DR WAKEFIELD: His side of the story

Many of you will know that Dr Andrew Wakefield, who pioneered research into a link between autism and the MMR vaccine, was strongly attacked in the London Sunday Times the other week, as reported in the previous E-News. In particular, he was criticised for receiving funds from a legal-aid charity that was representing parents of children who were possibly injured by the vaccine. His statement follows in full. Please circulate it as widely as you can.

‘Serious allegations have been made against me and my colleagues in relation to the provision of clinical care for children with autism and bowel disease, and the subsequent reporting of their disease. These allegations have been made by journalist Brian Deer who has expressed, in front of witnesses, his aim of destroying me.

All but one of the allegations, which are grossly defamatory, have been shown to be baseless. One allegation remains against me personally. That is, that I did not disclose to the Lancet that a minority of the 12 children in the 1998 Lancet report were also part of a quite separate study that was funded in part by the Legal Aid Board.

It is the Lancet’s opinion but not mine that such a disclosure should have been made since it may have been perceived as a conflict of interest. This is despite that fact that the funding was provided for a separate scientific study.

It needs to be made clear that the funds from the Legal Aid Board were not used for the 1998 Lancet study, and therefore I perceived that no financial conflict of interest existed.

The Lancet defines a conflict of interest as anything that might embarrass the author if it were to be revealed later. I am not embarrassed since it is a matter of fact that there was no conflict of interest. I am, however, dismayed at the way these facts have been misrepresented.

Whether or not the children’s parents were pursuing, or intended to pursue litigation against the vaccine manufacturers, had no bearing on any clinical decision in relation to these children, or their inclusion in the Lancet 1998 report.

It is a matter of fact that there was no conflict of interest at any time in relation to the medical referral of these children, their clinical investigation and care, and the subsequent reporting of their disease in the Lancet.

As far as the 1998 Lancet report is concerned, it is a matter of fact that we found and reported inflammation in the intestines of these children.

The grant of £55,000 was paid not me but to the Royal Free Hospital Special Trustees for my research group to conduct studies on behalf of the Legal Aid Board. These research funds were properly administered through the Royal Free Hospital Special Trustees.

The Legal Aid research grant to my group was used exclusively for the purpose of conducting an examination of any possible connection between the component viruses of the MMR – particularly measles virus – and the bowel disease in these children. This is entirely in line with other studies that have been funded by the Legal Aid Board (latterly the Legal Services Commission) and reported in the BMJ. If and when this work is finally published, due acknowledgement will be made of all sources of funding.

It is unfortunate that, following full disclosure of these facts to the editor of the Lancet, he stated that in retrospect he would not have published facts pertinent to the parent’s perceived association with MMR vaccine in the 1998 Lancet report. Such a position has major implications or the scientific investigation of injuries that might be caused by drugs or vaccines, such as Gulf War Syndrome and autism, where possible victims may be seeking medical help and also legal redress.

Health Secretary John Reid has called for a public enquiry. I welcome this since I have already called for a public enquiry that addresses the whole issue in relation vaccines and autism.

It has been proposed that my role in this matter should be investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC). I not only welcome this, I insist on it and I will be making contact with the GMC personally, in the forthcoming week.

This whole unpleasant episode has been conflated to provide those opposed to addressing genuine concerns about vaccine safety with an opportunity of attacking me – an attack that is out of all proportion to the facts of the matter.

I stand by everything that I have done in relation to the care, investigation and reporting of the disease that I and my colleagues have discovered in these desperately ill children.

My family and I have suffered many setbacks as a direct consequence of this work. As a family, we consider that our problems are nothing compared with the suffering of these children and their families. For the sake of these children, this work will continue.’

* To search the WDDTY database – where every word from the last 14 years of research can be found – click on http://www.wddty.co.uk/search/infodatabase.asp

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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