Category Archives: News

Interview with Dr Paul Offit on the HPV vaccine

 

Here’s my short interview with Dr Paul Offit on the HPV vaccine, and a quick question about the fight against vaccine misinformation.

 

 

This interview is part of the episode on HPV from my documentary series Les Aventures du Pharmachien.

 

Interview with Dr Steven Novella on acupuncture

Dr Steven Novella is an American clinical neurologist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine. He’s also a science communicator and a leading figure in the skeptical movement. He co-founded Science-Based Medicine, writes a blog called NeuroLogica, hosts the podcast The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and recently published a book on scientific skepticism.

I had the privilege of interviewing him on the topic of ACUPUNCTURE, as part of my documentary series on scientific skepticism in healthcare called Les Aventures du Pharmachien on Radio-Canada (the show’s in French, hence the subtitles).

Here’s the interview in English (note : you can press the “CC” button to get English subtitles for my short intro) :

 

Obviously I can’t post the full episode, but here’s the trailer (note : you can press the “CC” button to get English subtitles) :

 

John Maddox Prize 2019

 

It is with great surprise, gratitude and emotion that I have received last week, in London, the John Maddox Prize for my work on the topic of Vitamin C injections in Quebec.

The John Maddox Prize

 

The John Maddox Prize is a joint initiative of the British charity Sense about Science and the scientific journal Nature, and “recognises the work of individuals who promote science and evidence, advancing the public discussion around difficult topics despite challenges or hostility“.

Two prized were awarded this year; I was awarded the one for an early career scientist. Some of my professional role models have won it in the past, so I am deeply honored and moved. I pledge to humbly use this award as an opportunity to encourage more people and scientists to defend science publicly.

Nominations for the prize have to be submitted by individuals within the general public. In my case, it came from Marilou Gougeon, a citizen with an incurable type of cancer, who is committed to the defense of patients’ rights for science-based treatments. I was skeptical (😏) when she told me about it, but I was also touched (even though I never thought I would win!). The fact that one of my readers did all of this for me has a special place in my heart.

 

Here’s a brief reminder of the events:

In 2018-2019, a petition seeking the approval and reimbursement of Vitamin C injections for cancer patients collected more than 120,000 signatures. After having published an article on the topic, and after having questioned a related political move, I had been the target of a cyberbullying campaign that lasted for months, until I spoke out publicly in February 2019. The petition was ultimately rejected by the National Assembly of Quebec and government working groups were created to prevent such incidents in the future. So, in the end, there were more positive than negative outcomes!

 

I want to emphasize that I always respect individual choices. What motivated me to get involved to this extent is the fact that the petition was becoming a political and social issue, whereas these types of questions should be assessed on the basis of scientific evidence.

 

Acknowledgments:

 

  • Marilou, I’m immensely grateful to you, and I hope people will have the privilege to hear not only your personal story, but also your thoughts on the importance of developing one’s critical thinking to make better health decisions!
  • Rémi Quirion, the Chief Scientist of Quebec, who acted as a supporting referee. He had also taken a stance on Vitamin C injections in 2018.
  • The judging panel, Sense about Science and Nature, for accepting my nomination and for considering that I deserved the award.
  • My wife India, who also suffered through this ordeal, even tough she had nothing to do with it… you were amazing and your support was invaluable ❤️
  • And above all, YOU! All those who have offered me their support, and who sent me beautiful messages for months. I would NEVER have gone through all this without your support … And thanks to you, I feel reenergized and more motivated than ever to keep on going! 🙂

 

Here is the acceptance speech I gave at Wellcome Collection on Nov. 12th 2019:

 

Here are a few press articles or interviews I gave about the prize:

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/11/12/quebec-pharmacist-known-as-the-pharmafist-wins-international-award-for-defending-science.html

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03547-8

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03491-7 (interview with Nature podcasts)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/12/scientist-who-takes-on-firms-causing-wildfires-wins-john-maddox-prize

https://www.bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l6488

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-15-daybreak-montreal/clip/15747032-montreal-pharmacist-wins-prestigious-john-maddox-prize (interview with CBC)

http://bodyofevidence.ca/056-drinking-water-and-olivier-bernard (interview with The Body of Evidence podcast)

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/standing-expertise-fools-errand

Is defending science-based medicine worth it?

 

An interview with Olivier Bernard

 

 

And here are a few clearly-not-HD pictures from the event:

 

 

(with the winner of the senior award, Bambang Hero Saharjo)

(with Dr David Colquhoun, legendary pharmacologist and champion of scientific skepticism… it was unreal to meet him!)

 

(with Marilou Gougeon, who nominated me for the award, and our spouses)

Top 10 useless remedies… in Russian!

Ilya (from the Urals) translated my “Top 10 useless remedies for the common cold” comic into Russian, and it looks awesome!

CHECK IT OUT HERE

A few interesting facts I’ve learned about popular remedies for the common cold in Russia:

  • They use wool socks too, but without rubbing Vicks (which doesn’t exist there).
  • They stick their faces over a bowl with hot boiled potatoes and water, not just water.
  • For the mouth-burning contest, they use vodka with pepper.
  • Sweating at the bathhouse while ill is quite popular, even without Gwyneth Paltrow’s advice.
  • The mustard plaster is very popular in Russia.
  • Flu busters: they have an extensive list of so called “fuflomicini” (ex. immune enhancers).
  • Suppositories are not so popular, but people like to eat garlic while ill, keep it near, and make patches from it (which often causes skin burns).
  • Chicken noodle soup is not a delicacy there… They use a soup called “borscht, made with meat and vegetables.
  • Russian pharmacies sells cough syrups too, but instead of DM or codeine, they contain antiseptics, mucolytics and light painkillers.
  • Antibiotics are available without a prescription!

Thanks so much Ilya!

Cyberbullying, doxxing, vitamin C injections and cancer

Have you heard about the petition in Quebec that gained nearly 120,000 signatures, asking the government to “approve and reimburse” vitamin C injections for people with cancer?

And about how it almost succeeded through political lobbying?

I spent several months working on this case, trying at first to help people understand the issues and pitfalls with this petition, and then addressing politicians directly, and trying to rally scientific associations. I did this because the petition was moving forward rapidly and very few people were raising doubts about it.

As a result, a group of vitamin C supporters tried to make me lose my job. I was doxed. A smear campaign was organized against me. My family was harassed and threatened.

Eventually, after months of cyberbullying, I came forward publicly with what was going on behind the scenes. The result was a massive outcry from the scientific community, which could not be ignored by the government this time.

Ultimately, the petition did not go forward into parliamentary proceedings.

But more importantly, these events had positive consequences for the future: a government task force was created in order to protect scientists who speak publicly about sensitive topics (I am fortunate enough to be involved in it). Also, an inter-professional advisory committee was created to help healthcare professionals, such as myself, speak publicly without fear of disciplinary action.

 

This case received little attention in the English-Canadian press, so here are translations of a few articles on what happened.

(Please note that these were translated automatically by the Google Translate URL tool with no revision, so some of the text is weird and possibly funny-sounding)

 

A summary of the events in March 2019 by Radio-Canada (CBC) :


Another one, focusing on the challenges and personal risks of doing science communication:

 

 

The events were also discussed in France, and generated support from the French Association for Scientific Information:

 

 

The government can no longer ignore what is going on:

 

 

And the conclusion…


Fellow science communicator Jonathan Jarry, from the McGill Office for Science and Society, was kind enough to write a post on the topic too. Thanks so much Jonathan!

https://jonathanjarry.com/2019/03/07/harassing-a-skeptic-into-silence/

 

For those interested in reading my original article on the topic, there’s a  complete translation here.

A comic for Pharmacy Awareness Week 2019

I’m thrilled to work in partnership with the Quebec Order of Pharmacists (OPQ) for Pharmacy Awareness Week 2019!

For the occasion, I’ve created a comic that will be distributed to pharmacies throughout Quebec and provided to clients who come in for a new prescription.

The objective is to explain what happens while one waits for their medication, which is a total mystery for most people! Ultimately, the goal is to demystify the work of pharmacists, and to show what we do – and can do – for the public.

I like the idea of ​​learning without realizing it, hence the absurd visual metaphors. I hope people will receive the comic in the waiting room and be like “What is that?!“. This sounds like a good starting point 🙂

The comic was created for pharmacists and for the public. In other words, it’s yours. Here’s a link to the PDF version (8.5 x 11″; includes a 0.25″ bleed). Upon request, I can also provide you with a ultra-HD version, which you could print on giant canvas for display on cliffs, skyscrapers, etc.

If you’d like to use it outside of Quebec, please let us know, I’m sure we can figure something out 🙂

A huge thank you to OPQ, to all pharmacists and pharmacy staff members, and to all of you for your interest in this project!

Interview with Edzard Ernst on osteopathy

I had the immense honor to interview Dr Edzard Ernst, “world’s foremost expert on complementary and alternative therapies (CAM)“, for an episode of my TV show on the topic of osteopathy.

Here’s the full interview :

(the intro is in French, but the interview itself is in English)

And for those who might be interested, here’s the trailer for the episode (in French only):

Breastfeeding teaser with English subtitles

I was asked by lactation consultants to provide an English translation for the teaser on the “Breastfeeding” episode of my (French Canadian) TV show.

Now that it’s done, I might as well post it here too 🙂

(note : click the “CC” logo on the bottom-right corner to activate the subtitles)

The Pharmafist : an English version of Le Pharmachien is born

face_genre

Back in Sep. 2012, I created a weird blog/website hybrid about health & science named Le Pharmachien. It eventually became somewhat popular in the French-speaking world.

Today, due to popular demand (and a ill-advised need to fill up more of my spare time), I’m releasing its English version: The Pharmafist.

Comics will have to be translated one by one, obviously, and I very much doubt I can do it all by myself. So if you feel like translating your favorite one, please give me a shout here or on Facebook!