relative risk reduction vs actual risk reduction - Medical Doctor Exposes Deceptive Statistics in flu vaccination studies

Zenaan Harkness zen at
Thu Nov 23 13:36:07 PST 2017

----- Forwarded message from Gil May <gilmay97 at> -----

From: Gil May <gilmay97 at>
To: reader at
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2017 06:53:09 +1000
Subject: Medical Doctor Exposes Deceptive Statistics

Retired Medical Doctor Exposes Deceptive Statistics Used to Justify Billion
Dollar Flu Vaccine and Drug Market

Flu Shots, Fosamax and Pharmaceutical Fakery: The Common Use of Deceptive
Statistics in the Vaccine and Pharmaceutical Literature

by Gary G. Kohls, MD
Duty to Warn

A few years ago, there was a temporary media buzz generated by an article
in *The Lancet Infectious Disease* journal. That highly respected medical
journal is, as is true of most such journals, a pro-vaccine,
pro-pharmaceutical medical industry publication that is published in London.

The article showed that flu vaccinations were far less effective than had
been previously believed. In fact, that particular study suggested that the
trivalent flu vaccine currently being pushed at that time approached

The article’s principle author was Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, a widely
published infectious disease researcher who, prior to his current faculty
position at the University of Minnesota, had served in various capacities
with the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), including a
high-profile role as the MDH’s Chief of the Acute Disease Epidemiology
Section. For 15 years of that association with the MDH he served as
Minnesota state epidemiologist. Dr Osterholm, who is not a physician, has
published over 300 articles and is highly respected in his field.

The Disconnect Between Real, Unbiased Science and Profit-focused Corporate

The *Lancet* study, in the reports that I listened to on NPR and then did
additional research on, was deceptively reported by NPR as “being 60%
effective” thus implying that that season’s trivalent flu vaccine should
still be regarded as “moderately effective” for flu prevention (rather than
being brought into question as the nearly worthless vaccine that it was).
What could explain the disconnect between the real hard science and the
media propaganda?

Seeing no sign of a public retraction from Osterholm or his co-authors
about the glaring disconnect, I began to wonder if the researchers were
even aware of the depths that so many other medical, psychiatric and
pharmaceutical industry researchers have stooped to when their research is
reported in the mainstream media or even in medical journals. Misleading
statistics that have appeared in medical journals are also used in drug
commercials or by drug sales representatives when they try to convince us
physicians to prescribe their company’s often toxic and often worthless or
dependency-inducing synthetic drugs.

The Fraudulent, Deceptive Use of the Relative Risk Reduction Statistic

What I am talking about is the common statistical trick of the
pharmaceutical trade called the Relative Risk Reduction (RRR), a statistic
that intentionally inflates embarrassingly low or even statistically
insignificant results that had been obtained from corporate-controlled –
and therefore very dubious – research studies.

What the public deserves to be informed about, but usually doesn’t receive,
is the far more meaningful Absolute/Actual Risk Reduction (ARR) numbers,
which, compared to the RRR, are often so small and unconvincing that any
rational thinker would regard the study as a failed one. Hence, the cunning
invention of the misleading RRR. I will deal with the important
mathematical differences further below.

A lot of medical research these days is done by mercenary academic
scientists – often with PhDs – that often are not clinicians. The vast
majority of such dubious research, estimated to represent over 80% of the
medical research that is currently being done in America, are in the employ
of the for-profit drug and medical device industries. The journal articles
that list them as authors are commonly written by mercenary ghost-writers
who are paid by the corporations that designed and funded the study. And
what should worry everybody is the fact that the self-interested
corporations have exclusive control over how the research is utilized.
Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune.

The mercenary researchers involved in such studies are naturally highly
motivated to obtain positive results so that their Big Pharma paymasters
will be able to get FDA approval and thus generate an increase in the value
of any stock holdings that may be part of their compensation package – not
to mention additional contracts with the drug or vaccine company if
negative results are not found or reported. I hasten to add that there is
nothing wrong with making money in an ethical and honest manner, but a lot
of medical research intentionally overstates the positives and minimizes,
or even hides, the negatives of their new drugs, vaccines or medical

One of the problems alluded to above is the widespread use of the grossly
misleading statistic called the Relative Risk Reduction (RRR). It is
important for consumers and prescribers of new drugs or medical devices to
thoroughly understand the differences between the RRR and the ARR (Absolute
or Actual Risk Reduction), the latter of which is the only reliable
statistic and therefore not often used. Usually, if the ARR is mentioned at
all, it is only noted in the fine print.

The Lancet article that revealed the lack of efficacy of flu shots did
indeed deceptively report a “60% efficacy rate.” As one would expect that
very phrase was prominently reported in the media, which also pointed out
the commonly-accepted past estimates of “90% efficacy” in past flu shots.

The deception involved was the fact that both the 60% and the 90% figures
were intentionally misleading RRR stats. But what wasn’t reported in the
media reportage was the fact that the ARR for the flu shots was a miniscule
1.5% efficacy. If that figure had been used, people would have balked at
consenting to the shot. And, as any honest, non-co-opted, thinking person
can see, the difference between the misleading figure of 60% and the real
figure of 1.5% is huge – and, as ever, represents just another cunning
statistical trick that is used to promote highly profitable drugs, that,
incidentally, are often unaffordable and can also be toxic and

Blowing the Whistle on Deceptive Advertising in Medicine

Seeing the truth of the matter and repeatedly listening to the misleading
media interpretation that influences patients as well as their physicians,
clinics and hospitals (in the case of coercing nurses to receive flu shots
annually or be fired), I knew that some somebody needed to blow the whistle
on this common Big Pharma fraud. Hence this article.

One of the reasons to be truthful about flu vaccine efficacy is the fact
that the benefits for the elderly have been consistently exaggerated over
the years, both in the medical literature and in the advertisements by
medical clinics, trade associations like the AMA, departments of health and
the CDC – and now drugstores. Many studies have failed to show any
reduction in mortality for elderly recipients of the mercury-containing flu
shots, despite increased vaccination rates in that group (from 15% to 65%
over the past 30 years). (Ref: The Lancet Infectious Diseases, October 2007)

Doing the Math

To make my point about the deceptiveness of the RRR statistic to those who
are non-scientists or non-mathematicians, I present the essential math that
needs to be pointed out, especially to us physicians (including hospital
infectious disease specialists) who are as easily fooled by Big Pharma’s
propaganda tricks as anybody.

In the Lancet study mentioned above, the researchers found only 357 victims
of influenza among the non-vaccinated pooled sample of 13,195 that were
studied (2.7% incidence). That means that only 2.7 persons out of every 100
non-vaccinated persons (2.7%) got symptoms compatible with the flu, meaning
that 97.3% of the unvaccinated individuals did not get the flu despite not
getting the shot. Good odds that many people would accept if they had been
actually informed about the actual risks (ARR) of forgoing the shot and
avoiding more unnecessary exposure to injectable mercury.

The study also stated that 1.2% of the vaccinated population still got flu
symptoms even though they received the flu shot. So 98.8% of people who
were vaccinated did not get the flu which was not a lot better that the
97.3% of the non-vaccinated people who didn’t get either the flu or the flu

Simple subtraction tells us that only a tiny percentage of flu shot
recipients, 1.5% (98.8 – 97.3 = 1.5) – versus the advertised 60% –
benefited from getting the shot and that approximately 98% of both the
vaccinated and unvaccinated groups were destined to not get the flu whether
they took the shot or not.

Relative risk reduction is calculated by dividing the 1.5% incidence number
above by 2.7% incidence number, which equals a seemingly large number of
55%, (which was rounded up to get the *talking point figure of 60%

To get the more meaningful ARR of 1.2% efficacy (versus the deceptive RRR
of 60% efficacy), one subtracts 1.5% from 2.7% = 1.2%.

Therefore the true benefit calculation (the “Absolute/Actual Risk
Reduction”) of submitting to a flu shot is a miniscule figure, and
represents a risk that many people would be willing to take if they were
told the truth about flu shot failures, especially when figuring into the
equation the monetary costs, the mercury exposure and the fact that Vitamin
D3 and Vitamin C intake has been found to be better flu prophylaxis than
any vaccine!

Indeed, there are a number of studies that show that taking adequate doses
of the far cheaper and safer Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C during the winter
months can give definite protection from the flu, one realizes that there
are alternatives to being vaccinated. (

Another important point that needs to be emphasized is the fact that the 98
% of the vaccinated population who weren’t going to get the flu anyway were
unnecessarily being injected with mercury, the most toxic ingredient in the
intra-muscularly injected viral influenza shot. The following potentially
dangerous ingredients of vaccines such as the “pneumovax” shots that are
acknowledged to be in other vaccines are formaldehyde, aluminum, immune
system-stimulating adjuvants like squalene, mycoplasma contaminants, viral
contaminants, DNA fragments, trace minerals and who knows what else?

Incidentally, the incidence of serious bacterial infections that can be
caused by the Streptococcal pneumoniae bacteria are actually pretty rare.
The World Health Organization says that in developed countries like the US,
because of better nutrition and less poverty, *the annual* *incidence of
invasive pneumococcal disease ranges from 10 to 100 cases per 100 000
population (ie, as few as 1 case out of every 10,000 people per year!).*

Fosamax and Many Other So-called Osteoporosis Drugs Prospered Because of
Statistical Trickery – Until The Drug-makers Started Getting Sued

*Fosamax*, manufactured and marketed by *Merck & Co* (of *Vioxx* infamy)
was the first of a number of popular and highly profitable, allegedly
“osteoporosis prevention” drugs that, in addition to many other as yet
unknown or unappreciated long-term adverse effects, interfered with a
patient’s fragile, complex and incompletely understood bone metabolism. The
drug had been proven to increase bone “density” in some patients, but
increasing density did not necessarily mean increases bone “strength”. The
most dramatic adverse effect of this class of drugs was the disastrous
osteonecrosis of the jaw and atypical femoral fractures, for which Merck
has been inundated with lawsuits (4,400 as of June 2016). *GlaxoSmithKline*,
which markets *Boniva*, has also been inundated with lawsuits.

The infamous proclamations that Merck made deceptively asserting that
“Fosamax reduces hip fractures by 50%” was based on the misleading
“relative” hip fracture relative risk reduction (RRR) calculation that came
from the original 4-year clinical trial. What was intentionally not
mentioned in Merck’s deceptive marketing campaign was that the actual risk
reduction (ARR) for Fosamax was only 1% (not 50%), which is a minuscule
figure unlikely to benefit the vast majority of the elderly women who took
the drug continuously for 4 years.

The Fosamax hip fracture study was conducted on a group of older women who
were regarded as being at high risk for future fractures. In the
Fosamax-treated patients, an average of 1 out of every 100 patients
suffered hip fractures after 4 years – an incidence of 1% – whereas an
average of 2 out of every 100 non-drugged patients suffered hip fractures,
an incidence of 2%.

To come up with the misleading RRR calculation, Merck’s deceptive
statisticians divided 1% by 2% and came up with a 50% reduction –
relatively speaking. But in order to deceive us physicians of the value of
prescribing such a worthless and dangerous drug, the miniscule actual risk
reduction figure of 1% had to be kept well-hidden.

The Merck, et al deceptive statistics also meant that 98% of non-drug
treated patients *did not* get a hip fracture after 4 years of Fosamax, and
99% of Fosamax-treated patients likewise did not get a hip fracture, thus
receiving virtually no benefit from taking the toxic and costly drug for
many years. 80% of media ads deceptively claimed that “Fosamax cut the risk
(of hip fractures in elderly women) by 50%” And not many physicians saw
through the clever subterfuge!!

I have to admit that I was as fooled as the other Big Pharma-brain-washed
physicians until I finally figured out the mathematical trickery. In my
defense, I was always suspicious that the 50% figure was a lie, and I never
actually did prescribe Fosamax. In fact I have ever consistently boycotted
all Big Pharma corporations that have tried to deceive me by their various
methods of trickery.

Again it must be emphasized that 98 – 99% of elderly patients in the
Fosamax double-blind clinical trials experienced no hip fractures, whether
they were in the drug group or in the placebo group. But the treated group
risked experiencing disastrous adverse effects, some of which are incurable
and incur terrible suffering and medical expenses, including the most
serious one, Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (Dead Jaw Syndrome). In addition
Fosamax victims have experienced drug-related Atypical Femoral Fractures,
Esophageal Cancers, Atrial Fibrillation, and Severe Musculoskeletal Pain,
all consequences that the members of the untreated group were not at risk

An important reality is that the pharmaceutical companies use the RRR
deception routinely, whether they are marketing medications, surgical
procedures, medical devices, psychiatric diagnostic assessments or even
non-drug psychotherapeutic treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy,

Fully Informed Consent: Is it a Thing of the Past?

Being fully informed about all the pros and cons of any diagnostic
assessment, drug treatment, medical device usage or surgical procedure used
to be the sole obligation of the involved health care provider. Nowadays it
seems that such health information is being taken over by the propaganda
techniques of cunning mega-corporations who can afford to pay the billions
of dollars for propagandizing patients and their physicians, for lobbying
Congresspersons and presidents to enact favorable legislation and to pay
the costs of the inevitable lawsuits for damages done when the injured
patient hadn’t been given fully informed consent before being victimized by
the “treatment.” Nowadays patients are regularly propagandized to demand
advertised drugs from their doctors.

Only in Big Pharma-friendly America would one expect it to be legal to
allow the mainstream media to promote dangerous pharmaceutical drugs
directly to prospective customers. (Although New Zealand does it too, our
two countries are the only two on the planet that allows Direct-to-Consumer
[DTC] marketing of prescription drugs. In every other developed nation DTC
marketing of prescription drugs is against the law.)

There is hardly a glimmer of good news in American medicine today, in that
the spirit of Hippocrates (he who first declared the “First Do No Harm”
code of medical ethics) seems to be on its death bed – ever since the
sociopathic, profits-before-people Big Pharma cartel seduced Big Medicine
and spoiled the previously honorable practice of medicine that I and so
many other ethical physicians used to feel proud of being a part of.

Our patients have been rapidly losing trust and respect for America’s
corporate-style, highly efficient and highly impersonal practice of
medicine, which has been consciously morphing into an unaffordable,
hard-hearted, dog-eat-dog, let-the-buyer-beware, bankrupting imitation of
“greed-is-good” Wall Street.

If Hippocrates suddenly appeared on the scene today, I doubt that he would
recognize what he once tried to dignify 2,500 years ago.

Previously published at:

*Comment on this article at

Dr. Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA. In the decade prior
to his retirement, he practiced what could best be described as “holistic
(non-drug) and preventive mental health care”. Since his retirement, he has
written a weekly column for the Duluth Reader, an alternative newsweekly
magazine. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American imperialism,
friendly fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, and the dangers of Big
Pharma, psychiatric drugging, the over-vaccinating of children and other
movements that threaten American democracy, civility, health and longevity
and the future of the planet. Many of his columns are archived at;; or at

Make a Statement for Health Freedom!
Big Pharma and government health authorities are trying to pass laws
mandating vaccines for all children, and even adults.

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