at break neck, Gish Galloping speed, was the subject of a House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing on August 25th, 2009. The litany of bogus science, cruel treatment and vile scheming is as extensive as the witnesses are impressive.

A lively exchange took place the next day between 2UE’s Mike Carlton, self appointed director of the deceptively named Australian Centre for Sexual Health, Richard Doyle and Jack Vaisman. An AMI shareholder Doyle (who also acted as Vaisman’s legal defence) is close to hilarious, suggesting everyone else is stupid for not keeping up with the latest science, including a remarkable study (not cited) showing that a phone call is superior to an actual consultation. Vaisman himself must be remembering a different inquiry.

You may grab the short MP3 here or listen below:

Ian Turpie admitted in 2006 he had lied about AMI “advanced technology” nasal spray. Vaisman had raged “Who gives a f**k?”, when AMI’s General Manager had asked if the advertisement was indeed a sham. The spray contains apomorphine, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and has been shown a dismal alternative to traditional solutions such as Viagra. AMI or it’s doctors did not advise clients of the superior alternatives.

Apomorphine is deemed ineffective by over 70% of doctors and it’s use for erectile dysfunction has been largely discontinued. In fact in cases that AMI would attract it is contraindicated. It’s mode of action works by increasing desire – not improving erectile function. In any case it is not worth thousands of dollars.

Vaisman was getting away with breaching TGA laws that render his spray a second-line therapy only if commercial alternatives are not available. Still, TGA impotency is hard to miss over the 20 or so years Vaisman has scammed Aussies. His “compounded products/prescriptions” came under TGA regulations that have exempted him from having to run any clinical trials.

Kelly Burke wrote in November 2009 following the report released by the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing:

By AMI’s figures, about 15 million nasal sprays, lozenges and sundry potions have been sold to the gullible and desperate over a decade. Yet not a single one has been subject to the administration’s quality control and safety requirements.

Vaisman has been permitted to exploit a regulation that allows doctors to prescribe individually tailored medications for patients for whom no alternative effective treatment is commercially available. […]

The vague wording of the National Policy for Technology-based Patient Consultations also needs to be tightened. […]

Close the Therapeutic Goods Administration loophole and tighten the telemedicine regulations as proposed in the report, and Australians will be able to wave goodbye to the screaming billboards, excruciating radio ads and tacky late-night television campaigns. And Jack Vaisman will be out of business.

By 2010 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had taken an new interest, raiding Vaisman’s offices in February. In December 2010 the same day the ACCC began legal proceedings against AMI, Vaisman placed the company into voluntary administration. The ACCC had launched proceedings against Vaisman, Advanced Medical Institute Pty Ltd, AMI Australia Holdings Pty Ltd, and two doctors.

On June 9th, 2011 The Brisbane Times reported:

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has started fresh proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that the company, famous for its billboards and radio advertisements promoting ”longer-lasting sex”, has failed to inform its customers that it is insolvent, and may not be able to provide medication for which some of them paid thousands of dollars.

AMI had continued trading since the time it went into voluntary administration. In a shifty move the business was sold to NRM Corporation Pty Ltd and NRM Trading Pty Ltd [collectively NRM], and very shortly after went into voluntary liquidation. NRM continues to conduct the AMI business.

The Australian Consumer Law (Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010) had Unfair Contract Terms provision added in July 2010. This has allowed the ACCC to pursue a case against AMI for alleged unconscionable conduct. This is a significant move in consumer protection.

Nasty, deplorable, pernicious, predatory and coercive were the terms used during the House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into Vaisman’s conduct. His abuse of clients from 17 to 87 years of age is despicable. Unconscionable Conduct sounds about right.

The ACCC reported on it’s website last September that the Federal Court had granted orders to add NRM as respondents in the ACCC case against the AMI for unconscionable conduct and granted leave for the ACCC to pursue action “against the AMI companies in liquidation”:

The ACCC alleges that AMI engaged in unconscionable conduct in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and NRM is engaging in or proposing to engage in unconscionable conduct in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.  The ACCC also alleges that Dr Lonergan was knowingly concerned in AMI’s conduct and Mr Vaisman being a former director of AMI and a current director of NRM was and is knowingly concerned in the conduct of those respondents.

The ACCC further alleges that NRM is in breach of the Australian Consumer Law by entering into long-term agreements for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction which contain unfair contract terms in relation to the termination of a contract.

Incredibly, so it came to pass. Under Vaisman’s shady direction NRM took “control” of AMI and continued to lure customers into unconscionable long term non efficacious rip off contracts with zero regard for consumer health.

You may have noticed the shift from Sniff and Stiff the piano playing penises on late night TV to the Genie who magically cranks up libido using a strip on the tongue. As noted by genuine experts in 2009, these advertisements are “destructive… a carefully constructed legal fiction.”

UPDATE: On April 22nd 2015 the ACCC reported that the Federal Court found Advanced Medical Institute had engaged in unconscionable conduct. The media release (MR 63/15) reads in part:

In his judgment, Justice North said “It is immoral to seek to harness the fears and anxieties of men suffering from ED [erectile dysfunction] or PE [premature ejaculation] for the purpose of selling medical treatments. To target the patient’s vulnerability in this way is to use an unfair tactic and that is a possible marker of unconscionable conduct”.

Justice North also stated “The technique of frightening men by telling them of the dire adverse consequences of not agreeing to treatment and assuring them that the treatment was effective was part of the business system of AMI and NRM. It was formulated by management and imparted in an organised fashion through scripts and training sessions.”

His Honour also found that NRM further breached the Australian Consumer Law by entering into long-term agreements for the treatment which contained unfair contract terms in relation to the termination of a contract.

The Court declared that the conduct of the respondents was unconscionable and made orders:

  • requiring that NRM compensate a number of the patients whose evidence was considered by the Court
  • permanently restraining NRM from:
    • making agreements with a patient or in respect of the supply of medications for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction unless the patient has a consultation with a qualified medical practitioner
    • making any statement about the efficacy of NRM treatments or the patient’s need for those treatments unless that statement is made by a qualified medical practitioner
    • making an agreement with a patient for the supply of medications or medical services for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction without providing a written statement of the terms of the agreement and termination rights;
    • making an agreement with a patient for the supply of medications or medical services for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction unless that agreement has a cooling off period and can be terminated by giving 14 days’ notice.
  • restraining Mr Vaisman from continuing his main role in the business of NRM which was involved in the unconscionable conduct for a period of seven years
  • requiring corrective advertising.
  • For further enquiries contact the Media Team on 1300 138 917

END UPDATE

It also emerged in a January 2011 article in The Age Business section, that a “silent partner” in this failed venture is behind Astarra Strategic Fund, which resulted in Australia’s largest superannuation theft. In fact the “partner” is a network of “dodgy brokers” headed up by John Flader the supposed master swindler of the Astarra theft.

Meanwhile the AMI swindle rolls on. The last notable action involving AMI was a directions hearing in Melbourne in October 2011. A feature of the pre NRM AMI if you will, was the inability for customers to cancel their contract until they’d tried every single treatment AMI could dream up. Whilst boasting high success and ensuring that every unsatisfied customer received a full refund, the reality was virtual theft from customer bank accounts.

The only way to stop AMI withdrawing money from an account is to have the account closed and another opened with new details.

Recently AMI wheeled out a Debt Collection department. Their job is to chase up clients who still “owed money” on the futile contracts before AMI went into voluntary liquidation. The problem here is any liabilities accrued by AMI then become those of the liquidator. Not AMI and certainly not NRM.

Despite “NRM Corporation Trading As AMI” actually not being liable for any so-called contract debts the threats to “go legal” and destroy any non-compliant customer credit ratings is standard. For 15% of the outrageous contract total NRM will allow clients off the hook. But only if clients bring up the possibility first, or happen to laugh heartily down the phone at NRM’s new take on post liquidation liability. They will not inform customers who don’t raise dissent. From the ACCC site:

NRM patients are required to provide 30 days’ written notice to NRM to terminate the contract and must also pay a number of fees including a fixed administrative fee of 15 per cent of the original contract price. The ACCC alleges that each of the fees had the effect of penalising a consumer who gave notice of termination and therefore causing a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights under the contract.

There are cases where clients – who are in fact patients – eventually consult their GP and then a urologist, cardiologist, oncologist or another specialist. Information is passed to AMI specifically stating they can do nothing to improve the condition. Indeed many “treatments” are dangerous and have exacerbated serious medical problems for months. AMI go through the motions of ensuring a refund for expenses paid. They have been known to then debit bank accounts to the tune of the total contract cost.

Of course, there is no written contract that clients sign outlining any of these eventualities. The famed refunds are a scam from day one because they do not exist. There simply is no document wherein lies any customer contract. Clients should remember this in the event of AMI Debt Collectors calling to terrify. You are thus still waiting on the official contract.

If clients have been clever enough to realise the scam and ditch their bank account AMI Debt collection ring to intimidate, threaten and bully. To “go legal” as they say. Exactly what ageing, ill and often pension dependent patients need.

At this point getting consumer and legal advice, alerting and perhaps lodging a complaint with the ACCC and making some well advised choices about taking that 15% option is in order. After you’re certain that they can effect your credit rating. Remember that AMI are engaged in unconscionable conduct, and NRM intentionally set out to engage in unconscionable conduct.

There is no evidence the so-called Debt Collection isn’t another scam, and it alone is unconscionable conduct by extension. The ACCC will confirm this. As I note above, any debt AMI accrued pre June 2011 is not legally theirs to recover. With luck they will soon be shut down and prosecuted. If contacted clients should not hesitate to summarise this ACCC entry.

Medications sold via their contracts include SSRI’s like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Aropax or Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft) etc. These were introduced over the late 1970’s – 1980’s with Lexapro introduced some years later.

AMI also favour old style tricyclic antidepressants such as Clonipramine. This cutting edge technology has been around since the 1950’s with clonipramine added to common tricyclic antidepressants in the 1960’s. The pain killer Tramadol is another.

Their super advanced Path Breaking Research and Development also includes, as mentioned, the Parkinson’s drug apomorphine via lozenge, nasal spray or tongue strip. Apomorphine has been around since the 1940’s.

Why these drugs? SSRI’s and tricyclic antidepressants have a side effect in prolonging time to ejaculation. This effect may persist or may be prove to be transient. Remembering the conditions they are prescribed for, and the side effects they already carry I’ll leave you to consider the value of such off-label use.

The shocking aspect here is rather than pay $250.00 per month and be locked in for two years patients could consult their GP and pay around AU $20.00 per month. For those on a pension or any benefit it’s $5.80 per month. No contracts, no threats and no gambling with side effects.

It gets worse. Men have been scammed into a $3,000 contract and bullied into payment long after the penny dropped, only to report they were already on an SSRI reaping any potential benefit of “lasting longer”. In these cases they need not have spent a cent.

A major drawback with SSRI and tricyclic medications is the interaction with some migraine specific medications or even pain killers such as Tramadol. Serotonin Syndrome can be a serious and potentially life threatening reaction to using two or more of these drugs.

A major cause of premature ejaculation is fast neurological response time in pelvic muscles. Guys can even save that $20.00 per month and learn pelvic floor exercises known as Kegel Exercises. Searching for those key words will provide millions of hits. In cases of erectile dysfunction consult your GP to be sure it’s not a more serious problem.

In conclusion do keep in mind that Advanced Medical Institute is neither “advanced” or an “institute”. It’s a scam run by professional parasitic predators who pressure vulnerable, ill and everyday Australian men out of their money. They can offer nothing to improve sexual health – quite the opposite.

In researching for this post I was appalled, infuriated and disgusted by the tactics creatures such as Vaisman use to scheme struggling Aussies who conduct themselves with dignity, strength and poise. To be unwell is one thing, to make a less than ideal decision and be scammed is another. Yet to navigate the resultant quandary with optimism and humour takes a trait I hope I have, somewhere deep inside.

One hopes the ACCC get to use the unconscionable conduct laws with gusto.

  • ACCC resources. Keywords – “Advanced Medical Institute”

http://www.accc.gov.au/search/accc-funnelback/Advanced%20Medical%20Institute