The Skeptic reported that a cardiologist and one of the UK’s most influential critics of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr Aseem Malhotra, has been named the 2023 recipient of the “Rusty Razor” award, the prize given by The Skeptic to the year’s worst promoters of pseudoscience.
Dr Malhotra has made a name for himself over the last decade as a cardiologist who advocates strongly against the broad use of statins. He has described the drugs as a multi-billion dollar “con” by the pharmaceutical industry, saying that his critics have “received millions in research funding from the pharmaceutical industry”. He has described the link between heart disease and saturated fat as a “myth”, drawing criticism from the British Heart Foundation.
In 2017, his book The Pioppi Diet put forward a diet that he claimed could prevent 20 million deaths per year from cardiovascular disease. The book was named by the British Dietetic Association as one of the celebrity diets to most avoid – with the BDA highlighting his apparently Mediterranean diet excluded pasta and bread, but included coconuts.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Malhotra has been a prolific and powerful voice spreading narratives that run contrary to the best available evidence. In 2021, his book The 21-Day Immunity Plan included a diet claimed to improve the immune system and help fight off infections – claims that drew criticism from medical professionals.
In 2022, Dr Malhotra released a paper claiming that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines posed a serious risk to cardiovascular health and that the vaccines were “at best a reckless gamble”. The paper was published in the Journal of Insulin Resistance – where Dr Malhotra sits on the editorial board.
Dr Malhotra and his campaign against the COVID-19 vaccine was subsequently praised in Parliament by Andrew Bridgen MP as part of the reasoning behind his ongoing anti-vaccine crusade. In January of this year, Dr Malhotra used a BBC interview about statins to claim that deaths from coronary artery disease were actually complications from the vaccine, prompting a slew of complaints, and an apology from the broadcaster.
The Skeptic Editor Michael Marshall said: “In our opinion, Dr Malhotra has been an incredibly prolific promoter of pseudoscience throughout the pandemic, including spreading the false notion that vaccines are responsible for thousands of excess deaths.
“Dr Malhotra’s media career has given him a very large platform, from which he spreads misinformation that undermines confidence in a health intervention that has saved the lives of countless people across the world. In doing so, he stokes the flames of conspiracy, paranoia and mistrust of medical consensus.
“For anyone with so large a platform to do this would be concerning enough, but Dr Malhotra shares these pseudoscientific messages as a registered medical professional whose opinions have influenced at least one current member of parliament.
“All of this, we feel, makes Dr Aseem Malhotra a highly deserving winner of the 2023 Rusty Razor award”
The ‘Rusty Razor’ award was announced as part of The Skeptic’s annual Ockham Awards at a ceremony that took place during Saturday’s QED conference on science and skepticism, in Manchester. Also recognised during the event was the Knowledge Fight podcast, who won the 2023 award for Skeptical Activism.
I agree, Malhortra is a deserverd winner. The prize raises, in my view, an important question:
WHAT ON EARTH IS THE GENERAL MEDICIN COUNCIL (GMC) DOING ABOUT THIS GUY?
Malhotra’s activities have been compared to the case of Andrew Wakefield who falsely claimed that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism. While Wakefield was ultimately struck off by the GMC in 2010, the regulator has so far rebuffed repeated pleas to investigate Dr Malhotra.
The BMJ recently reported that Dr. Matt Kneale, who had previously complained to the GMC about the conduct of Aseem Malhotra, was told that the GMC would not be investigating Malhotra because his statements were not sufficiently “egregious” to merit action and he had a right to “freedom of speech.” Kneale’s appeal against this decision in 2023 was also turned down.
Kneale has now filed a claim with the High Court, arguing that the GMC should consider not only whether a doctor’s behaviour could harm individual patients but also whether their actions undermined public trust in medicine. He said that this was particularly important when examining statements relating to vaccines, where doctors with a high profile on social media could potentially cause great harm.