It's Official: Trial Lawyers Manufactured the Vaccine Autism Scare

From CNN:

A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes 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 -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.

"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."

Why anyone took a study serioiusly based on a population of 12 whole people always amazed me.  Anyway, to continue:

Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers -- a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose. After years on controversy, the Lancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research, retracted Wakefield's paper last February.

The series of articles launched Wednesday are investigative journalism, not results of a clinical study. The writer, Brian Deer, said Wakefield "chiseled" the data before him, "falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare."

According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers. Godlee said the study shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism.

"It's always hard to explain fraud and where it affects people to lie in science," Godlee said. "But it does seem a financial motive was underlying this, both in terms of payments by lawyers and through legal aid grants that he received but also through financial schemes that he hoped would benefit him through diagnostic and other tests for autism and MMR-related issues."

Wakefield has been responsible for a whole lot of misery and probably not a few deaths over the last decade.  Just losing his medical license, which happened earlier this year, is getting off cheap.

  • Fred from Canuckistan

    Wow . . this Wakefield guy is qualified to be a climate scientist with that kind of "science".

  • ben

    Warren, I agree with your last line but what I don't understand is when climate scientists similarly fabricate results leading directly and forseeably to the commandeering of billions of dollars of resources, you seem to be cool with letting academia deal with this in-house. A contradiction, or am I misreading your position? Dawkins once noted the trouble that can be unintentionally created from a willingness to bend over backwards to side with your opponent on some points in a desire to win on other more important points - is this what is going on?

  • Mike Fe.

    Several articles on huffingtonpost.com have peddling this vaccine scare junk. I think the whooping cough vaccine is a different one, but the fright is the same. It's hard to know how many of these cases are because they or the people they are around have deliberately avoided the vaccine. But it's an epidemic! This jackass could have killed a few kids.

    Summary:
    From Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2010, there's been 7,297 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of pertussis in California. This is the highest number of cases since 1947 and the highest incidence of cases since 1958.

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6075236/worst_over_in_california_whooping_cough.html

  • Mike Fe.

    Geez, look how watered down that huffingtonpost.com piece is. At least they put it on the front page. They washed Wakefield receiving $674,000 from the lawyers. Their archives are full of this MMR scare stuff. That's kind of evil, I'd say.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/05/vaccine-autism-study-report_n_805036.html

  • John David Galt

    I had the impression Wakefield was in the pay of a rival vaccine maker, not of lawyers.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tomchivers/100008226/mmr-autism-scare-so-farewell-then-dr-andrew-wakefield/

  • http://www.popehat.com Ken
  • Mike Fe.

    John David Galt - From your May 24, 2010 article it says this. That seems like the same, I think. I'm a little more pissed off at how this controversy has lasted 10 years, with vocal Hollywood stars frightening people for years.

    "It has since emerged that he earned £400,000 in fees as an expert witness for campaign groups preparing a lawsuit on behalf of parents of autistic children."

  • Craig

    Mike, the whooping cough vaccine is a different story. Many of the people who get that disease were vaccinated. That vaccine wears off quite quickly.

  • Jeff C.

    Thousands of parents that watched their children regress into autism after vaccination might disagree with your assessment. I should know, I'm one of them. I'm not a wacko, I'm a skeptical EE that has spent the last two years studying vaccine safety issues.

    This was not about one study. They destroyed Wakefield, but there are many others. This won't go away.

    Why are autism rates 1:110 today when they were 1:5000 when we were kids? Today's kids get 36 vaccine doses by the time they two, more than double what we got. Kids are vaccinated against things that used to be considered harmless to children such flu, chicken pox and rotavirus. Kids are vaccinated against things they have no chance of catching such as Hepatitis B (unless your toddler is shooting drugs or frequenting prostitutes). The medical establishment's response is "We have no idea what is causing autism, but it just can't be vaccines". Parents of ASD children have come to the conclusion that sentence ends with "because we make to much money from them".

    Vaccines are huge business for the pharmaceutical industry, the researchers (including the CDC), and pediatricians. What makes you think they are so pristine? Vaccine manufactures are indemnified against liability by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Childhood_Vaccine_Injury_Act) Since then, the infant vaccine schedule has exploded. It's quite a racket, they have no legal liability for their product and customers are forced by the states to purchase it. Is there any other product in a comparable position?

    Vaccines are a cash cow for all involved. Just maybe the motives of those crucifying Wakefield aren't so noble.

    Enough about the theoretical piles of dead kids. Try walking for a few years in the shoes of a parent with an autistic kid and see if you feel the same way.

  • Jeff C.

    Regarding pertussis in California, the Watchdog Institute and KPBS surveyed the county health departments and found around 60% of those afflicted were fully immunized.

    http://www.watchdoginstitute.org/2010/12/13/whooping-cough-epidemic-california/

  • Zog

    Jeff,

    And of course you have conclusive evidence that your kid's autism was caused by vaccination. It's always nice to have a "known cause" for everything that happens - especially if it's something that "wasn't your fault".

    You are a brainwashed, primative victim of mass hysteria.

  • Jeff C.

    Zog - just how much research have you done on this subject? I gave you a few links to back up my claims. I can supply plenty of articles and studies in pubmed documenting vaccine injury. You through out an ad hom. I suspect your research is limited to your disapproval of Jenny McCarthy.

    BTW, if you are going to call me primitive, at least spell it right.

  • el coronado

    i'm no scientist and (probably) won't ever get a nobel prize (jealousy is such an *ugly* thing, isn't it?), but i have noticed one thing in the autism/vaccine debate that's been raging for the last decade or so. the 'vaccines cause autism' camp, or more poignantly, the parents of autistic kids, point out several and various facts and statistics, of which i'll limit myself to 2. 1)"why has the autism rate (evidently) exploded over the last couple of generations?" (if jeff's right, they've gone from 1 in 5000 to 1 in 110. that's a MASSIVE increase, on any scale.) 2)"why is mercury (still) being used as an ingredient/component of vaccines? even after studies have shown that even tiny amounts of the stuff have seriously bad effects on neo-natal and infant brain development, especially boys?" (and, wonder of wonders, it seems that boys suffer from autism much more than girls.)

    i don't know the answers to these questions, but they seem to be logical questions worthy of thoughtful, logical answers. and that's where the trouble starts. typically, the folks who address these legitimate issues do so with scorn and reductio ad absurdum "arguments", and after calling the questioners names, run off cackling.

    this is not reassuring. chanting, "the government has assured us it's safe" and "the science is settled" is exactly how questions like 'how did WTC7 collapse when it wasn't hit by a plane and was barely burning?' are "answered". like 'how did an ANFO bomb parked on the street outside the murrah building cause greater damage to support columns farther AWAY FROM the blast than it did to columns closer to it?' are "answered". like - if you want to get waaaay out there - like 'how come we could go to the moon in 1969, but to do so now would take 20 years of planning?' get "answered".

    docs have been known to be wrong before, and have vociferously defended their screwups until they had no choice but to admit they were wrong. google "thalidomide babies" if you doubt it. learn how they universally mocked lister's crazy ideas about O.R. sanitation for **50 years** or so, until they finally gave it a chance and survival rates "miraculously" soared. governments have been lying about their 'national security' screwups since at least 1915, when the 'peaceful, unarmed, carried-no-weapons Lusitania' was sunk by the bloodthirsty huns. (a few years back, divers found some 4,000,000 rounds (!!) of just-right-for-british-rifles .303 ammo on the wreck, along with what was almost certainly artillery pieces.)(whoops.) if you don't want to go that far back, learn how the 'gulf of tonkin resolution' that started the vietnam war for us was a crock, and LBJ *knew it at the time*. consider "weapons of mass destruction". think about "100 million barrels of oil spilled into the gulf of mexico won't hurt the birdies and the fishys. it'll just harmlessly sink to the bottom. we promise."

    are you vaccine defenders SURE you want to use those particular defenses?

  • el coronado

    ....or, to tie the whole "medical whoppers" and government whoppers" theme into a neat little bow, consider A)the infamous 'tuskeegee experiments' B)the 1950 experiments in which clouds of "bacteria" were sprayed in to the air in san francisco by US navy ships docked there C)the 195's coverups of the incidents in which thousands of livestock were killed by radiation, which the USG lied about, and hundreds of people living downwind from nuke test sites were ignored/intentionally misdiagnosed (google "downwinders")D)the 1966 US army experiment in which army scientists dispensed a bacillus subtilis variant into the NYC subway system, to test dispersion rates E)the recent (october 2010) admission in which the USG was "deeply sorry" for having *intentionally infected* 700 or so guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea *without their consent* just to - you know - to see what would happen. think of it as 'tuskeegee 2'.

    those are just SOME of the ones we know about. who wants to bet the REALLY juicy stuff is still so deeply classified that the mere mention of the appropriate code name constitutes "treason"?

    but really, i'm sure this whole autism/vaccine brouhaha is mere talk. after all, as the great sioux warrior sitting bull said, "if you can't trust the government, who can you trust?" SURELY docs and soldiers wouldn't do something that'd cause harm to US citizens, right?

  • Jeff

    El coronado - you forgot to list "the CIA killed JFK" to your list of conspiracy theories.

  • Eric Hammer

    You might also consider that the "100 million barrels of oil" killed about 1600 birds (last I saw) compared to the what, 30,000 or more that wind turbines kill every year in America.

    Everyone lies. Politicians more than most. However, about a ~50x increase in autism rates probably speaks more to diagnosis changes than actual rates. It may actually be probable that "autism" is just one end of a spectrum of normal folks, with both extremes being problematic, and the diagnosis line just being moved around. See "the Obesity Epidemic" that occurred after the government changed their definitions of obese.

    A better guess than "Everything is bad" or "Everything is good" is probably "We really have no real idea, and vaccines probably don't really cause autism, but to be on the safe side, only get the important ones."

  • Bill Duncliffe

    Mike Fe - I'll back up what Craig says. As one who was "fully immunized" as a child and yet contracted whooping cough (pertussis) later in life, let me inform you that I was told by my doctor that it is being discovered that vaccination for pertussis does not last as long as it had long been expected. Thus one reason for the increase in incidence of the condition.

  • Daublin

    What Eric said. It's the same way that we have "more" overweight people and "more" hurricanes. Both the standards for the label have fallen, and the chances of a recorded observation have increased. For autism in particular, I'm guessing there are a lot more promising treatments than there were a few decades ago. As such, there are going to be a lot more parents taking their kids into the doctor's office and asking for miracle drugs.

    Of course, these effects don't mean there isn't a change. It just means that counting the rate of documented cases doesn't tell us how many real cases have changed. Is there any stronger evidence around than counting the documented cases?

    My impression, without having investigated closely, is that the vaccines-cause-autism group is much like the one that says 9/11 didn't happen, or that 9/11 was a U.S. government conspiracy. Lots and lots of discussion is happening without broad-based consideration of whether the effect is really there. If there's something really happening, then there should be strong evidence at hand. Where is it?

  • GoneWithTheWind

    A few months ago a couple were found guilty of manslaughter because they failed to seek medical help for their minor son who subsequently died from his illness. Their religious belief was that praying to god would save their son and seeking medical help was akin to blasphemy. Why shouldn't the DA punish parents of children who become ill from diseases as a result of failure to get a vaccination to prevent the disease?

  • el coronado

    in re JFK, the CIA *couldn't* have whacked him. the government assured us they didn't! the science is settled! but i still have a hard time believing that folks are attributing a 50-fold increase in a given disease to 'more wide-ranging diagnostic criteria'. double? sure. triple? maybe. ten times more? well....possibly.....but **50 times** more cases because "they're counting them differently now"??

    how gullible can ya be?

    meanwhile - again, even though i don't have a dog in this fight - baby boy brains are considerably more sensitive to mercury (which was used as a preservative in vaccines for decades) than baby girl brains. the CDC says that boys have autism at rates of "300%-400%" more than girls do. is there any other non-gender-specific medical condition that hammers one sex so much harder than the other? i don't know of any. so why is it wrong to look at external factors that could be causing this? why does doing so make the parents of autistic kids "brainwashed, primitive victims of mass hysteria" as one commenter so delicately put it? when anyone with a computer can find literally *thousands* of instances in which the government and/or their docs have lied to us about everything under the sun, why should anyone take their solemn "it ain't the vaccine's fault!" pronouncements at face value?

  • http://tangentmart.com Jay

    There's autism, and there's autism *spectrum* disorders, which have become a big diagnosis and, if counted as "autism," bring the number of cases up dramatically. I'd surmise that's at least part of the explosion. Beyond that, perhaps there are really that many more geeks having children together. Put together aspies or borderlines and genetically you're going to get more autistics, and more new aspies. Deb and I knew we were taking a risk, and while we got no autistic kids, all three range from arguably diagnosable as aspie to some traits. The clustering of high rates of autism in high tech regions is fascinating.

  • Dan

    @ el coronado - re: sex differences in genetic conditions - Off the top of my head I can think of hemophillia, ged/green color blindness, fragile X syndrome, Duchenne Muscular Distrophy, and a host of other X-chromosone-linked disorders.

  • http://feralchimp.com jared

    I think you're touching on the reason Wakefield is doubling down on claiming "no shenanigans" in his data collection and reporting. If he admits to falsifying data that was used to prosecute a suit, does he open himself up to criminal prosecution for something like perjury or obstruction of justice?

  • Ben S

    It's hard to blame parents that are upset over this issue. For the rest of us that can be objective, feel free to check out the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, and note their decisions.

    Also this blogger writes often on the subject. I laugh when I hear people talk about the dangers of vaccines, seemingly oblivious to the dangers that were far more prevalent before their widespread use. Surely all those diseases are gone since we haven't seen them for years, right?

    Here's an article from the Lancet that hasn't been retracted or caused its coauthors to embarrassingly withdraw their names. I tend to believe journal articles to "news" nowadays, since the latter prefers to sell fear over facts.

  • Terrence

    Jeff C.: - I am sorry your son is autistic.

    But, can you spell "Post hoc, egro, propter hoc"?

  • Dr. T

    Terrence nails it. The infant vaccination standard in the USA calls for vaccines at 2, 4, 6, and at 12-18 months of age. Most cases of autism are diagnosed during the first 18 months of life. Obviously, many of those autistic children will have had at least one vaccination during the preceding two weeks. That's coincidence, not causation. Autism is a neurologically-based behavioral abnormality that usually has a genetic cause, uncommonly has a congenital cause (damage to the brain during pregnancy), and very rarely (if ever) has a postnatal damage cause.

  • Dr. T

    El Coronado: The explosion in autism is due to increased diagnoses. Many of those diagnosed as autistic today would never have received such a diagnosis thirty years ago. Also, many of the autism statistics lump in Asperger's syndrome (which isn't as severe as autism).

    Many physicians are almost as susceptible to media hype about diseases as lay persons. Hence, the explosions in fad diseases: autism and Asperger's syndrome, attention deficit and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders, restless leg syndrome, gluten intolerance, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, Agent Orange toxicity and cancers, power-line cancers, cell phone brain damage and cancers, etc. I admit to being ashamed of my profession for its gross lack of professionalism. (Heck, as a group, we're almost as unscientific as climatologists!)

  • IgotBupkis

    Michael Fumento has been reporting this as crap for, I think, decades. Certainly for one hell of a long time.

  • IgotBupkis

    After years on controversy, the Lancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research, retracted Wakefield’s paper last February.

    LOL, when The Lancet starts doubting your credibility, you are in Deep Deep Doo-Doo.

  • GoneWithTheWind

    The reason there are more "diagnosed" cases of autism today then there used to be is because there is money in it. Your school gets money for each autistic child. The teachers unions like the fact that autistic children in public schools require 20 times as many teachers as normal children do. Lawyers are circling the makers of Vaccines like sharks (was that redundant?) When the money goes away the "unexplained" increase in autism will fade away as well.

    They have not used mercury in vaccines for over 10 years simply to avoid lawsuits.

    The number of people (mostly children) who die every year because they were not vaccinated in in the tens-hundreds of thousands. The number of children who die every year from vaccinations is 0-2 or 3.

  • dovh49

    I don't understand why more of you are not cynical of a government backed company and industry. Get the government out of it completely then I might believe some more. Show me the statistics to prove to me that vaccines work. Like tell me what percentage of people who get sick also got the illness. This data isn't normally demonstrated to the public. If vaccines work so well then why don't the companies put out the data?

    Remember doctors were the same ones that scoffed at the single doctor who said if they wash their hands then they won't kill as many of their patients. Remember the patin (sp) drug that was killing people and was more harmful than good but most doctors, even when presented with evidence that they were prescribing drugs that were killing their patients they refused to believe it since the authorities said it worked and that it wasn't harmful?

    I don't know if vaccines cause autism or not. What I do know is the body is extremely complicated and science hasn't answered hardly any of questions for us about the body that need to be answered.

    Many children in the Amish community aren't diagnosed with autism compared to other kids, why? What are the answers? I don't know. All I know is I don't trust government and neither do I trust companies that government props up.

    Read Daily Bells assessment here:
    http://www.thedailybell.com/1665/Wakefield-Accused-of-Further-Vaccine-Fraud.html

  • http://8poundpreemie.blogspot.com 1st-Time Mommy

    I am in almost total agreement with you. Just yesterday I wrote post (http://8poundpreemie.blogspot.com/2011/01/inevitable-vaccines-and-autism-post.html) on my own blog about the vaccines and autism debate.