In October 2015, the image above came across my newsfeed on Facebook.
I had never heard of Dr. Kelly Brogan before, so I took a look through her Facebook page and saw immediately that she was unconventional, anti-vaccine and promoting very dangerous practices such as calling the cancer treatments which save countless lives an “industry.” As a registered nurse who has seen the life-saving effects of chemotherapy first hand both professionally and personally, I was a little alarmed to see a medical doctor all but implying that patient’s shouldn’t listen to their oncologists, who are specialists in their field, but should take the advice of a “holistic psychiatrist” who has probably never even directly cared for an oncology patient herself. I immediately wrote a very professional comment, and took a screen shot of it as I suspected that Dr. Brogan would erase it. My suspicions were correct as she removed my comment.
Over the next few months, I saw my news feed, full of fellow pro-science and pro-vaccine advocates, illuminated with posts from Dr. Brogan. Most of Dr. Brogan’s posts were just typical anti-science posts, but there was one which completely shocked me in which she all but begged people to buy more copies of her book so that she could make a national best sellers list. “Then reality set in. Unsurprisingly, the top media outlets – all supported by Pharma advertising – are now blacklisting any press on this book. And even threatening negative press if they do report,” she wrote on her website, asking people to join her grassroots effort.
I knew that there had to be a reason why Dr. Brogan’s book was not being covered by major news outlets (have you seen her Facebook?!), so while running errands yesterday, I decided to pop into my local bookstore to see if the book was there, merely for fun so I could take a selfie and send it to my pro-science friends for laughs.
After flipping through the Notes page just to see which resources she utilized in writing this book, I noticed that she used the term “Big Pharma” five different times. I made the decision right then and there that I would have to refute this book, page by page, as my next blog post; within 24 hours, I had read every word.
In the introduction of her book “A Mind of Your Own,” Dr. Brogan states, “I care deeply for women struggling with their well-being.” (page 1) This statement troubles me because Dr. Brogan then continues across 293 pages to offer dangerous, misleading and incorrect information which can put women and their families at risk. I have identified ten major limitations which I will present as a ten-part professional, peer-reviewed blog series, in no particular order of importance.
Major Limitation #1:
Dr. Brogan is a Conspiracy Theorist Who Has an Irrational Fear of the FDA, “Big Pharma” and Large Corporations:
In the introduction to her book, “A Mind of Your Own,” Dr. Brogan states, “I’m not a conspiracy theorist…I’m a natural skeptic and a pragmatist.” (page 2) Dr. Brogan referred to the pharmaceutical industry as “Big Pharma” nine times throughout her book (pages 3, 49, 53, 55, 56, 60, 61, 65, 123) and five times in her notes pages. “Big Pharma,” sometimes written as “Big pHARMa” is the nickname given to the pharmaceutical industry but it is often used with negative connotation.
Dr. Brogan states, “I’m generally rather suspicious of other people’s recommendations, doctors included, and I’ve always been a bit of a rebel.” (page 97). “I have strong opinions about all pharmaceutical interventions (is that obvious?)” (page 136)
Dr. Brogan states that pharmaceutical companies “finance more than 70% of FDA trials” (page 53) as if she is uncovering some unknown secret. How could the FDA possibly sponsor the trials of every drug which came through the approval process? Of course the companies would have to pay for the drug trails they are testing! Dr. Brogan states, “The FDA requires only two studies for drug approval, so you can see how these companies are tossing the coin over and over again until heads comes up and hoping no one is looking when it’s tails.” As of March 2016, the Tufts Center for Study of Drug Development pegged the cost of developing a new drug and gain marketing approval is over 2.5 Billion dollars. While no one will ever argue that the pharmaceutical companies are extremely profitable, they cannot justify just spending 2.5 billion dollars liberally to “toss the coin,” as Dr. Brogan claims.
Dr. Brogan states, “As you can imagine, drug companies despise placebo effects. They will do everything in their power to minimize the impact of placebo in their studies. That the FDA allows them to use these techniques is wrong, another example of Big Pharma’s shameless misconduct.” (page 56). I searched far and wide and I did not find a single statement from a single drug company which stated that they “despise” placebo effects. Some might also feel that Dr. Brogan herself could be the best example of “shameless misconduct” as he continuously insults the medical field which she profits from by calling their interventions “assaults” and “attacks.”
Dr. Brogan states, “Keep in mind that drug companies normally don’t publish negative results. They prefer to file away those studies in a drawer where they will never be found; hence the ‘file drawer’ phenomenon.” (page 57) Unless Dr. Brogan has been an employee of a major drug company and had access to these files, I don’t see how she could make such a claim without providing a single shred of evidence. Instead, she just comes off as a paranoid conspiracy theorist.
Dr. Brogan states, “And if you think a chemical pill can save, cure, or “correct” you, you’re dead wrong.” (page 3) Antibiotics are a pill which can definitely save, cure and “correct” a wide array of infections in every major organ system and part of the body. Antibiotics have saved countless lives since they became commercially available in 1945.
Dr. Brogan states, “I’m convinced that the pharmaceutical industry and its bedfellows, concealed behind official titles such as certain medical societies and associations, have created an illusion of science where none exists, in the service of profit over professional responsibility.” (page 5) “Responding with fear leads us to make decisions that are myopic.” (page 19) The science behind medicine is clear and undeniable, so I can’t make much sense of Dr. Brogan’s statement that “Big Pharma,” the very industry she clearly fears and make myopic decisions about, “creates” science to back up their claims.
Dr. Brogan twice chose to reference Dr. William Thompson and his whistle-blower papers, which apparently proved that the CDC omitted data to conceal the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. (page 138). These papers were just a bunch of random information, none of which demonstrated any link between autism and vaccines. There never has been, nor will there ever be, a connection between vaccines and autism, and it’s concerning that Dr. Brogan, a medical doctor who took an oath to do no harm for her patients, would still try to promote a link which doesn’t exist and puts her patients at danger of harmful, debilitating and deadly infectious diseases. Here’s a link which demonstrates that over 100 studies have been conducted and showed no link between autism and vaccines. In fact, when a group of anti-vaxxers funded a study to test the link between vaccines and autism, their study also demonstrated no link. Further, this mention had no place in Dr. Brogan’s book about women’s health as the MMR vaccine is administered to children and has nothing to do with women’s health.
“Unfortunately, doctors rarely make recommendations outside of medication for fear that the science does not support their interventions.” (page 197). This is not true. Doctors and medical professionals practice evidence-based practice, so until evidence exists to support non-medicinal treatments for health issues, doctors and practitioners will continue to prescribe what the data supports. Doctors often refer their patient’s to physical therapists for more activity, which is non-medicinal, because the data demonstrates that exercise can be helpful for certain conditions.
When discussing pesticides, she states, “I care less about the monitoring and more about the actual policing of these chemicals.” (page 200) This doesn’t make any sense, as without surveillance methods to monitor the prevalence of environmental pollutants, how could any agency possibly police them?
“We would like to assume our elected representatives will protect us by not allowing harmful chemicals to be used or sold in this country, but that assumption would be false.” (page 202). If this were true, then there wouldn’t be several sectors of the Environmental Protection Agency devoted to agriculture, all of which follow laws enacted by elected officials and funded by the U.S. government.
“Bottom line: it’s impossible to know how many synthetic chemicals exist in the world today and how harmful they really are, especially in combination. It’s also impossible to rely on laws or regulations to protect you, given the competing myriad political interests.” (page 203). Dr. Brogan asks her patients to trust the HIPAA laws designed to protect the privacy of their information by being a patient at her practice, yet she tells them to never trust any other law which is meant to protect them.
“We cannot rely on the FDA to assure the safety of these products…” (page 207). Dr. Brogan obviously doesn’t trust the FDA, because she does not include a single link to this governing agency once on her list of 326 references. This is a major shortcoming of her work which is entirely in critique of the medicines approved by the FDA yet she operates in her book as if one of the largest agencies in the world which completely shape the direction of her field simply doesn’t exist.
“Unless you are growing your own organic food in a bubble hermetically sealed from the ravages of the modern industrial world, strategic supplementation is almost always going to help you get better and stay better.” (page 224). Dr. Brogan states that she will never prescribe medications for her patients, which go through stringent approval processes from one of the toughest agencies in the world, the U.S. FDA, yet she’ll proudly tell her patients to take supplements, none of which are regulated or approved by any agency, let alone one as large as the FDA.
Dr. Brogan makes many statements throughout her book which illustrate her clear lack of trust for large organizations as she continually refers to the medical industry as the “medical industrial complex” and the “powers that be:”
- Dr. Brogan states, “I love to rant,” (page 13) and then includes an essay on her notes page, a section of a book typically reserved for simply listing sources only, (page 316) about glyphosate, instructing readers to find out more by visiting the website for Earth Open Source, “a group of independent scientists (i.e., they are not paid to scientifically support corporations.)”
- “But how did drug companies convince doctors that their patients need these medications, and that they need them now? They are banking (literally) on the fact that you haven’t brushed up on statistics in a while.” (page 119)
- “But the medical industrial complex would have you believe that cholesterol-lowering medications—statins—equate with preventative medicine.” (page 122). No cardiologist would object to a patient stating that they wanted to try diet and exercise before taking a statin pill, so long as the patient were physically fit enough to handle the exercise. However, to refer to the field of medicine, the very field in which she is employed, as the “medical industrial complex” is insulting.
- “There are so many scientific studies showing the direct toxic effects of fluoride on your body that it could only demonstrate the power of industrial influence that it’s not considered a scientific consensus by now.” (page 130)
- “In fact, there have been more than twenty-three human studies and one hundred animal studies linking fluoride to brain damage. Makes you wonder if the powers that be want to keep us a bit dull upstairs.” (page 131)
- Dr. Brogan refers her readers to the Environmental Working Group instead of their local department of environmental protection. http://www.ewg.org/about-us (page 132)
- “If a drug were capable of such side benefits rather than the seventy-five unintended consequential side effects (some of which may be permanent or disabling), it would most certainly make the Times front page.” (page 166)
- “Medicine is under the influence of powerful lobbies and corporate interests that sway regulatory agencies and policymakers in the assessment of safety.” (page 196)
- “More egregiously, you’re being sold the belief that medication is treating your disease rather than inducing a drug effect no different from alcohol or cocaine.” (page 272)
Dr. Brogan also demonstrates a mistrust about the food industry, which she dubs “Big Food:”
“Lest you remain under the spell of Big Food, know that a large analysis published in 2014 echoed previous data in demonstrating yet again that high consumption of saturated fat foes not increase risk of coronary artery disease.” (Page 160). “We must stand up in protest against this nonconsensual experiment affecting all forms of like on the planet.” (page 156). While it is true that pesticides can be harmful, they are also necessary in meeting the growing food demands of the world and there are many Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laws in place which regulate the use and safety of pesticides.
“Modern medicine has very little willingness to acknowledge the complexity and true origin of chronic illnesses that are the result of environmental, pharmaceutical, and dietary exposures.” (page 197). Since it would take me a century to survey all of modern medicine, whatever Dr. Brogan thinks that entails, to decide whether it is willing to acknowledge these things or not, I’ll just leave this over-generalization alone.
“Regulation and transparent oversight that controls for embedded conflicts of interest will be our only way out of this chemical soup.” (page 200). I’d like to hereby coin Dr. Brogan with the exclusive recognition of renaming this planet, previously known as” Earth,” as planet “Chemical Soup.”
I have presented over two dozen different statements which Dr. Brogan made throughout her book which clearly demonstrate that she is a conspiracy theorist, despite her claims otherwise, with an irrational fear of the FDA, pharmaceutical companies and large corporations. Might I also point out that Facebook is one of the largest corporations in the world, ranking number 10 on Forbes’ list of the world’s most valuable brands, yet Dr. Brogan has no problem selectively accepting Facebook as a means of promoting pseudoscience yet rejects large corporations otherwise.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned tomorrow when I present the #2 limitation of Dr. Brogan’s book: her cherry-picking of the evidence.
Angela Quinn, BSN, RN is a registered nurse on Long Island, NY. She is passionate about nursing and public health and is involved with a number of projects which promote life-saving vaccines. Angela volunteers as an Executive Board Member in Vaccine Advocacy for Nurses Who Vaccinate, is the founder of this blog, Correcting the Misconceptions of Anti-Vaccine Resources and is the creator of Future Nurse Abby.