Dr Kelly Brogan and the case of the misplaced science

By Helen Petousis Harris 20/08/2013 31


Cornell and MIT educated Dr Kelly Brogan appears to subscribe to a range of standard anti-vaccination pseudoscience propaganda which is particularly disappointing considering the education she claims to have. This month The Healthy Home Economist published an article by Dr Kelly Brogan on Gardasil  who has recently produced a number of articles on vaccination in on-line forums. Says Kelly in her recent article on Gardasil:

One Size Fits All?

This is, perhaps the most important concept to wrestle with when it comes to providing and mandating pharmaceutical products in otherwise healthy populations. These products are based on a now largely antiquated notion of exposure to virus = infection and, as a corollary, that antibody production = protection.

Now we know that neither of those premises are true.

The paragraph above contains logical and factual fallacies.

  • First, pharmaceuticals are not mandated
  • Germ theory is a scientific fact
  • Antibody production often correlates with protection against a disease but not always and this is well known.
  • The statements are factually incorrect and misrepresent the position of the scientific community.

There are seemingly infinite variables accounting for the immune response through natural mucosal exposure, and we don’t have any better of a grasp on why different people respond differently to vaccines, which bypass natural immunity and provoke inflammatory responses.

There are certainly vast arrays of factors that affect individual responses to microbial exposure via any route, not just mucosal as stated above. Inflammatory responses are an essential step in any immune response from a common cold to a paper cut to vaccination. Vaccines do not bypass natural immunity, they induce immunity perfectly naturally. The statements are factually incorrect.

A productive discussion of this concern by Poland et al references variable response to the Measles vaccine as depicted in the graphic to the right.

Gregory Poland does not say we do not have effective vaccines and that we should not use them, he is a champion of vaccinomics and proposes we can develop new and better vaccine strategies by understanding individual genetics and immunity. Dr Brogen misrepresents this science and the position of the scientific community. It is well established that vaccines are not 100% effective and no scientist involved in vaccines would claim otherwise.

Back to cervical cancer. Once again, we have a one-size fits all recommendation for healthy women to prevent an extremely rare outcome – death from cervical cancer. Let’s take a look at how to evaluate the considerations for you or someone you know:

The objective of vaccination with HPV vaccine is to prevent persistent infection with 4 types of HPV. Prevention of death from cervical cancer has never been a primary outcome for this vaccine.

Claiming only a few women ever die of cervical cancer therefore the vaccine is a waste of money is a common and misleading strategy of anti-immunisation proponents. They omit to mention that cervical screening programmes (while very effective) cannot prevent all cases of cervical cancer and that each year many, many women undergo unpleasant invasive procedures to treat cervical disease in order to prevent cervical cancer. Kelly mentions her own ordeal. In the absence of screening programmes the death rate from cervical cancer is very high.

Dr Brogan then does herself a very grave disservice by bringing in arguments presented by Tomljenovic and Shaw who are also not experts in this field and whose material has been thoroughly debunked as pseudoscience. Their claims have been addressed elsewhere and examples of discussions can be found here at the following links:

Comments from me on Tomljenovic and Shaw 

Comments by Orac  who has a number of blogs that are very relevant

There are many ‘doctors’ out there with impressive sounding qualifications and sincere sounding concerns about vaccines. Often claims about vaccine dangers are complimented with wholesome sounding advice about alternatives to preventing or curing diseases. Let’s just consider Dr Brogan for a moment.

Kelly Brogan appears to have an undergraduate degree from MIT in the area of neuroscience (attendance at MIT is indeed impressive). She then gained a medical degree in 2004 from Cornell Medical College (again very impressive) and one would think the beginning of a great career in reproductive psychology. She is Board Certified in Psychosomatic Medicine and works at NYU Langone Medical Centre as a Clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry. Since qualifying has published three academic papers in the area of psychiatric medicine.

It appears that an interest in holistic medicine (reasonable approach, particularly in the area of psychiatric medicine) led to training in Vanguard Endocrinology (a 12 hour certificate training programme offered by a dietary supplement company). The instructor for this course is also on the board of directors for said dietary supplement company. The learning objectives for this course are:

  • Dramatically increase your practice income with nutritional products and services based on a proven clinical model.

  • Gain clinical certainty in understanding & evaluating laboratory testing for hormonally related chronic disorders.

  • Create a dynamic integrative clinical practice from one of the foremost opinion leaders in the field of hormones.

The introductory session included discussion on the following:

• Allopathic Medicine vs. Integrative Medicine

• Hormones as the Messengers of Stress and as the “Yellow Canaries”

• The Biochemistry of Hormones and Endocrine Imbalance

• Achieving Hormone Balance Through Detoxification, Intestinal Health, Environmental Factors, Sugar Regulation and an Anti- inflammatory Approach

• A Successful Clinical 28-Day Hormone Detoxification Program

• Products and Protocols for Hormonal Balance

• Q& A

Cost: $35 (Dinner included, and paying attendees receive a credit voucher toward XYMOGEN formulas)

To register contact:

Richard Malkin

XYMOGEN Functional Medicine Consultant

908-310-7333 (or e-mail: richard.malkin@xymogen.com)

See their facebook page which shamelessly states as the first objective “Dramatically increase your practice income with nutritional products…..”

This is akin to a practising medical doctor taking a course provided by a pharmaceutical company, receiving a certificate and then selling their products directly after receiving credit vouchers at the course. This is not ethical. See what happens when big pharma try just the first part of  this on!!!

XYMOGEN is a manufacturer and distributor of neutraceuticals (dietary supplements). At this point we seem to have veered off into pseudoscience and quackery (as her own blog on flu vaccines will attest to).  Brogan’s misinterpretation (at best) of the evidence and use of material from non-evidence based journals such as the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons which make claims such as HIV does not cause AIDS,  Global Warming is good and not a cause for concern and many other thoroughly discredited claims suggest that she is no longer interested in evidence based medicine. It is also worth noting that she is highly critical of pharmaceutical companies but quite happy to promote  and presumably take a profit from neutraceuticals which have far less scientific evidence to support use than licensed and regulated medicines  (see disclaimer at bottom of the page).

One more example of Brogan’s failure to understand evidence is the example she gives of a study on the impact of influenza among pregnant women conducted in Australia and NZ published in the prestigious NEJM.  She flippantly states that:

Pregnant patients are not at higher risk, do not die more frequently or suffer more complications from influenza…..  Additionally, based on this study of 250,000 pregnant women in Australia and New Zealand, only 0.03% were admitted to the ICU for H1N1 complications and there is suspicion that obesity was the underlying driver of these complications.

Come on Kelly, you are really misrepresenting this study. What the study says is :

  • We identified infants (0 to 1 year of age) and adults 25 to 64 years of age to be at particular risk. Pregnant women, adults with a BMI greater than 35, and indigenous Australian and New Zealand populations also appeared to have an increased risk. In-hospital mortality, estimated on the basis of data available at the time of this report, exceeded 16%.

  • The proportion of patients who were admitted to an ICU and were pregnant, had chronic lung disease, had a BMI greater than 35, or were indigenous to Australia or New Zealand were all higher than the corresponding proportions in the general population. Finally, a third of our patients were young or middle-aged adults who neither were pregnant nor had a known coexisting condition.

And the conclusions of a Systematic Review on the 2009 pandemic influenza on pregnancy :

As predicted based on experience with seasonal influenza and previous pandemics,1 pregnant women were quickly identified as a high-risk group for severe complications of 2009 H1N1 influenza, including hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and death……. Pregnancy was associated with increased risk of hospital and intensive care unit admission and of death. Pregnant women who received delayed treatment with neuraminidase inhibitors or who had additional risk factors were more likely to develop severe disease. Preterm and emergency cesarean deliveries were frequently reported. These results reinforce the importance of early identification and treatment of suspected influenza in this high-risk population.

Flying in the face of science; sunshine, XYMOGEN neutraceuticals and butterflies do not always make everything better.

Despite a promising and prestigious education in psychiatric medicine, Kelly Brogan appears to have no qualifications in, published research on or clinical experience in the areas of infectious diseases, microbiology, immunology, epidemiology or in particular, vaccines and she seems to be using her status as a medical doctor to provide inaccurate and misleading information about vaccines – an attribution to false authority to expose a hidden truth somehow overlooked by the thousands of scientists and physicians who have spent their careers assessing vaccines and immunisation programmes.


31 Responses to “Dr Kelly Brogan and the case of the misplaced science”

  • “Flying in the face of science; sunshine, XYMOGEN neutraceuticals and butterflies do not always make everything better.”

    You forgot unicorns 😉

    Great critique.

  • Fantastic article, Helen. A pity Dr Brogen’s background reading wasn’t as robust as yours when she wrote that article.

    • Thanks Michael. I hear Kelly has tweeted some VAERS data claiming a boy has died after receiving gardasil.
      I think that pretty well nails her to the realms of bunkum.

  • What worries me is that this scaremongering behaviour is becoming more and more popular; ‘real’ scientists create scares and dismiss important information because they feel like it. Dr. Brogen has dismissed HPV vaccines because cervical cancer is rare, and suggests that reactive rather than preventative medicine is the way to go- it worries me that people can’t seem to see how short-sighted this is.

  • When people who are apparently well-educated and seemingly well-qualified in their field-such as Dr Kelly Brogan in psychiatry stray from their area of expertise and become self-appointed mouthpieces for pseudoscience, what is their motivation? Why choose this course of action?

    There are many different theories which attempt to explain motivation. Maslow’s theory of Hierarchal Need was developed between 1943 and 1954, and first widely published in Motivation and Personality in 1954. The Hierarchy of Needs model comprised five needs.
    http://datadesign.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs1.jpg

    The idea is that you progress to the next need as each lower need is met. In an organisational context, ‘Physiological needs’ can be satisfied with pay or working conditions, and ‘Safety needs’ with job security; these are the ‘Basic’ needs.
    Basic needs in an organisational context can be satisfied with pay or working conditions (Physiological) and Safety with Job security.
    Psychological needs of ‘Belongingness and love’ are met with professional associations, and ‘Esteem needs’ with recognition, job title, and high status of job.
    It is the final level in which a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them. I suspect it is this level that can sent the usually sane off on a tangent. The ‘Self-fulfilment’ or ‘Self-actualization’ involves opportunities for growth (taking on a challenge), achievement (measured by work), advancement (promotion), and creativity.
    Behaviors that lead to self-actualization:
    a. Experiencing life, with full absorption and concentration, like a child;
    b. Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
    c. Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
    d. Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
    e. Taking responsibility and working hard;
    f. Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up
    So you can be childish, careless with facts, vain and disrespectful to still self-actualize.

    ‘There are no perfect human beings’ (Maslow, 1970a, p. 176).

  • Wonderful sleuthing Helen and a fascinating follow up about Maslow’s theory, thanks Tee Pee. Re neutriceuticals, Tod Cooperman is an excellent debunker. The product testing his company Consumerlabs does regularly exposes the most fraudulent claims and mislabelling. Ennooki 8ame

  • It is also interesting to note that despite claiming to care about those who have been harmed by psychiatry, Dr. Brogan charges almost 1,000 dollars for an initial consult and 450 for any 40 minute follow ups. She can’t even sacrifice an entire 50 minutes.
    I understand that many docs in NYC feel they have earned the right to charge a premium and shun insurance payments, but when your fees are so outrageous your clientele will be limited to the 1% not those most in need.

    She also seems to only keep office hours until about 3 pm, 3 days a week. Despite her many five stars reviews, Dr. Brogan’s calendar seems to be wide open. I suspect she has more youtube videos than patients and/or this work is some sort of hobby for her. Perhaps she is angling for a chat show.

  • Ah, yes, another pretentious ass defending the profit-driven lies of Western medicine…

    Dr. Brogan is logical, concise, understands the role of nutrition in disease resistance at a level you clearly never will, and considers the needs of her patients over pulling out the prescription pad for a one size fits all fix.

    Your position is immoral and contemptible, and well-read parents see right through blogs like this. Go inject yourself with something, since you seem to be positive that health is manufactured.

  • I completely agree with Dr. Kelly Brogan and applaud her for stepping out of the mainstream lies and propaganda. I also agree with Dan Hill, above. I personally know of 5 families whose babies and toddlers went Autistic after a vaccine.

    • Hi Myriam
      The point I try to make is that anyone can have an opinion but no one can have their own facts. The science clearly shows that vaccinated children are no more likely to be autistic than unvaccinated children. Massive studies that include millions of children both vaccinated and unvaccinated contribute to this fact. When we confuse correlation with causation we can run into trouble. This is a basic fallacy Post hoc, ergo propter hoc which means assuming what comes after is caused by what comes first. While it is easy to believe what makes intuitive sense to us it does not actually make it so, whether we like it or not.

  • Kelly Brogan is a typical anti-vaccine doctor. She has no publications in the field, makes embarrassing science errors in her writing and takes quotes out of context to deceive her readers. She tells them what they want to hear- Big Pharma is bad- but is literally one of the most corporate doctors I have run across.

    She has her own supplement store:
    https://www.healthwavehq.com/welcome/kbrogan

    She shills for products of companies she advises.

    She is constantly selling DVDs for “detox” seminars on her Facebook page.

    She is brilliant at what she does though, so that her unthinking fans don’t even know they are being advertised to. Sorry Myriam.

  • Hmmmm. Myriam. That’s a bit scary.

    I know no-one who’s child “went Autistic” after vaccination and the common factor there is that none of them know you.

    Have you considered that you may be causal – that children have a high risk of ‘going Autistic’ after contact with you?

  • Are you kidding me? I’m just wondering what big pharma company is paying you to write this stuff?
    Why is it that in the Amish community where they do not vaccinate the incidence of Autism is almost zero?
    There have been so many parents who say they’re children were fine until they got vaccinated, of course I’m sure that they are all lying.
    Why is there a court set up just for damaged vaccinated children? Why have they payed out in the Billions for harmed childrent?
    Why is it that the Vaccine manufacturers have no liability? You can’t sue them for vaccine related deaths or injury.
    Gardisil is made for one reason and one reason only to make money for the drug manufacturers. I personally know someone who’s niece was severly impacted after receiving the Gardisil vaccine. Go and check out some of the horrific Youtube videos of young girls who have died from this vaccine.
    How can any intelligent human being not put the correlation between the ever increasing amounts of vaccines that are given to children and the resultant amount of Autistic children that are being born now? It’s pure stupidity and ignorance to believe whatever the drug companies and our governments are telling us about the safety of vaccines.
    There have been 14 studies done regarding the connection between Autism and vaccines. All of them were conducted by the same drug companies that produce the vaccines. Do you honestly believe that they were all done above board and are true?
    I mean obviously the good old USA would never let anything like that happen right? We can trust the FDA and our Congress to do the right thing. They are all upstanding wonderful Americans who would never put their own personal gain ahead of the American people.
    They are owned by the drug companies and they are owned by big business and that now includes our Supreme Court too.
    Our country is a mess and you aren’t helping the problem by tearing apart people who are anti-vaccine.
    I would suggest that perhaps you need to go and truly find the research (which I admit is hard to do, because anything that comes out negative about vaccines is quickly surpressed) and learn the truth. Not what you’ve been force fed by our government and the FDA.
    The vaccine experiment has been a giant failure for people’s health, but great for the pocketbook of the drug companies and everyone that they have manged to buy off.

    • Fair questions, I have addressed directly below.

      Are you kidding me? I’m just wondering what big pharma company is paying you to write this stuff?

      No I am not kidding you and I don’t get any pharma money. I do this in my own time (am writing this on Sunday)

      Why is it that in the Amish community where they do not vaccinate the incidence of Autism is almost zero?

      How do you know this? Do you have any reliable information to substantiate this claim? Science blogger ORAC has addressed the author of what I assume is the source of this strange idea. Here is this link.

      There have been so many parents who say they’re children were fine until they got vaccinated, of course I’m sure that they are all lying.

      No, of course they are not lying. However in order not to confuse anecdotal evidence with what is really occurring one requires scientific studies. The question is “do vaccines cause this?’ and then investigate the question scientifically. Do you want national policies being based on anecdotal evidence or rigorous scientific research?

      Why is there a court set up just for damaged vaccinated children? Why have they payed out in the Billions for harmed childrent? Why is it that the Vaccine manufacturers have no liability? You can’t sue them for vaccine related deaths or injury.

      There is a vaccine injury fund because vaccine companies stopped making vaccines because people tried to sue them. As vaccines are considered by every government in the world to be one of the cornerstones of public health it was considered desirable to set up this fund. The money in the fund comes from the pharma companies who provide the vaccines. They have not paid out billions. However there is billions sitting there which is a nice motivation for litigation lawyers don’t you think? Here is a link to my previous comments of the vaccine injury courts

      Gardisil is made for one reason and one reason only to make money for the drug manufacturers.

      Um, yes, drug manufacturers are definitely in the business of making money. The companies who make Garadsil and Cervarix would most definitely hope to recoup their significant costs for brining the vaccine to market and then to make a profit.

      I personally know someone who’s niece was severly impacted after receiving the Gardisil vaccine. Go and check out some of the horrific Youtube videos of young girls who have died from this vaccine.

      Horrible Youtube clips do not inform us about causality or vaccine safety.

      How can any intelligent human being not put the correlation between the ever increasing amounts of vaccines that are given to children and the resultant amount of Autistic children that are being born now?

      An intelligent human being will look at the considerable amount of scientific evidence on the subject and make a rational judgment. Here is a link to some of the scientific evidence. My blog here has a link to a Cochrane review on the topic which summarises the evidence.

      It’s pure stupidity and ignorance to believe whatever the drug companies and our governments are telling us about the safety of vaccines.

      Why do you lump drug companies with governments? Governments rely on scientific evidence to make their positions on vaccine safety. While some studies are funded by pharma they are not necessarily all fraudulent, there is a pretty rigorous external peer review process that goes on that may not be perfect but works pretty well overall, and many other studies are funded by other sources.

      There have been 14 studies done regarding the connection between Autism and vaccines. All of them were conducted by the same drug companies that produce the vaccines. Do you honestly believe that they were all done above board and are true?

      This is incorrect. There are many more than 14 studies and most of them if not all are NOT funded by drug companies. Here is a link to a breif summary and a list of some of the papers.

      I mean obviously the good old USA would never let anything like that happen right? We can trust the FDA and our Congress to do the right thing. They are all upstanding wonderful Americans who would never put their own personal gain ahead of the American people. They are owned by the drug companies and they are owned by big business and that now includes our Supreme Court too.

      Well I wouldn’t know, personally I am not a huge fan of US politics, as you say, a lot of influence by big business. I would not rely on the US for everything. Fortunately, the United States is not the only country in the world, something many Americans may not realise. Europe, South America, Canada, Africa, Asia, Australia and NZ actually do research too, funded by independent sources.

      Our country is a mess and you aren’t helping the problem by tearing apart people who are anti-vaccine.

      People like Kelly Brogen are destructive to public health. You accuse me of being funded by pharma, which I am not yet Dr Brogan is the one who had financial conflicts of interest.

      I would suggest that perhaps you need to go and truly find the research (which I admit is hard to do, because anything that comes out negative about vaccines is quickly surpressed) and learn the truth. Not what you’ve been force fed by our government and the FDA.

      Here is a link to some research my team and I did on the safety of a vaccine. As you can see, it is quite negative for one particular vaccine. The study was funded by three pharama companies, one of whom were the manufacturer onf the reactogenic vaccine. THey knew the outcome of the study would likely implicate their vaccine but have not tried to hide the fact. They have endevoured to learn from it. There are many other examples of well conducted studies in the literature on vaccine safety. Perhaps you could look for the work on flu vaccines and narcolepsy. As above, I have no interest in the US FDA or your government. That said, the US CDC and other organsiations have some outstanding vaccine researchers who take vaccine safety extremely seriously. For example the Vaccine Safety Datalink Project. Here is a link.

      The vaccine experiment has been a giant failure for people’s health, but great for the pocketbook of the drug companies and everyone that they have manged to buy off.

      Cheer up. Vaccines have saved billions of lives and prevented untold misery. They are the safest of medicines in use. They are not perfect but they are pretty damn good.

  • Great critique! I was researching flu vaccines and came across the website/blog of Kelly Brogan. I read some of the material and then went back to her credentials and like you have pointed out – very questionable, like her arguments and scientific reasoning.

  • I am amazed by all these holistic, celeb, doctors,even dr. oz has come under criticism although there is a debate as to whether or not he is even close to as bad as these folks.

    The holistic community will scream “Big Pharma”, but not “Big holistic”. Nevermind that over 80% of commonly used medicines are generics, and often cost under a nickel per pill. The natural foods industry is a big business too, is arsenic natural? Salmonella? You bet.

    The question is about science based medicine, even prominent scientific researches often question big pharma medicines such as psychotropic drugs and statins although again many of these medicines are generic.

    People like to hear “what they want to hear”, not “what they need to hear”. Which gives birth to folks like dr. mercola, midwives with little training that homebirths can be dangerous, and unless a woman goes through full labor without pain medicine then she isn’t a “full,bonded, mother”, or having the placenta. Yes, of course everything is a risk even though the risk of death could be 2-3 times at a homebirth a low-risk pregnancy say from 0.3 to 0.6% risk, many have many doctors and women give birth of home, but its informed and not psuedo-science that says obgyns are rarely needed. Nevermind the high cost of malpractice insurance, and the cost of c-sections to the hospital, it would be cheaper to just allow injured patients not to be able to sue if they are poor.

    I could use the same argument with a science based aspect “popping that statin may seem like an easy fix but it would replace the benefits of certain dietary and excercise changes which can raise hdl cholesterol even ones statins don’t raise”. Again, most people don’t want to hear that either.

  • I meant statins wouldn’t replace certain natural alternatives or behavioral changes that are useful to the body. Also that can be the same when it comes to mental health, a person who doesn’t need medication that is no more effective than placebo (Science studies), and better use of psychotherapy, and behavioral and environmental changes v. a person who says “Aaah i’ll just take a pill for my problems”.

    So science is not necessarily pro big pharma. Is washing your hands with soap “big pharma”, I could even that big pharma or big medicine is against science since preventible scientific based methods like clealiness, or not overusing anti-biotics or cutting out carbs without physical activity, would mean big pharma would lose money but people like convenience

  • I actually find this article quite misleading, while proposing the same of Dr. Brogan. First off, Dr. Brogan’s only accomplishment outside of her training as a physician is by no means simply from the supplement company, Xymogen “to increase her patient revenue.” She is board certified by ABIHM, which, if you’re familiar, is no walk in the park.

    Additionally, as accusitory as you are of Dr. Brogan and anti-vaccine proponents alike, I find it difficult not to consider your stance on the matter skewed, your objectivity compromised simply secondary to your professional position at vaccine advisory center.

    Most confusing is the implication that vaccines actually are not harmful, which I cannot imagine you sincerely believe seeing as the US government has paid out 3 BILLION dollars for vaccine injuries since the 1980’s. I think what is being mainly implied by Dr Brogan is the stance that one-sized-fits-all-medicine cannot be healthily applied in the case mass immunization. Mainly because, as the 3 billion dollars reflects, something is going wrong, not with the majority of the population, but with some, and those children and lives matter.

  • Agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of the aforementioned McCall. Helen, with respect, I think the most effective means of convincing many of us who are remarkably unconvinced would be for you set up a videoed discussion, debate, whatever you want to call it, lasting no less than 45 minutes with Dr Kelly Brogan herself and see how you go. You might then consider releasing it on social media (all going well for you, of course). Given your trepidation about YouTube, you might choose a different form of representation. Change the tide a bit. Because as you are perhaps aware, such debates pretty much never transpire, and many of us are wondering whether it’s not so much due to the ‘it’s not a debate worth having’ form of arrogant reasoning, but rather whether it’s actually because you’ll walk out with egg on your face. So go ahead, gather your materials, change the tide, and contact Kelly. Good luck.

  • Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of vaccination should check out Project Tycho at the university of Pittsburg http://www.tycho.pitt.edu/, which is a database including data from all weekly notifiable disease reports for the United States dating back to 1888.

    Example charts, including for measles are here
    http://laughingsquid.com/a-series-of-heat-maps-showing-the-correlation-between-vaccinations-and-the-occurrence-of-infectious-diseases/

    The charts plot the frequency of cases (per 100,000) versus time for different US states.

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