Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud’

A now-retracted study linking autism to vaccine was an “elaborate fraud,” concludes an investigation published by BMJ, a British medical journal.

The study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, “misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study,” charges investigator Brian Deer. Of the 12 cases in Wakefield’s paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism, said Fiona Godlee, the journal’s editor.

Wakefield received $674,000 from lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers, BMJ reports.  He also hoped to make money from  diagnostic and other tests for autism and MMR-related issues, said Godlee.

Wakefield was stripped of his medical license earlier this year.

“Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession,” BMJ states.

The now-discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80 percent by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.

Measles cases are up in the U.S. as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90 percent of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown.

“But perhaps as important as the scare’s effect on infectious disease is the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to help children and families who live with it,” the BMJ editorial states.

Evidence of fraud isn’t likely to change the minds of true believers. The damage continues.

Researcher fudged data on vaccine danger

The British doctor who started the scare over a link between the MMR vaccine and autism “changed and misreported results in his research,” charges a Times of London investigation.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

After the paper was published in 1998, rates of inoculation fell from 92% to below 80%.

Last week official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported last year, compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease.

Here are details on the 12 children in the study.

Wakefield worked for a lawyer trying to build a case against vaccine manufacturers, emphasizes Mike Dunford on The Questionable Authority.  Some of the parents came to Wakefield’s clinic in hopes of proving the vaccine caused their children’s problems.

Will this change minds?

Italian study: Thimerosal not linked to autism

Yet another study shows no link between vaccines and autism, reports NPR.  “In the early 1990s, thousands of healthy Italian babies in a study of whooping cough vaccines got two different amounts of the preservative thimerosal,” which some fear causes autism.

Only one case of autism was found, and that was in the group that got the lower level of thimerosal.

Alison Singer, executive vice president of communications and awareness at Autism Speaks, recently resigned over the vaccine issue.

“Dozens of credible scientific studies have exonerated vaccines as a cause of autism,” she wrote in a statement. “I believe we must devote limited funding to more promising avenues of autism research.”

Singer, who has an 11-year-old daughter with autism, told Newsweek the vaccine question has been resolved. “We need to be able to say, ‘Yes, we are now satisfied that the earth is round’.”