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I saw an interesting medical news story this morning that said a small study was done that seemed to show that autistic children benefited from hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) compared to children who were exposed to slightly pressurised room air (hyperbaric oxygen chambers have higher levels of oxygen and are more pressurised).

I haven’t yet had a chance to read the study, so I am not sure how well done it is, but go and have a look to see for yourself.  The study is being published in the peer reviewed journal BMC Pediatrics, here is a link to the abstract and preliminary article.

The thing I found interesting about the particular report of this study in Medpage Today, is that there is some commentary by Paul Offit expressing scepticism about this study because the parties who conducted the studies (Daniel Rossignol, Lanier Rossignol, Scott Smith, Cindy Schneider, Sally Logerquist, Anju Usman, Jim Neubrander, Eric Madren, Gregg Hintz, Barry Grushkin and Elizabeth Mumper) are in some cases DAN! doctors who make their living treating autistic children, and who use HBOT to treat them, at least in some instances.

“I’d like to see [the study] reproduced in an academic medical center that doesn’t have the financial incentives,” said Dr. Offit.

That sounds a bit funny coming from Paul Offit, who spends his time studying, developing, handsomely profiting from and publicly promoting vaccines.  If the physicians in question have prima facie questionable intention and/or honesty because of their capacity to profit from their work, then one can’t help but wonder how Offit can avoid the very same criticism that he levies at them.

I happen to think it’s impossible to be utterly unbiased; every researcher comes to a study with an idea or a viewpoint that they expect to validate.  The methodologies of science aim to minimise these various biases, and of course where conflicts of interests exist, they should be completely disclosed.  But I think it’s quite something to disapprove of a study because the physicians profit from procedures they study and recommend, when one has profited from the development of a vaccine one has studied and recommends.  Offit routinely rebuffs criticism that he has a conflict of interest.  I wonder how he thinks these physicians who studied HBOT are differently situated.

In fact, in 2000 the Committee on Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives criticised practices of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (which makes recommendations on childhood vaccines) with regards to their poor management of conflicts of interest, specifically citing Paul Offit (as well as others) who voted for the recommendation of the Wyeth RotaShield (rotavirus) vaccine on three occasions, when he was also developing a rotavirus (RotaTeq) vaccine with Merck, because of their worry about this as a conflict of interest.  They said “A recommendation for Wyeth-Lederle’s vaccine would help pave the way for future recommendations for the products of Merck and SmithKline-Beecham.”

That sounds like at least as worrisome a conflict as he is now concerned about with these DAN! doctors.

“…my brother’s story also taught me about the loneliness of the visionary, the selfishness of our culture, and the arrogance that blinds many scientists.” – Christina Odone

Lorenzo Odone was a boy diagnosed at age 6 with the rare genetic disorder adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), where an accumulation of fatty acids occurs in the body due to a missing transporter protein. This results in damage to the myelin sheaths that insulate the axons of nerve cells in the body, and signals can no longer be sent via these axons, resulting in increasing disability, such as losses of sight, hearing and movement.

Soon after his diagnosis, Lorenzo’s parents, Augusto and Michaela, were told by physicians that their son would soon be dead, and that there was nothing to be done.

But the Odones instead set about researching Lorenzo’s disease, and came upon a combination of acids (Lorenzo’s Oil) could stop the production of the fatty acids that were causing the problem. Once given to Lorenzo, the oils worked, and although they could not re-myelinate his already damaged cells, they greatly slowed the progression of the disease.

The Odones created an organization aimed at accelerating and supporting research into the repair of myelin and treatment of leukodystrophies and demyelinating disorders: The Myelin Project.

Lorenzo died just a couple of days ago, the 30th of May 2008, the day after his 30th birthday: 22 years later than the physicians predicted. And it was only in 2005 that research on the Odones’ patented Lorenzo’s Oil showed that young boys who had yet to display symptoms of ALD, who has the oils added to their diet, had a statistically lower chance of developing signs of the disease. And more research is being done.

It’s a lucky thing for Lorenzo that his parents persevered, and weren’t satisfied with the best answers that medical science had to offer. Today skeptical parents engage in similar acts of love and dedication to their children when they demand unbiased studies addressing the safety of the vaccine schedule, or they biomedically treat the medical problems borne by their autistic children, when physicians everywhere assure the public that yes, everything is safe, or no, nothing can be done, and anyone who says otherwise is a quack or a parent-in-denial. In spite of the “arrogance of scientists” that Lorenzo’s sister Christina Odone refers to in The Daily Mail, parents all over the world act against the advice of the medical establishment that said nothing could be done for Lorenzo.

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