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Monday, February 09, 2009

I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

Once upon a time a doctor named Andrew Wakefield performed some research. This research supposedly linked the development of autism spectrum disorder to measles and, particularly, to the MMR vaccine. This research, based on case studies of only twelve individuals with autism, helped feed a "controversy" over vaccines. In this controversy we have seen vaccination rates fall, with the predictable consequences, we have seen celebrities rally to the cause of shoddy medicine, other celebrities defend evidence-based medicine, and respected physicians receive death threats because, essentially, they refuse to go along with anti-vaccine hysteria. And, of course, amidst the chaos with children dying from preventable diseases, the vultures circle and profit from human misery. And the only thing that could make all this even worse, even more pointless, is if we discovered that none of it had to happen in the first place. That if some folks had only been more honest from the beginning, we might not be in this mess.

Well, folks, things just got worse.

As it turns out, not only has nobody been able to replicate Wakefield's original research, not only has changing the MMR schedule in various countries not produced changes in autism rates, not only did most of the authors on Wakefield's article later retract their interpretation of the results, it now appears that all of our failures to confirm an MMR/autism link are attributable to one simple problem: Wakefield made his data up:

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

All of this suffering for nothing. The deaths, for nothing. The arguments and threats of violence, for nothing. It all came about because of fear, ignorance, greed, and the willingness of some persons to sacrifice their integrity.

I've changed my mind: I should definitely cry.

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Blogger newsocprof said...

rest assured the anti-vax people are undeterred. a few parents i know are already sending out messages to link vaccinations to autism without the wakefield study. i predict this, like the other retractions, will have zero impact. it's too easy an answer with too much money behind it, with the added benefit that we get to blame someone.

i can't believe how far this stuff has gone -- 9 out 10 people with small children i tell about my daughter and nephew ask me what i think of the vaccination link and no one has asked about genetics, despite 3 children in my in-law family having spectrum diagnoses.

Monday, February 09, 2009 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger Soch said...

Do you remember a week or so ago when I ranted in response to idiots and said that I just hate everyone...

... yeah.

Monday, February 09, 2009 11:19:00 PM  

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