The Vaccine Research Trust has traditionally funded research into vaccines against infectious diseases since it was founded in 1982. This Birmingham based charity has been extremely fortunate to have been supported by local businesses and organisations in the past which has facilitated critical and valuable research towards the prevention of infections for which there is no vaccine or cure and which needlessly claim many lives every year. Some of our projects have included research into vaccines against AIDS, chickenpox and MRSA (the hospital bug). More recently, the Vaccine Research Trust is supporting analysis of Dr Gordon Skinner’s unique thyroid work. It is hoped that this area of work will add knowledge towards providing better healthcare for patients.
Dr Gordon Skinner
Gordon Skinner was born in Glasgow in 1942 and attended Kelvinside Academy Grammar School where he was duxproxima accessit. Dr Skinner was married with a daughter Fiona and two sons Niall and David; his wife Janet was a school teacher who sadly passed away in December 2003. He graduated in Medicine at the University of Glasgow in 1965 and following house jobs in Glasgow and Midlands of England specialised in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and later in Virology and in 1976 became Senior Lecturer in Medical Microbiology at the University of Birmingham with Consultant status at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Dr Skinner’s research portfolio for which he was awarded the prestigious Doctorate of Science by the University of Birmingham can be found in his CV.
His research has also extended to the clinical arena. Over twenty years ago he was asked by colleagues to see patients who were considered to have myalgic encephalopathy or chronic fatigue syndrome or post viral syndrome or post viral fatigue on account of his interest in virus disease. He noted that a number of these patients had clinical features of hypothyroidism but had ‘normal’ levels of thyroid hormones which would lead most workers in the field to reject a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Dr Skinner has since treated and returned to health many patients who were clinically hypothyroid but had normal thyroid chemistry and reported these results in a preliminary paper entitled “Clinical response to thyroxine sodium in clinically hypothyroid but biochemically euthyroid patients”. He was disappointed that many doctors have little enthusiasm or will to examine this critical shortfall in patient care which in part motivated his book “Diagnosis and Management of Hypothyroidism”. This book was written to draw attention of the medical profession to a major faux pas in the care of patients with hypothyroidism. This arises from the inexplicable refusal of the medical profession to recognise that patients can suffer from hypothyroidism when the thyroid chemistry is deemed to be ‘normal’ if the free thyroxine or the thyroid stimulating hormone lie between 95% reference intervals. There is a further problem that when a patient is diagnosed as hypothyroid many patients receive too low levels of thyroid replacement through servile reliance on thyroid chemistry with (often) cavalier disregard of how the patient feels accompanied by an implicit and bizarre belief that a level of thyroid hormone is a better index of wellbeing than the patient’s own view of his/her wellbeing.
This situation has arisen from the mindless deification of ‘evidence-based medicine’ which usually means laboratory-based-medicine where one chooses the evidence which suits and ignores evidence which doesn’t suit. There is no evidence that the efficacy of thyroid replacement is better correlated with levels of thyroid chemistry than with the initial clinical picture nor clinical outcome and in a small pilot study the author has provided preliminary evidence of this assertion. A second issue concerns use of a porcine thyroid extract (Armour Thyroid) which was used extensively in the United Kingdom until introduction of synthetic hormones but was removed from the British National Formulary for reasons which remain unclear. Dr Skinner argues that there is a place for this preparation in a number of patients and practitioners who use all three thyroid preparations namely thyroxine, triiodothyronine and natural thyroid extract (Armour Thyroid) have all seen patients who benefit from Armour Thyroid. It is often posited that the matter has not been put to placebo controlled trial which is true and there has never been a clinical trial comprising different preparations; it is therefore nothing short of presumptuous to proclaim blanket condemnation for a product on the bizarre assumption that if a comparison between this product and another product has never been made the more recently developed synthetic products are de facto more efficacious; proposition that the composition of recent batches of Armour Thyroid is not known seems unlikely given that the product has been under scrutiny for many years in both the United Kingdom and The United States.
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Meet the team
Judy retired, as a senior manager, from Marks and Spencer PLC in 2008 and brings 'big business', analytical, financial and people management skills to Vaccine Research Trust. She was delighted to be asked to become Chairman as she understands the importance of the work the Trust does and is motivated to ensure it continues.
Jim graduated in Mathematics and Computer Science and worked as a computer programmer until hypothyroidism forced him into early retirement in 2003. He has special interest in the effects endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and subnormal TSH secretion have on thyroid hormone action. Jim is keen to engender good science in thyroidology and to promote a wider recognition of Dr Skinner’s outstanding contribution to medicine.
Fiona was elected Chairman of the Trust in 2014 after the passing of her father and founder Dr Gordon Skinner. She stepped down at the end of 2015 so Judy could pick up the mantle and continue the good work. She has a BA (hons) degree from Kings College London in Spanish and English. Fiona has worked as a fundraiser for the Trust for the last 10 years and is committed to achieving its long term research goals that her father worked for all his life.
David has a degree in French and Business Information Technology Systems. When he is not co-ordinating fund raising efforts for the Trust he works for CGI as a Business Consultant. David is passionate about continuing the work that his father dedicated his life to and helping the Trust to support the work that the team is currently undertaking.
Letter from the Chairman
'Dr Gordon Skinner, the founder of Vaccine Research Trust, devoted the last 17 years of his remarkable medical career to the care of patients with clinical signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism but blood tests within the reference range. These patients suffer greatly due to the present Guidelines which consider blood tests as the only criteria for diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism. He diagnosed and treated patients on full clinical assessment, as well as blood tests, rather than blood tests alone and treated them with synthetic or natural thyroid hormone replacement therapy. We have extensive data from Dr Skinner’s practice on the treatment of patients who are biochemically euthyroid but clinically hypothyroid. As the majority of clinicians only treat patients who have abnormal blood tests, information from Dr Skinner’s patients is vital in adding to knowledge towards better understanding of hypothyroidism in this group of patients. Experts in the field believe there is no other database in the world of such detailed information on the treatment of patients who are clinically hypothyroid but biochemically euthyroid. It is therefore essential to analyse and publish this information towards better education of future physicians in this specialty. Privileged to act as Chairman of Trustees for VRT, I am determined to ensure that Dr Skinner’s critical work is analysed and published to help better understand this illness and alleviate untold suffering. His outstanding contribution to medical science should be acknowledged and will be of inestimable benefit to future generations.'
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