Revealed: 48-hour 'scramble' to discredit MMR concerns

Jan 18, 2011

A series of denials and a failure to formally investigate allegations of misconduct in Andrew Wakefield's MMR research meant the public was misled about the credibility of the paper for six years.

Dr Fiona Godlee, BMJ Editor in Chief, says the UK has consistently failed to take research misconduct seriously. She calls on the UK government to establish mandatory oversight of clinical research integrity within the NHS, as happens for publicly funded research in the USA.

"This case reveals major flaws in pre and post-publication ," she says. "Allegations of research misconduct must be independently investigated in the public interest. But it's still too easy for institutions to avoid external scrutiny, and editors can fail to adequately distance themselves from work they have published and then defended."

In the third and final part of a special BMJ series, "Secrets of the MMR scare", investigative journalist Brian Deer reveals how the closed ranks to protect Wakefield after he raised concerns with the in 2004.

Deer's allegations included possible research fraud, unethical treatment of vulnerable children, and Wakefield's through his involvement with a lawsuit against .

Deer thought the editor, Richard Horton, would say that an investigation was needed. Instead he reports that "within 48 hours, and working with the paper's three senior authors, the journal was to publish 5000 words of denials, in statements, unretracted to this day."

The statements said that an investigation was undertaken by the Royal Free Hospital that "cleared Wakefield of wrongdoing."

But documents, emails, and replies obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal no formal investigation. "What emerges is merely a scramble to discredit my claims during the 48 hours after I disclosed the information," writes Deer. In short, "the accused were investigating themselves."

It took a further six years for the General Medical Council (GMC) to prove Deer's allegations, and for the Lancet paper to be retracted. During this time, public alarm over MMR continued, measles outbreaks occurred, and two UK children died from the disease.

"Were it not for the GMC case, which cost a rumoured £6m (€7m; $9m), the fraud by which Wakefield concocted fear of would forever have been denied and covered up," argues Deer. The Royal Free Hospital and Medical School have since confirmed that they carried out no formal investigation. No doctor was interviewed, and no documents were generated.

In a written response to the BMJ last week, Professor Sir John Tooke, Vice-Provost at Univesity College London said: "UCL takes any allegation of research misconduct very seriously, and we will certainly investigate those raised in the BMJ. He added: "We are determined to learn from the mistakes made in relation to this case ... Our objective is to continue refining a structure and processes which provide all reasonable safeguards whilst also facilitating the highest quality research for population benefit."

An accompanying editorial by researchers in Seattle says Deer's articles reveal the urgent need "to fix a system that failed to protect human subjects and the public from the consequences of fraudulent science."

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ironjustice
1 / 5 (3) Jan 19, 2011
"to fix a system that failed to protect human subjects and the public from the consequences of fraudulent science."

That was AGAIN evidenced by the retraction of the Jesus paper by the Virology Journal in which the retraction was FORCED by the 'response' TO the article. The 'response' after investigating was orchestrated by the atheists in the Science community as a 'general call to arms' and was RECOGNISED as such BY those watching. The 'fraudulant' evidence given against Wakefield was evidenced in the retraction of the Jesus paper by 'people' who when asked for 'competing interests' failed to say they were / are activist atheists. THAT can be considered TOO to be 'fraud' and if one 'felt like it' as Mr. Deer feels like doing it one could attempt to have those atheists who failed to tell everyone they WERE atheist activists and are IN the Science field and USE their 'credentials' TO have a paper retracted would / could be considered to have committed 'fraud'. Imho.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Jan 19, 2011
Are you trying to say Wakefield did good science and atheists tore him down because of his beliefs?

You need to granularly examine the evidence. Wakefield committed fraud and endangered a multitude of children.
ironjustice
1 / 5 (3) Jan 19, 2011
Are you trying to say Wakefield did good science and atheists tore him down because of his beliefs?

I'm saying that the 'evidence' given against Wakefield seems to be FLIMSY . Failing to tell people WHAT you are USING blood FOR ? Comeon . As a doctor he is ALLOWED .. imho .. TO use the blood for whatever he 'feels like' BECAUSE drawing blood is considered to be a very slight invasive procedure. IE: safe. As to OTHER evidence that what I've mentioned we'll let Wakefield continue to try to **explain** the flimsy evidence against him. As to the atheists 'being involved' their 'contribution' seems to be their learned ability to manipulate the internet. They 'band together' like biofilm. Imho.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Jan 21, 2011
I'm saying that the 'evidence' given against Wakefield seems to be FLIMSY .
Are you out of your mind, or have you just not read up on what you're talking about? He directly installed bias in his numbers, and then further doctored them with false data. That's about the highest crime you can commit in Science. Ask Hendrik Schon.
Failing to tell people WHAT you are USING blood FOR ? Comeon .
So if someone walks up to your autistic 6 year old at a birthday party and takes some blood, do you not think it's important that the parents know what it is being used for?
As to the atheists 'being involved' their 'contribution' seems to be their learned ability to manipulate the internet. They 'band together' like biofilm. Imho.
You're an idiot. Especially if you really think this has anything to do with Wakefield's religion.
ironjustice
not rated yet Jan 21, 2011
Quote: So if someone walks up to your autistic 6 year old at a birthday party and takes some blood, do you not think it's important that the parents know what it is being used for?
Answer: No. Why should I. I have a kid who is going to die in an institution and this guy is going to try to cure him.
Quote: You're an idiot
Answer: How long you been around ? It is a well known fact those 'people' who 'gather' at atheist sites such as Respectful Insolence and PZ Meyers are braindead followers who WILL and DO play the 'dogs of war' on the internet when asked to do so or when even HINTED it might be useful if someone is targeted. As to calling people an idiot. You should maybe watch your mouth.