Friday, 29 January 2010

Two sides to every story - the Truth vs Andrew Wakefield

So, Dr Andrew Wakefield has finally got his comeuppance from the General Medical Council (GMC) - on what will probably become known as "Wakefield day" one of the the longest and most complex hearings ever held by the GMC has given its conclusions - he has behaved unethically and acted with "callous disregard for the distress and pain the children might suffer".

Wakefield was found to have conducted invasive, risky and unnecessary tests (lumbar punctures, colonoscopies and barium meals) on children for research purposes rather than in their clinical interests. His initial paper, involving just 12 children, was conducted without ethical approval and although the paper reported that no firm conclusions about vaccination protocols could be drawn from the results Wakefield himself told a press conference shortly afterwards that single dose vaccines should be used instead of a combined dose as in MMR.

What he failed to disclose to the press, his colleagues or the journal which published the paper at the time was that he had just patented a single shot measles vaccine which he now makes a healthy living selling in the US. Furthermore, the fact that for the 2 years prior to the "trial" he had been paid £250.00 per hour plus an initial payment of £55,000 by a legal firm to provide evidence against MMR for their attempts to sue manufacturers on behalf of the parents of two thirds of the children in the "trial" also seems to have slipped his mind.

While he was trying to establish his patent on his single shot measles vaccine he founded a pharmaceutical company (Immunospecifics Biotechnologies Ltd, whose managing director was the father of one of the affected children) and tested his vaccine on children without permission or approval and without including it in their medical records or telling the children's doctors.

He was also found to have unethically arranged for his son's friends to have blood samples taken from them during a birthday party - for which he paid them £5.

In a second trial for which he received only provisional approval he was found again to have conducted the same potentially dangerous, unnecessary and unapproved tests on children and to have breached the terms of the ethics committee.

Since his original, extremely small, study others have repeated the work and done research on other aspects of the MMR vaccine until it is now one of the most thoroughly researched medicines in history and no one has ever discovered a causative link between MMR and either bowel disease or autism.

I am not unaware of the irony of Wakefield now being villified by the very press that were lauding him as a leading light and a victim of establishment opression but the Guardian was one of the few papers to maintain a degree of integrity on the affair and their take on the story can be read here: with Ben Goldacre's comments here: You can also have a look at the excellent work by journalist Brian Deer who, along with Ben Goldacre, has done fantastic work exposing Wakefields misdemeanours -

Andrew Wakefield is a bad man - really bad. He isn't a lone maverick, bravely fighting the establishment; he *is* the establishment - he *is* "Big Pharma". He has lied, distorted results, taken undeclared payments and put children's health at risk in order to sell his company's measles vaccine and to make a substantial income from the anti-MMR industry by promoting his own, highly questionable personal agenda. He has plenty of highly vocal followers admittedly but then so do many dubious characters from David Icke to Uri Geller, that tells us nothing about the validity of his work.

There may indeed be two sides to every story but in this case Wakefield's side is just plain wrong. The real victims in this story are the children who have died or been disabled as a result of contracting measles, the unborn children suffering a similar fate as a result of their mothers contracting Rubella, the parents of autistic children driven to distraction by completely unfounded feelings of guilt for having consented to MMR and genuine autism research whose advocates have had to stand by while millions of pounds was wasted fruitlessly refuting the word of someone who the GMC declared today was a "dishonest and irresponsible doctor" who had "flouted the rules in pursuit of his theory - and profit".

If you are reading this (thank you by the way) and you have been affected by autism or are worried about the now discredited link with MMR, possibly feeling guilty that choices you made to protect your children against serious diseases may have caused them harm then please don't. You have no reason to reproach yorself, there is no causal link between MMR vaccination and the development of autism. Wakefield has manipulated the scientific establishment and you into believing his story for reasons of personal gain - please believe me; you have done nothing wrong, he has lied to you. And if you don't believe me then that's ok, but have a chat with these people - the charity SENSE, established by mothers of children made deaf-blind by Rubella infection, really does have something to be worried about by the MMR "scare".