Autism researcher a 'victim of smear campaign'abc.net.au | Jan 7th 2011 5:47 AM
The researcher who linked childhood autism to a vaccine and who has been branded a fraud by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) said he was the victim of a smear campaign by drug manufacturers.
Andrew Wakefield was barred from medical practice last year after the General Medical Council in London found him guilty of "unethical" research that sparked unfounded fears about the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
But in an interview with CNN, Mr Wakefield denied inventing data and blasted a reporter who apparently uncovered the falsifications as a "hit man" doing the bidding of a powerful pharmaceutical industry.
"It's a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any investigation into valid vaccine safety concerns," he said.
Mr Wakefield says journalist Brian Deer "is a hit man".
"He's been brought in to take me down because they are very, very concerned about the adverse reactions to vaccines that are occurring in children," he said.
When asked who he meant by "they", he said Mr Deer "was supported in his investigation by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries, which is funded directly and exclusively by the pharmaceutical industry".
In stunning charges Wednesday, the BMJ said the 1998 study that unleashed a major health scare by linking childhood autism to the MMR vaccine was an "elaborate fraud", and said the paper was a crafted attempt to deceive, among the gravest of charges in medical research.
The study unleashed a widespread parental boycott of the vaccine in Britain and unease reverberated in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Wakefield and his team suggested they had found a "new syndrome" of autism and bowel disease among 12 children.
They linked it to the MMR vaccine, which they said had been administered to eight of the youngsters shortly before the symptoms emerged.
But not one of the 12 cases, as reported in the study, tallied fully with the children's official medical records, and some diagnoses had been misrepresented and dates faked in order to draw a convenient link with the MMR vaccine, the BMJ said.
Mr Wakefield, a consultant in experimental gastroenterology at London's Royal Free Hospital at the time of his paper, shot back, insisting the "truth" was is in his book about the long-running scandal.
"The book is not a lie. The study is not a lie. The findings we made have been replicated in five countries around the world," he said.
"I did not make up the diagnoses [of autism]."
Experts say the study's results have never been replicated.
When asked why 10 of his co-authors retracted the interpretations of the study, Mr Wakefield said: "I'm afraid the pressure has been put on them to do so."
"People get very, very frightened. You're dealing with some very powerful interests here."
Tags: health, child-health-and-behaviour, doctors-and-medical-professionals, medical-research, pharmaceuticals, vaccines-and-immunity, autism-spectrum-disorder, australia, united-kingdom, united-states
First posted January 6, 2011 21:00:00
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