Jerry Avorn: The Sting of Arrogance

  • by: |
  • 09/18/2006

Jerry Avorn, the man who would be FDA commissioner in a Democrat administration, tried to show those of us lacking in the intelligence and Olympian insights that only a physician and researcher of his stature possess that permits him to teach at the Harvard School of Public Health based on the data dredging of grad students could understand why it is so important that we let him — and him alone - decide what medicines to take and when.

Jerry used a charming parable called “The Sting of Ignorance” to teach us what evidence based medicine really and truly is. Written in the NY Times it was a story of Jerry frolicking in the ocean blue when —jeepers creepers — a mean old jelly fish bit our Homeric health care hero on the calf (I know there’s a more scientific term for that muscle mass but I a taking a page from Jerry and keeping it simple) . Well no one— I mean no one— not even the wise and worldly author knew what to do to treat the pain. It took a nurse who JUST HAPPENED TO WALK BY to tell Jerry and all the First Aid trained lifeguards to stop applying alcohol and ice and make sure the jellyfish stinger was completely out.

Now as an aside, I am not Harvard trained and nor do I teach at Harvard. But I had a Bubbie. (You see I can be colloquial too. That’s SAT speak for folksy.) And when I was stung by a bee, before putting an ice pack on my arm where I was stung…my Bubbie made sure the entire stinger was out. I was about six then and it was something that every camp counselor knew whether it applied to yellowjackets or jellyfish.

But not in Jerry’s world. In Jerry’s world regular folks are morons and he lumps himself in their to prove a point (That’s a strawman folks.) In his NY Times article Jerry goes to the internet to do a google search to find out applying cold to a jelly fish stinger only helps spread the neurotoxin…he does that to make a point…wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do a Google search on diseases to get a instant print out of what drugs to prescribe in each and every case.???

Yes indeed. One press of a button and you would get the right medicine for every illness in the same way that Jerry found the answer to how treat a jelly fish stinger when the rest of the boobs were screwing things up. And best of all, Jerry has been toling away to give the world the information they need to usher in this evidence based Uber Alles.

Except here’s the problem. Either Jerry is dishonest or those jellyfish neurotoxins have travelled to those neurotransmitters that control his memory….Jerry is really keen on warning old people not to take Vioxx because of the risk of heart attacks but he forgets his own research and that of others demonstrating that older people with rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk for heart problems. He loves to talk about how restrictive formularies that shove generics down people’s throats increase compliance with drug regimens but ignores the mounting research demonstrating that such limits combvined with tiered copays discourage people from taking needed medicines. And in touting ALLHAT and claming that diuretics are more effective that calcium channel blockers, he ignores new research demonstrating that many sub groups live longer on newer agents and are less likely to have diabetes and kidney failure.

I could continue to point out the holes and exceptions and inaccuracies that, when woven together, make up Avorn’s ideologically-driven approach to evidence-based prescribing. But I couldn’t quite do it justice. It takes a degree of arrogance and condescension made possible only by repeated exposure to jellyfish neurotoxins.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

Blog Roll

Alliance for Patient Access Alternative Health Practice
Better Health
Biotech Blog
CA Medicine man
Cafe Pharma
Campaign for Modern Medicines
Carlat Psychiatry Blog
Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look
Conservative's Forum
Club For Growth
Diabetes Mine
Disruptive Women
Doctors For Patient Care
Dr. Gov
Drug Channels
DTC Perspectives
Envisioning 2.0
FDA Law Blog
Fierce Pharma
Fresh Air Fund
Furious Seasons
Gel Health News
Hands Off My Health
Health Business Blog
Health Care BS
Health Care for All
Healthy Skepticism
Hooked: Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma
Hugh Hewitt
In the Pipeline
In Vivo
Internet Drug News
Jaz'd Healthcare
Jaz'd Pharmaceutical Industry
Jim Edwards' NRx
Kaus Files
Laffer Health Care Report
Little Green Footballs
Med Buzz
Media Research Center
More than Medicine
National Review
Neuroethics & Law
Nurses For Reform
Nurses For Reform Blog
Opinion Journal
Orange Book
Peter Rost
Pharm Aid
Pharma Blog Review
Pharma Blogsphere
Pharma Marketing Blog
Pharmacology Corner
Pharmaceutical Business Review
Piper Report
Prescription for a Cure
Public Plan Facts
Real Clear Politics
Shark Report
Shearlings Got Plowed
Taking Back America
Terra Sigillata
The Cycle
The Catalyst
The Lonely Conservative
Town Hall
Washington Monthly
World of DTC Marketing
WSJ Health Blog