Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., Winner of the Noble Prize

With yesterday's announcement of this year's winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, I think it is appropriate to honor the man who, sadly, will never see the full effects of his lifetime commitment to individuals and families impacted by autism. This man worked tirelessly and passionately in his quest for the true causes and effective treatments of autism to be accepted and widely applied so that more children could live free from constant pain and become independent, contributing members of society.

Today's post is dedicated to Bernard Rimland, Ph.D (1928 – 2006). The bulk of this post is a reprint of Dr. Rimland's testimony in 2000, before the House Committee on Government Reform. Given the current state of our economy and the recent 700 billion dollar buyout, I believe the timing of this post is especially relevant.

Here's to you, Bernie. Thank-you. You did not live long enough to receive the Nobel Prize, but if they gave one for being a Noble Man, you would have no competition whatsoever.

Testimony of Bernard Rimland, Ph.D. Before House Committee on Government Reform

April 6, 2000

The Autism Increase: Research Needed on the Vaccine Connection

My name is Bernard Rimland. I am a research psychologist (Ph.D.). and am Director Of the Autism Research Institute, which I founded in 1967. I am also the founder of the Autism Society of America (1965), and the editor of the Autism Research Review International. My book, Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implication for a Neural Theory of Behavior (1964) is widely credited with changing the field of psychiatry from its claim that autism is an emotional illness, caused by destructive mothers, to its current recognition that autism is a biological disorder. I have lectured on autism and related problems throughout the world, and am author of numerous publications. I served as primary technical advisor on autism for the film Rain Man.

My son Mark was born in 1956. It was obvious from birth that this perfectly normal-looking infant had something drastically wrong with him. I had earned my Ph.D in experimental psychology 3 years earlier and had never encountered the word autism. Our pediatrician, with 35 years of experience, had never heard of autism either. Autism was extremely rare then - it is extremely common now.

Some supposed experts will tell you that the increase reflects only greater awareness. That is nonsense. Any pediatrician, teacher or school official with 20 or more years experience will confirm what the studies tell us: there is a real increase in autism and the numbers are huge and growing. The epidemic is serious and world-wide.

Soon after my textbook on autism was published in 1964, I began to hear from other parents. Many parents told me that their children were normal until getting a triple vaccine - the DPT shot. In 1965 I began systematically collecting data on the symptoms and possible causes of autism: In 1967—33 years ago—I began querying the parents, specifically about the child's response to the DPT shot. Many had reported marked deterioration.

During the past few years the Autism Research Institute has been flooded with an upsurge in pleas for help from parents throughout the world - from wherever the World Health Organization vaccine guidelines are followed. The majority of these parents say their children were normal until getting the MMR - another triple vaccine.

Let me dispel several myths promoted by those who deny the autism-vaccine connection:

  1. They claim the vaccines are safe, but physicians are indoctrinated to disbelieve claims of harm and are not trained to recognize nor required to report any adverse reactions. From 90% to 99% of the adverse reactions reported to doctors are never reported by those doctors to the government's extremely lax Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, known as the VAERS.

  2. They say that the suspected linkage between the MMR vaccination and autism has been disproved by a study conducted by Brent Taylor and his colleagues in London, and published last year in The Lancet. The Taylor study is seriously flawed in many ways, as had been noted in a number of letters to the editor of The Lancet and in a number of additional letters on the subject which have been posted on the internet. It was subject to strong attack at a recent meeting of the British Statistical Society. I have been a full-time researcher my entire professional life, for almost 50 years, and I respectfully asked Dr. Taylor for a copy of the data so that I could reanalyze them. He refused this ordinary professional courtesy, and I have subsequently written to the editor of The Lancet requesting that an impartial committee be asked to reexamine Dr. Taylor's statistical methods. If he refuses again, I urged The Lancet to retract his paper.

  3. They say that autism has a large genetic component, and therefore vaccines must play a minimal, if any, role in the causation of autism. My book Infantile Autism, published in 1964, was the first systematic attempt to marshal the evidence for genetics as a contributing cause of autism, so I am certainly not hostile to that idea. However, genes do not begin to account for the huge increase in the incidence of autism, ranging from 250% to 500% in various places. I might add that we have just reviewed all of the recent genetic studies for the next issue of the Autism Research Review International, which I edit. The results are spectacularly inconsistent. The best guess is that there are at least 20 different genes involved in the causation of autism. Gene therapy is decades off, and may be infeasible.

  4. They claim that autism naturally occurs at about 18 months, when the MMR is routinely given, so the association is merely coincidental and not causal. But the onset of autism at 18 months is a recent development. Autism starting at 18 months rose very sharply in the mid-1980s, when the MMR vaccine came into wide use. A coincidence? Hardly! See the graph below.

Autism is not the only severe chronic illness which has reached epidemic proportions as the number of (profitable) vaccines has rapidly increased. Children now receive 33 vaccines before they enter school - a huge increase. The vaccines contain not only live viruses but also very significant amounts of highly toxic substances such as mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde. Could this be the reason for the upsurge in autism, ADHD, asthma, arthritis, Crohn's disease, lupus and other chronic disorders?

As a parent and as a full-time professional researcher, I am bitterly disappointed with the medical establishment's dismal record with regard to autism over the past 60 years. The medical schools, as well as the governmental agencies, have consistently supported outmoded, unproven and even disproven theories from the very beginning, and have actively opposed the most promising approaches for the treatment of autism. They supported the psychoanalytically-based theories which held the mother responsible for causing autism through her supposedly hostile attitude toward the child. They opposed the use of behavior modification, the most uniformly beneficial treatment for autism, by claiming that it neglected the deep-seated emotional blocks that were supposedly at the root of autism. They have ignored, and continue to ignore, the long series of studies conducted both in the U. S. and Europe showing that the elimination of foods containing gluten and casein from the diet brings about marked improvement in many autistic children. They have consistently ignored the series of 18 consecutive studies, conducted by researchers in 6 countries, which showed that almost half of all autistic children and adults respond favorably to high doses of vitamin B6 and magnesium., with no adverse effects. Eleven of these studies were double-blind placebo-crossover experiments. There is no drug that comes close to B6/magnesium in terms of safety, efficacy and positive research findings.

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on non-productive lines of research, while virtually no money at all has been given to research on the methods of alternative medicine, which are far more promising in terms of both safety and efficacy.

The most interesting questions are not being asked: Why does the majority of the population survive such epidemics as autism, the bubonic plague, Legionnaires' disease, polio and AIDS, while relatively few succumb?

The answer is that the survivors have a healthy, effective immune system. Would enhancing the immune system decrease the likelihood of adverse reactions to vaccines (including the anthrax vaccine - DOD please note!)? Very probably. It is well known that the immune system must be adequately supplied with many nutrients if it is to function properly, including especially vitamins A, C, E, B6 and a number of minerals, including zinc, magnesium, and selenium. Nutritional levels of these substances are not only harmless, they are essential to good health. Since people do not change their diets readily, I believe that foods should be fortified with these nutrients - especially foods that will be consumed by infants and children. Research along these lines - as well as on the safety of the vaccines - is desperately needed.

As a parent and a researcher, I believe there should be a marked redirection of effort and funding, along the lines suggested above.

Committee on Government Reform

2157 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-5074

Reprinted from:http://www.house.gov/reform/hearings/healthcare/00.06.04/rimland.htm

1 comment:

  1. "Research along these lines - as well as on the safety of the vaccines - is desperately needed. As a parent and a researcher, I believe there should be a marked redirection of effort and funding, along the lines suggested above."

    I had not read that testimony before. 8 years later.. So sad that so little has changed.

    I found most interesting that he said, 'Would enhancing the immune system decrease the likelihood of adverse reactions to vaccines?' This indicates that, contrary to the cries of the "other side" and "pro-vax" camps, Rimland was (at least judging from this) NOT anti-vaccine.

    He was for safer vaccines, as many are today, but also for making sure the body could deal with what we throw at it (both intentionally by vaccination, and unintentionally with environmental heavy metals, PCBs, general air pollution, other poisons, and hormone mimics. Not that people today aren't for that - indeed, the entire biomedical ("applied biochemistry") treatment movement is based on it. But I don't see that anywhere in the public debate about autism - or in any public debate about health and healthcare.

    There is no mention of making our bodies better able to deal with the things that they have dealt with (more or less successfully) for the past couple few ten thousand years (or we wouldn't be here). True, we have much more mercury, cadmium, PCBs, lead, dioxin, and who knows what else around today tat our ancestors did 20,000 years ago. But that realization supports the idea that "what we get from food isn't enough" - a believe that too many people still believe.

    Perhaps 20,000 years ago. whatever amount of selenium and B12 we got from whatever foods we ate was enough for that time and environment. It is not anymore, because our environment is radically more toxic. When are people going to realize that? When are we going to force them to realize that?

    People talk so much today about 'healthcare' and what we are going to do about. How do we get people to talk instead about 'health'? Healthcare is about how to pick up the pieces once they have fallen apart (to use - and expand - the "puzzle piece metaphor" we all know). Health on the other hand is about how to keep the pieces from falling apart in the first place. Mainstream medicine has little short-term benefit in doing this, and preventing problems in the first place. But surely, wouldn't medical industry would derive a long-term benefit from such an attitude? Everywhere I turn I hear about how there's a shortage of nurses, and how hospitals are stretched to their breaking points. And then we have the looming crisis of Alzheimer's and adult diabetes "waiting in the wings" so to speak. At least these problems are acknowledged, unlike autism and childhood diabetes.

    One major exception in 'prevention' is folic acid and neural tube defects. Probably because there it little you can do "about" a neural tube defect once it occurs. But even there, I've read it took the public health officials years to finally "catch up" to the research and start recommending higher folic acid intakes for pregnant women. And I wonder if we might be "causing" neonatal pernicious anemia by not supplementing B12 as well (see the discussion I started on the ABMD list).

    The pharmaceutical industry has less of an incentive to be truly "preventive", both short-term and long-term. Short-term, they lose profits. Long-term, there will always be some things that are simply too severe to simply "prevent". But the pharmaceutical industry has very very high up-front costs. Our FDA does not help - imposing extraordinarily high (and in some cases, such as cancer drugs, heart-breakingly misguided) bars for efficacy. Of course, the FDA was designed for the era of the early twentieth century, in which patients could not network with each other to determine whether a product really did work, and how well it worked, and when companies would willingly and knowingly sell poison and pass it off as medicine (conveniently forget about vaccines for a moment - I'm talking about things like antifreeze for indigestion and such.. Oh right, that happened just recently, didn't it?)

    I don't think either of these situations exists quite as much today. Ordinary people have access to incredible amounts of information and "other-patient-knowledge" that would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago. Heck, I can read the same studies that the doctors do - or that they should read but don't. And I don't think companies today would be willing to sell poison quite so blatantly as they did back in the 1930's - at least no more than they already do (permanent tardive dyskinesia from neuroleptic usage comes to mind..) Companies would go belly up quite fast if they sold poison when people found out about it.

    In any case, even (some) libertarians who favor abolishing most of the FDA and other regulatory structures do not propose getting rid of some measure of safety trials (Phase I). And of course let's not forget that the current system is by no means perfect. Hundreds of approved medications have serious side effects, others have been found to have side effects post-licensure (Vioxx comes to mind), and, to let vaccines creep back in a bit - that's just a whole 'nother can o' worms (really big ones too - think the movie Anaconda).

    And then their are dietary supplements, which are (compared to "medications") for the most part totally unregulated. There are some which will cause serious harm - and probably all of them will if taken irresponsibly, but so will "approved" medications. But most are relatively harmless, even if they are not beneficial. The companies know that if they have a string of deaths related to their products, people will find out and they will be out of business. And there is always caveat emptor. That should apply to FDA-approved medications as well, but sadly for so many people it does not.

    6 our of 10 Americans say the presidential candidates should have a "plan for autism." Well, with only 20-odd days until the election, and nary a substantive word about autism in either campaign (please correct me if I'm wrong here), I don't think that's going to happen.

    The presidential candidates talk about healthcare. But they talk about the same things that have been talked about for the past 20 years - how to make it more affordable, not how to make it so people need less of it. Talking about health is the only way I think that's really going to happen. Prevention versus intervention. To steal a line from Obama, that't the change we need. And that's what Rimland said 8 years ago about vaccine adverse events. When will we finally start to listen?

    Jim Witte


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