January 10, 2017

Cleveland Clinic rebukes doctor who penned column with debunked anti-vaccine rhetoric

Daily Briefing

    The Cleveland Clinic has pledged to take disciplinary action against Daniel Neides, the medical director and COO of the system's Wellness Institute, after he published a column containing several debunked or unproven claims on the links between vaccines and diseases.

    Controversy over column

    In his Cleveland.com column, published on Friday, Neides questioned whether preservatives and adjuvants in vaccines are safe for infants and might be contributing to an increase in neurologic complications. However, Maggie Fox writes for NBC News that there are "decades of evidence showing that" vaccines are safe for newborns. In addition, CDC states that "adjuvants have been used safely in vaccines for many decades" and "help vaccines work better."

    Neides also raised the question of whether a link exists between vaccines and autism, despite such a connection being widely debunked. Neides wrote, "Does the vaccine burden—as has been debated for years—cause autism?  I don't know and will not debate that here." He added, "Some of the vaccines have helped reduce the incidence of childhood communicable diseases, like meningitis and pneumonia. That is great news. But not at the expense of neurologic diseases like autism and ADHD increasing at alarming rates."

    CDC notes that "studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing" autism spectrum disorder and that "vaccine ingredients do not cause autism."

    Doc group: When parents refuse to vaccinate their kids, it's sometimes OK to dismiss them as patients

    Response from Clinic, Neides

    Amid the controversy over the column, Neides released a statement through a Clinic spokesperson. "I apologize and regret publishing a blog that has caused so much concern and confusion for the public and medical community," the statement reads. "I fully support vaccinations and my concern was meant to be positive around the safety of them."

    The Clinic in a separate statement said it is "fully committed to evidence-based medicine," adding that "harmful myths and untruths about vaccinations have been scientifically debunked in rigorous ways." The Clinic added, "We completely support vaccinations to protect people, especially children who are particularly vulnerable. Our physician published his statement without authorization from Cleveland Clinic. His views do not reflect the position of Cleveland Clinic and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken."

    AMA: No more non-medical vaccination exemptions

    Clinic is reevaluating its Wellness Institute

    The Clinic on Monday also told STAT News that it has been reevaluating its Wellness Institute over the past several months, prior to the controversy over the comments made by Neides, the institute's medical director.

    Clinic spokesperson Eileen Shiel told STAT News that system leaders have had concerns that the Institute has not been sufficiently connected to the Clinic's mission of providing quality, evidence-based medicine and services. Shiel said the Institute likely will stop selling some of its alternative medicine products, such as homeopathy kits, and increase its focus on general wellness programs that aim to improve the lifestyle and diet decisions of its employees and patients (Ross, STAT News, 1/10; Zeltner, Plain Dealer, 1/9; Zeltner, Plain Dealer, 1/10; Guarino, "Morning Mix," Washington Post, 1/10; CDC website [1], accessed 1/10; CDC website [2], accessed 1/10; Ault, Medscape, 1/9; Fox, NBC News, 1/9; Neides, Cleveland.com, 1/9; Cleveland Clinic statement, 1/8; Rappleye, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/9; MacDonald, FierceHealthcare, 1/9; Ross, STAT News, 1/8).

    Four principles for supporting evidence-based practice

    Despite the shift toward broad acceptance of evidence-based practice (EBP) among medical staff, over half of physicians report not actually using guidelines day-to-day when they are available. As a result, organizations continue to see tremendous variation in clinical practice—as well as in costs and outcomes.

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