Thursday, October 29, 2015

Conflicts of Interest are Bad, Just Not Our Own

The Geiers, Hooker and Company have a new "Review" out which is hilariously titled,

"Systematic Assessment of Research on Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mercury Reveals Conflicts of Interest and the Need for Transparency in Autism Research"


Historically, entities with a vested interest in a product that critics have suggested is harmful have consistently used research to back their claims that the product is safe. Prominent examples are: tobacco, lead, bisphenol A, and atrazine. Research literature indicates that about 80–90 % of studies with industry affiliation found no harm from the product, while only about 10–20 % of studies without industry affiliation found no harm. In parallel to other historical debates, recent studies examining a possible relationship between mercury (Hg) exposure and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show a similar dichotomy. Studies sponsored and supported by industry or entities with an apparent conflict of interest have most often shown no evidence of harm or no “consistent” evidence of harm, while studies without such affiliations report positive evidence of a Hg/autism association. The potentially causal relationship between Hg exposure and ASD differs from other toxic products since there is a broad coalition of entities for whom a conflict of interest arises. These include influential governmental public health entities, the pharmaceutical industry, and even the coal burning industry. This review includes a systematic literature search of original studies on the potential relationship between Hg and ASD from 1999 to date, finding that of the studies with public health and/or industry affiliation, 86 % reported no relationship between Hg and ASD. However, among studies without public health and/or industry affiliation, only 19 % find no relationship between Hg and ASD. The discrepancy in these results suggests a bias indicative of a conflict of interest.


Research Conflict of interest Transparency Autism Mercury Toxicants

Authors and Affiliations
  • Janet K. Kern: Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc., 14 Redgate Court, Silver Spring, MD 20905, USA
  •  David A. Geier: Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc., 14 Redgate Court, Silver Spring,   MD 20905, USA
  •  Richard C. Deth: Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
  •  Lisa K. Sykes: CoMeD, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, USA
  •  Brian S. Hooker: Simpson University, Redding, CA, USA
  •  James M. Love: CoMeD, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, USA
  •  Geir Bjørklund: Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, Mo i Rana,   Norway
  •  Carmen G. Chaigneau: CoMeD, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, USA
  •  Boyd E. Haley: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
  •  Mark R. Geier: Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc., 14 Redgate Court, Silver Spring,    MD 20905, USA 

This study was supported by the non-profit 501(c)(3) Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc., and the non-profit 501(c)(3) CoMeD, Inc.

Conflict of interest

There are no competing financial interests. The authors have been involved in vaccine/biologic litigation.

Given who the authors are this review reads like a parody.  Let's take a look at their actual conflicts of interest and laugh at the sheer irony of them writing this.

The authors' COI statement of, “The authors have been involved in vaccine/biologic litigation.“ is both misleading and incomplete because it implies this litigation is in the past. Brian Hooker is currently a petitioner in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program on behalf of his son, Steven. Other authors, Geier, Haley and Kern are acting as expert witnesses for Dr. Hooker's case. James M. Love is providing some legal assistance. They all contend that the vaccine preservative thiomersal caused Steven Hooker's autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Dr. Hooker also serves on the board of Focus for Health ( (formerly Focus Autism) an anti-vaccine organization with the agenda to, “put an end to the needless harm of children by vaccination”.  One of their vision statements is "Investigate the relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurological dysfunction, such as tics, since CDC studies have confirmed a connection."  

The editorial staff of Translational Neurodegeneration has withdrawn Dr. Hooker's study: “Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data” stating: “The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article [1] as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. We apologise to all affected parties for the inconvenience caused.“  (Emphasis added)

Dr. Mark Geier has a number of business interests which are all predicated upon the disproved hypothesis that the vaccine preservative thiomersal causes ASDs. The corporate headquarters of ASD Centers, LLC (, CoMed ( and Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc. ( are located at a home owned by Mark Geier. David Geier, Janet Kern, James M. Love, Carmen G. Chaigneau and Lisa Sykes all hold various positions in these businesses/charities.  Additionally, Janet Kern is on the Board of Directors of Geir Bjørklund's Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM) which also has a strong focus on a mercury causation for autism. 

Mark Geier, David Geier, Janet Kern and Lisa Sykes are all involved with an elaborate grift to pay themselves for their own studies with monies from their own non-profit businesses as evidenced from their funding declaration for this study and several other studies along with three years of tax returns, 2011, 2012 and 2013 so far.  David Geier is conveniently president of the appropriately-named MedCon which pays him handsomely.  The Geier incestuous network of grifters includes appointing themselves to their own Institutional Review Board (IRB) which is supposed to oversee research and ensure ethics compliance via independent reviewers.  The Geiers and their business partners established a veritable fox-guarding-the-hen-house operation for themselves.   Kathleen Seidel meticulously catalogued the Geiers' et al.'s flouting of IRB regulations along with plagiarism, dodgy science and more egregious examples of failure to disclose conflicts of interest.  Incidentally, Ms. Seidel had to file an FOIA request to obtain the Geiers' IRB declaration.  I guess the Geiers et al. feel as though transparency is just for everyone else.

Dr. Mark Geier has had his license to practise medicine either revoked or suspended in all states where he used to hold licenses. These actions were based upon the serious charges initially investigated by the State of Maryland's Board of Physicians ( “The Board determined that the physician’s conduct constituted a substantial likelihood of a risk of serious harm to the public health, safety and welfare based on the physician’s experimental treatment of autistic children with Lupron.” Dr. Geier's son David Geier was charged with practising medicine without a license and fined $10,000 ( 

Dr. Richard Deth teaches pharmacology at Northeastern University. He was offered by the plaintiffs as an expert in the areas of physiology, neuropharmacology and the effects of thimerosal in the human brain. Dr. Deth is clearly qualified to testify as an expert witness in the areas of physiology and neuropharmacology. However, there is no recognized field of science in the third proposed area of expertise, namely "the effects of thimerosal in the human brain."

Dr. Deth offered the opinion that exposure to mercury for thimerosal-containing vaccines causes autism, based on a molecular theory that he developed through his in vitro studies. Questions about the effect mercury has in the human brain necessarily come within the ambit of the field of toxicology. These questions, including any opinions about the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and the excretion of thimerosal or mercury all involve issues of toxicology.

Further, Dr. Deth is neither an epidemiologist, a neurologist nor a geneticist. That — vel non — would not operate to preclude his testimony. However, he has never taken any courses in epidemiology, has published no papers in any epidemiological journal, and is not a member of any epidemiological societies. He relies on an epidemiology paper published by Dr. Geier as support for his opinions. (20) Further, he relies on several papers about the neurology of autism. He is not a medical doctor and is not an expert in the field of pediatric neurology. Lastly, although he relies on various studies in the field of genetics, he does not have a degree in genetics nor is he a member of any professional genetics organizations or societies. Accordingly, in light of his expressed reliance on Dr. Geier's studies (that the Court has addressed at pp. 24-38 of this Opinion), this Court finds that he lacks a sufficient factual basis to support his testimony.
Boyd Haley is President and CEO of CTI Science (the website is non-existent now) and he licensed OSR#1 developed for chelating industrial mining sludge.  He re-branded OSR#1 as a "supplement" for chelating autistic children which made millions of dollars before the FDA sent him a warning letter to cease marketing of OSR#1 as a dietary supplement.  Boyd Haley continued to sell OSR#1 for a period of time after that enjoying a ridiculous mark up on it. He is currently attempting to resurrect OSR#1 with clinical trials operating under the business name EmeraMed and renaming OSR#1, Irminix. He has a vested financial interest in flogging the failed mercury-causation of autism.  He is also a member of Geir Bjørklund's fancifully-named Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM).

Geir Bjørklund and Jim Love appear to be just another dodgy scientist and sleazy lawyer respectively getting in on the mercury grift that has successfully scared parents into buying shonky products to treat "heavy metal" toxicity in their autistic children and legal services for "mercury injuries".

To say that the authors' declared conflicts of interest is lacking is an understatement.  Every single one has a financial and personal stake in perpetuating the myth that thiomersal causes autism and/or mercury is responsible for mythical diseases.  And not one of these authors declared their actual conflicts of interest while writing about others' conflicts of interest.  Allowing a "review" such as this, by these authors to be published in an ethics journal is beyond the pale and even worse to let it remain in the public domain.

ETA 29.10.15: Thanks to comments by capnkrunch and Chris Preston who provided me with more accurate information on the study authors, I have made corrections within the body of the text.  I really appreciate the comments that keep this blog as accurate as possible.

ETA 1.11.15: Updated to include more information supplied to me by the excellent Kathleen Seidel and Matt Carey.  Thank you.


  1. Thank you. It's a shame they were not completely honest with the journal.

  2. I would suspect an editorial retraction in 3, 2, 1....

  3. Have you sent this to the EiC of the journal? This is pretty egregious.

  4. If anyone wishes to write to the journal editors, they are listed as:

    Main Editors: R.E. Spier; S.J. Bird

    R. E. Spier:

    I think this is S. J. Bird: (but I'm not absolutely certain of that)

    This is a Springer journal, not a predatory publisher, so they should want to get this out of the scientific literature, you'd think.

    1. No, that's not SJBird. This is SJBird:

  5. I emailed both editors. No high hopes since my email doesn't even come from an academic domain. Anyways, I found a couple links that need updating. Focus Autism is now Focus for Health. Their board is here (Hooker is still there):

    Their Autism page 404's but here is part of their "Vision for Change":

    "Investigate the relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and neurological dysfunction, such as tics, since CDC studies have confirmed a connection."

    Haley's CTI Science isn't gone, just shapeshifted. Now it is EmeraMed:

    No COI's indeed.

  6. Geir Bjørklund is the Founder and President of the Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, an anti-vaccine outfit from Norway. Janet Kern is a Director of CONEM. Boyd Haley is a member of the same organisation.

  7. Thank you gentlemen, I will update the post tonight. It's hard to keep all these sleazebags straight and what organisations they revolve through, not to mention the morphing business names to dodge actions against them.

    1. I know right; that's probably the point. The whole corporate infrastructure reeks of the same kind fraudsters use to obfuscate the flow of money. If you're an honest person you don't need three enterprises headquartered at the same address, run by the same people, doing the same things, and funding each other.

  8. I'm not surprised that the Geiers, Sykes and Haley are still at it. They are zealots who view all scientific evidence through the lens of a paranoid, anti-government ideology. They will keep cranking out their repetitive papers until they drop, and those papers will continue to be published because they have learned to ensure that fellow zealots referee their work. I investigated their "research," business dealings, and involvement in litigation from 2007 to 2012, and although my blog died in a server crash several years ago, it remains archived at:

    1. It's lovely to hear from you Kathleen. I went hunting for your posts knowing the excellent work you have done on charlatans like the Geiers and Haley so thank you for supplying your list. Your blog is too good to be relegated to an archive.

    2. Thank you so much. Although I did manage to reconstruct the static pages of the site, unfortunately, doing the same for the blog would take far more time than I have anymore. Although I had originals of the site's static pages, the blog was all up on Textdrive, whose new overlords never came through on their promise to provide backups of customer data prior to migrating to new servers. In order to do a proper reboot, I would have to copy the whole thing off of, then strip out all of the code, then -- since this sort of thing matters to me -- fix all of the broken links, which are certainly numerous. Life's too short to do that, so I am grateful to for all of their web-scraping. I just wish that they'd archived Autism Diva before she shut her blog down.

  9. I took a look at the paper and noticed another glaring omission: no methodology. How were studies selected? Were any excluded? What definitions are they using (what is "public health-affiliated", what is "found effect", etc.)? I'm rather surprised that the journal accepted it.

    1. Science and Engineering Ethics where the standards of evidence accepted are quite a bit lower than would occur in a mainstream medical journal. My guess is the reviewers focused less on the methods and more on the opinion.

      This journal also published Brian Martin's paper on how people are mean to anti-vaxxers by criticising their comments.

  10. COI and need for transparency...

    Let's remember in the not too distant past when Mark and David Geier (and if I recall correctly Lisa Sykes and Mark's wife) were on the IRB for a study they performed.

    But that wasn't a COI!

    And it was totally transparent. After Kathleen Seidel FOIA'd the membership of the IRB.

    So forgive me for considering this paper by them an amazing bit of nonsense.

  11. To the journal's credit, the editors replied to those of us who emailed them. Thanks to Science Mom I think the COI's are too well documented to ignore.

    1. Pretty much 'thanks for telling us about the problem. We're working to fix it.' [paraphrased]

      Seemed rather canned but they CC'd someone at Springer so that was promising.

  12. The Science and Engineering Ethics editors are trying to bury it. The Authors and Affiliations section has been silently removed. The hypocrisy burns.

    It might be valuable to post an update to draw attention back to this disturbing behavior.

    Per the new Retraction Watch guidelines* I plan on contacting the research integrity officers at the schools of the authors who listed academic affiliations. For anyone interested contact information is available at the links:
    Richard Deth - Nova Southeastern University:
    Brian Hooker - Simpson University: not sure; maybe someone else knows
    Boyd Haley - University of Kentucky:


    1. Correction: for Boyd Haley I believe this is the proper contact at University of Kentucky:
      Helene Lake-Bullock
      Research Compliance Officer

    2. Whoa, nice catch capnkrunch. What a sleazy move on Springer's part and yes I will issue a loud update. Thanks!!

  13. Failed mercury-autism link? LOL. Read the peer review. All of it.

    Vaccine Peer Review
    The History Of Vaccination In 1000 Peer Reviewed Reports

    A Free Jeff Prager Learning Experience
    Never Know What You'll Find In Peer Review
    Until You Actually Read It
    All Of It

    1. I've seen this collection. It opens with an article not about vaccines that tries to set a general conspiracy theory, then includes opinion pieces in medical veritas, which is not a serious, peer reviewed journal, unpublished opinion pieces (e.g. by Lucia Tomljenovic), and so on.

      Uncritically putting together bad studies and studies not on topic isn't a good way to build a scientific case. To me, this collection suggests someone who is not versed in science and not careful about the quality of his sources, as long as they can be somehow seen to support his position.

  14. ASIA, autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants is a new disorder to the human population caused solely by the aluminum adjuvant in vaccines. ASIA was first seen in the early to mid-1990s and finally named in 2013. There exists 100s if not 1000s of peer reviewed reports attesting to the validity of an ASIA diagnosis. ASIA encompasses nearly 100 autoimmune disorders making vaccine damage ubiquitous. ASIA can occur—specifically Macrophagic Myofasciitis leading to a variety of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders—anywhere from rather immediately after vaccination to as long as 10 or 12 years or more after a single aluminum-containing vaccine injection. Aluminum biopersistance as it relates to Macrophagic Myofasciitis and ASIA has been confirmed via numerous biopsy's at the injection site. Links below in additional comments.

    1. ASIA is not actually accepted in the scientific community because it's so ill defined that the definition is meaningless and it's not actually supported by data. Here is a recent review.

    2. If it helps, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program also examined ASIA - and rejected it as a compensable injury:

  15. 1. Frontiers in Neurology, February 2015, Biopersistence and brain translocation of aluminum adjuvants of vaccines, Gherardi RK, Eidi H, Crépeaux G, Authier FJ, Cadusseau J., Faculté de Médecine and Faculté des Sciences et Technologie, INSERM U955 Team 10, Université Paris Est-Créteil, Créteil, France:
    “This strongly suggests that long-term adjuvant biopersistence within phagocytic cells is a prerequisite for slow brain translocation and delayed neurotoxicity”

    2. Lupus, September 2015, Human adjuvant-related syndrome or autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants. Where have we come from? Where are we going? A proposal for new diagnostic criteria, Alijotas J-Reig J., Systemic Autoimmune Disease Unit, Department of Internal Medicine I, Vall d’Hebron UniversityHospital, Faculty of Medicine, Universitat Autonoma, Barcelona, Spain:
    “Since then, the literature has been flooded with case reports and case series of granulomatous and systemic autoimmune disorders related to vaccines”

    3. Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, Aluminium overload after 5 years in skin biopsy following post-vaccination with subcutaneous pseudolymphoma, Guillard O1, Fauconneau B, Pineau A, Marrauld A, Bellocq JP, Chenard MP., CHU Poitiers, Department of Biochemistry, Poitiers, France:
    “Aluminium hydroxide is used as an effective adjuvant in a wide range of vaccines for enhancing immune response to the antigen. The pathogenic role of aluminium hydroxide is now recognized by the presence of chronic fatigue syndrome, macrophagic myofasciitis and subcutaneous pseudolymphoma, linked to intramuscular injection of aluminum hydroxide-containing vaccines”

    4. Revue Neurologique, Paris, February 2013, Lessons from macrophagic myofasciitis: towards a definition of a vaccine adjuvant-related syndrome, Gerard RK., Groupe Nerf-Muscle, Département de Pathologie, Hopital Henri Mondor, Creteil, France:
    “Multiple vaccinations performed over a short period of time in the Persian Gulf area have been recognized as the main risk factor for Gulf War Syndrome”:

    5. Neuromolecular Medicine, 2007, Aluminum adjuvant linked to Gulf War illness induces motor neuron death in mice, Petrik MS, Wong MC, Tabata RC, Garry RF, Shaw CA., Department of Ophthalmology and Program in Neuroscience, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada:
    “The findings suggest a possible role for the aluminum adjuvant in some neurological features associated with Gulf War Illness and possibly an additional role for the combination of adjuvants”

    1. Notice that the articles you are posting below are not about thimerosal. They draw mostly on the same group of anti-vaccine scholars that try to focus on aluminum - and not on autism - the Gherardi group and Shaw and Tomljenovic, which have been criticized for their bad work by the World Health Organization.

      An uncritical collection of bad studies isn't good evidence.

  16. 6. Medical Hypotheses, 2009, A role for the body burden of aluminum in vaccine-associated macrophagic myofasciitis and chronic fatigue syndrome, Exley C, Swarbrick L, Gherardi RK, Authier FJ., Birchall Centre for Inorganic Chemistry and Materials Science, Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK:
    “This case has highlighted potential dangers associated with aluminum-containing adjuvants and we have elucidated a possible mechanism whereby vaccination involving aluminum-containing adjuvants could trigger the cascade of immunological events which are associated with autoimmune conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome and macrophagic myofasciitis”

    7. Pharmacological Research, August 2015, Vaccines, adjuvants and autoimmunity, Guimarães LE1, Baker B1, Perricone C2, Shoenfeld Y3., 1. The Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel, 2. Reumatologia, Dipartimento di Medicina Interna e Specialità Mediche, Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy, 3. The Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel; Incumbent of the Laura Schwarz-kipp chair for research of autoimmune diseases:
    “In this review of the literature, there is evidence of vaccine-induced autoimmunity and adjuvant-induced autoimmunity in both experimental models as well as human patients leading to autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA syndrome)”

    8. Child Neurology, June 2008, Lach B, Cupler EJ., Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Macrophagic myofasciitis in children is a localized reaction to vaccination:
    “We believe that macrophagic myofasciitis represents a localized histological hallmark of previous immunization with the aluminum hydroxide adjuvants contained in vaccines, rather than a primary or distinct inflammatory muscle disease”

    9. Brain, September 2001, Gherardi RK, Coquet M, Cherin P, Belec L, Moretto P, Dreyfus PA, Pellissier JF, Chariot P, Authier FJ., Equipe mixte INSERM E 0011/Université Paris XII, France, Macrophagic myofasciitis lesions assess long-term persistence of vaccine-derived aluminium hydroxide in muscle:
    “We conclude that the MMF lesion is secondary to intramuscular injection of aluminum hydroxide-containing vaccines”

    10. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America, November 2003, Aluminum inclusion macrophagic myofasciitis: a recently identified condition, Gherardi RK, Authier FJ., Muscle and Nerve Group, Henri Mondor University Hospital, Créteil, France:
    “in the past, aluminum hydroxide was believed to be cleared quickly from the body”

    11. Clinical Reviews In Allergy Immunology, October 2011, Macrophagic myofaciitis a vaccine (alum) autoimmune-related disease, Israeli E, Agmon-Levin N, Blank M, Shoenfeld Y., Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel:
    "Recently, studies demonstrated that the local lesion is due to persistence for years at the site of injection of aluminum (Al(OH)3) adjuvant commonly used in human vaccines"

    12. Rheumatology International, January 2015, Macrophagic myofasciitis and vaccination: consequence or coincidence?, Santiago T1, Rebelo O, Negrão L, Matos A. Rheumatology Unit, Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra, Praceta Prof. Mota Pinto, 3000-075, Coimbra, Portugal:
    "The vaccines containing this adjuvant may trigger MMF in some patients"

  17. I have 100s more reports and studies on this subject but what I don't have is the time to waste on web sites that provide one-sided and thus erroneous data. Peace, and think about providing the truth.

    1. They are about as useful as hundreds of homeopathic pills: nothing but nonsense.

      Looking at Google, your name is associated with conspiracy mongering from vaccines, harassing parents of murdered children (shame on you!), bizarre notions on building structures, etc... I would say you spend most of your time on sites with one sided erroneous data. Plus you are a heartless soulless fool.

  18. Science Mom is one of the least reliable sources of vaccine data. For vaccine data that's reliable, learn to use PubMed, get the free software "Unbound Medline" and use your own intuition to search the enormous database of vaccine peer review. This is the last individual one should rely on. Science Mom provides a one-sided and clearly biased perspective.

    1. Reading through the posts of this blog would easily show readers it's carefully referenced and science based. Note the commentator's inability to actually counter the contents of this post.

      Reading PubMed on your own, when read through blinders - with an approach of finding a way to justify my belief, and quality of the study be damned - isn't a good way to learn. It can lead to mistakes like the collections this commentator posted have: science that's all from one group, bad science because concepts are not well defined, because there is limited or no data, accepting opinion piece that are not supported as evidence.

      In other words, reading on your own is great. But cautious, critical reading, paying attention to the quality of the sources is important.

      And a good science-based, referenced blog is a good aid to understanding complex scientific information. That's what Justthevax provides.