Autism Fraud

In the end it was fraud.  A scientific fiction was perpetrated againstsociety and vigorously promoted producing uncounted individuals who modifiedtheir behavior at some danger to themselves and to others.

I have always been generallydismissive of the autism claim, not because I actually looked at the science,but the science claimed was at best a likely statistical fluke rather than areal effect and would take huge expense to eliminate.  Besides, where was the biological logicbehind these claims?

It really was a stretch.

My own interest came from workingat one time with autistic children and knowing enough to be skeptical of asimple causation.  The best suspect is aprenatal developmental issue that the growing brain is unable to correctnaturally.  The genesis is unknown and itstrikes across the population.

Retracted autism study an 'elaborate fraud,' British journal finds

By the CNN Wire Staff
January 5, 2011 8:14 p.m. EST


NEW: Dr. Andrew Wakefield says his work has been "grosslydistorted"
British journal BMJ accuses Wakefieldof faking data for his 1998 paper
"The damage to public health continues" as a result of theautism-vaccine claim
The study was retracted and Wakefieldlost his license in 2010

Editor's note: Watch AndersonCooper's interview with the author of the discredited study, Dr. AndrewWakefield, on "AC360°" at10 p.m. ET tonight.

(CNN) -- A now-retracted British study that linked autism tochildhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lastingdamage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludesthe study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medicalhistories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.

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

Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May."Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalancedmedia reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers,journals and the medical profession," BMJ states in an editorialaccompanying the work.
plainer: Autism and vaccines
Speaking to CNN's "Anderson Cooper360," Wakefieldsaid his work has been "grossly distorted" and that he was the targetof "a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any attempt to investigatevalid vaccine safety concerns."

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

In the United States,more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% ofthose infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown,the CDC reported.

"But perhaps as important as the scare's effect on infectiousdisease is the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away fromefforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to help children andfamilies who live with it," the BMJ editorial states.
Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face ofcriticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of hisco-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he hadhad been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers -- a seriousconflict of interest he failed to disclose. After years on controversy, theLancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research,retracted Wakefield'spaper 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 databefore him, "falsifying medical histories of children and essentiallyconcocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find bylawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccinescare."

According to BMJ, Wakefieldreceived more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers. Godlee said thestudy shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showeddevelopmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never hadautism.

"It's always hard to explain fraud and where it affects people tolie in science," Godlee said. "But it does seem a financial motivewas underlying this, both in terms of payments by lawyers and through legal aidgrants that he received but also through financial schemes that he hoped wouldbenefit him through diagnostic and other tests for autism and MMR-relatedissues."

But Wakefieldtold CNN that claims of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism "came fromthe parents, not me," and that his paper had "nothing to do with thelitigation."

"These children were seen on the basis of their clinical symptoms,for their clinical need, and they were seen by expert clinicians and theirdisease diagnosed by them, not by me," he said.
Wakefield dismissed Deer as "a hit man who hasbeen brought into take me down" by pharmaceutical interests. Deer hassigned a disclosure form stating that he has no financial interest in thebusiness.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies &Children's Hospital in Cleveland, said the reporting "represents Wakefield as a personwhere the ends justified the means." But he said the latest news may havelittle effect on those families who still blame vaccines for their children'sconditions.

"Unfortunately, his core group of supporters is not going to letthe facts dissuade their beliefs that MMR causes autism," Wiznitzer said."They need to be open-minded and examine the information as everybodyelse."

Wakefield's defenders include David Kirby, a journalist who has writtenextensively on autism. He told CNN that Wakefieldnot only has denied falsifying data, he has said he had no way to do so.

"I have known him for a number of years. He does not strike me asa charlatan or a liar," Kirby said. If the BMJ allegations are true, then Wakefield "did aterrible thing" -- but he added, "I personally find it hard to believethat he did that."

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