Saturday, January 8, 2011

Journal calls study that linked autism to vaccines a 'fraud'

A 1998 British study that launched an international fear that certain childhood vaccinations can cause autism has been labeled an "elaborate fraud" in a medical journal.

In the BMJ investigation, journalist Brian Deer said the 1998 Wakefield study used "bogus data" to link the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine with the rapid onset of autism in eight of 12 "previously normal" children.

After examining the children's medical records and interviewing their parents, only one of the 12 children was found to have "regressive autism," or late-onset of the syndrome, the core concern of the 1998 study, Mr. Deer wrote.

In other odd findings, Mr. Deer said three children didn't have autism diagnoses; two children had bowel problems and "fits" before they received the MMR vaccine; and one child was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which is not regressive and is distinct from autism.

Mr. Deer wrote that the parents didn't know that Dr. Wakefield, a gastroenterologist, was already seeking to prove that vaccines were linked to a "new syndrome" of enteritis (a bowel disorder) and disintegrative disorder (late-onset autism) in children.

A key goal of Dr. Wakefield's study, published in the Lancet in 1998, was to show a clear "time link" between the MMR vaccinations and the onset of symptoms, wrote Mr. Deer. This would bolster a case against vaccine makers, he wrote, noting that Dr. Wakefield was receiving payments from lawyer Richard Barr, who wanted to pursue such a lawsuit.

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