The British Medical Journal declared today, January 6, 2011, that the 1998 Lancet paper that implied a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, was “an elaborate fraud.”
The MMR vaccine is an immunization shot against Measles, Mumps and Rubella – also called German measles, and it was first developed by Maurice Hilleman while at Merck, in the late 1960s.
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield et al., created a controversy, by publishing, in the Lancet, a paper reporting a study of twelve children who had bowel symptoms along with autism or other disorders, including cases where onset was believed by the parents to be soon after administration of MMR vaccine.
“The MMR scare was based not on bad science but on a deliberate fraud,” said Dr Fiona Godlee, BMJ
Editor in Chief, and that such “clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare.”
After this, she also questions the credibility of Wakefield’s other publications and calls for an investigation “to decide whether any others should be retracted.”
Award-winning investigative journalist Brian Deer, conducted a seven-year inquiry, and the interviews, documents and data he collected will be presented in a series of three articles starting this week, that will reveal the true extent of the scam behind the scare.
The General Medical Council recently published the six million word transcript, so the BMJ managed to peer-review and check Deer’s findings, and confirmed the extensive falsification in the Lancet paper.
Dr Godlee, together with deputy BMJ editor Jane Smith, and leading pediatrician and associate BMJ editor Harvey Marcovitch, conclude in an editorial, that there is “no doubt” that it was Wakefield who perpetrated this fraud.
“A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross,” they say, adding that he has nevertheless repeatedly denied doing anything wrong at all.
“Instead, although now disgraced and stripped of his clinical and academic credentials, he continues to push his views.
“Meanwhile the damage to public health continues.”
“Science is based on trust,” concludes Dr Godlee, and “such a breach of trust is deeply shocking.
“And even though almost certainly rare on this scale, it raises important questions about how this could happen, what could have been done to uncover it earlier, what further inquiry is now needed, and what can be done to prevent something like this happening again.”
The BMJ will explore these and other questions over the next two weeks. UPDATE