Scrub-a-dub-dub, because you’ve been called out

First and foremost, Happy New Year. Here’s to another year of giving you bits of stuff to mentally nibble on as you go about your day. Now, on with 2015…

Remember Peter Doshi, PhD? He’s the “Hopkins Researcher” non-epidemiologist who claims to know more about influenza than epidemiologists, virologists, and other people who have made influenza research their life’s work. He’s presented on influenza at a conference sponsored by an anti-vaccine organization. And, as I told you before, he signed a letter from the “AIDS Rethinkers” stating that the HIV-AIDS association should be, well, “rethought”. It’s nothing more than AIDS denialism dressed as “skepticism.”

Anyway, Dr. Steven Salzberg, who is a Hopkins researcher, took Peter Doshi, PhD, to task:

“First, as Snopes.com has already pointed out, Doshi is not a virologist or an epidemiologist, but rather an anthropologist who studies comparative effectiveness research. He never conducted influenza research at Hopkins. (He’s now an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy.) Second, Doshi’s 2013 article was an opinion piece (a “feature”), not an original research article, and it did not report any new findings. Third, it is highly misleading to suggest (as the anti-vax article’s title does) that Doshi somehow represents Johns Hopkins University. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, the flu vaccine is required of all personnel who have contact with patients, as a good-practices effort to minimize the risk that a patient will catch the flu from a caregiver.”

That’s not all, however. Dr. Salzberg asked Peter Doshi, PhD, about signing that AIDS denialist letter:

“Perhaps even more disturbing is that Doshi signed a petition arguing that the HIV virus is not the cause of AIDS, joining the ranks of HIV denialists. He signed this statement while still a graduate student, so I contacted him to ask if he still doubted the link between HIV and AIDS. I also asked him if he supports flu vaccination, if he agrees with the anti-vaccine movement’s use of his statements, and if he believes the flu is a serious public health threat.

On the question of signing the HIV/AIDS petition, Doshi responded that “Seeing how my name was published and people have misconstrued this as some kind of endorsement, I have written the list owner and asked for my name to be removed.” He declined to state directly that he agrees that the HIV virus causes AIDS—though I gave him ample opportunity.”

I, too, emailed Peter Doshi, PhD, a while back (October 2013) and asked this:

“I was recently informed that you have taken the position of associate editor with the British Medical Journal. While doing some research on your work, and seeing what influence you have and will have on evidence-based medical practice, I came upon a website (http://aras.ab.ca/rethinkers.php) which lists you as a signatory to a statement denying the existence of a causal relationship between HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

I hope you can see how “AIDS denialism” may put into question your judgment of medical and scientific findings submitted for review at BMJ. My questions to you, if I may have a few minutes of your time, are:

– Did you sign that HIV/AIDS statement denying the existence of a causal relationship between the virus and the disease?
– Are you in fact now an associate editor at BMJ?

I extend you much gratitude for taking a moment to answer these questions.”

He never replied, though I never received a notice that the email was not delivered, and I copied him on all known emails he’s used on publications.

On that website, his name was listed thus, a few names under Australian anti-vaccine loon, Meryl Dorey:

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 8.41.45 PM

The list looks like this today:

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 7.19.17 PM

No more Peter Doshi on the list. It appears that he did as he said he would to Dr. Salzberg and asked that his name be removed. The thing about that page is that it is querying the list from an external database, so we can’t use the “Way Back Machine” or Google to his name when it used to be there. All we have are these screenshots, but, as you can see on Dr. Salzberg’s blog post, Peter Doshi, PhD, never denied signing that letter. (To be a “signatory” you have to contact the list’s administrator, apparently.)

So there you have it. An associate editor at the British Medical Journal has scrubbed his name from a list of AIDS denialists. Do with that what you want. He also doesn’t think the flu is a big deal, so do with that what you want. From Dr. Salzberg’s blog post:

“As for the flu itself, Doshi says “I don’t agree with CDC’s portrayal of influenza as a major public health threat.” So he and I have a serious disagreement there. I asked if he agrees with the anti-vaccinationists who are using his writings to claim that the flu vaccine is ineffective, and he replied that while “ineffective” is “too sweeping,” he has found ”no compelling evidence of hospitalization and mortality reduction in [the] elderly.””

As an epidemiologist doing research into infectious diseases, I will not submit anything to the BMJ for publication for the foreseeable future. I just don’t trust their judgment anymore when they have as an associate editor someone who seems to deny that AIDS is the result of an HIV infection (something 99.999999999% of scientists have agreed on and on whose authority antiretroviral therapy has saved lives) and definitely doesn’t see influenza as a major public health threat. I can only imagine what would happen to any manuscripts I submit on infectious disease.

One more thing…

The HIV “Rethinkers” write thus on their page:

“The next time the media announce that tens of millions of people are dying from Hiv in Africa, ask them how they know that. Remind them that journalists are supposed to question dubious assertions from powerful, drug-industry funded agencies like the WHO, not parrot them as if they were indisputable. Ask them why they report these numbers as if they were actual Aids cases, when in fact they are projections made by WHO’s computer programs, based on very questionable statistical methodologies and contradicted by many facts including the continual large population increases experienced in the countries supposedly worst affected.”

Note the part about the media.

This is what is written on Peter Doshi’s page at his current job with the University of Maryland:

“Doshi also has strong interests in journalism as a vehicle for encouraging better practice and improving the research enterprise.”

Yeah, it should be the reporters that guide the science, not the other way around. Not.

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