Deer’s fraud case in BMJ

Brian Deer, the journalist who has doggedly pursued the story about a link between materials in vaccines and the onset of childhood Autism proposed by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in the late 1990s, has published details explaining why he considers the original research establishing that link to have been fraudulent. In the first of a series of articles appearing in the prestigious British Medical Journal, Mr. Deer reports the results of his efforts to locate and interview the originally anonymous parents of the children included in the study by Dr. Wakefield et al.—which was published in the Lancet and then retracted—and it is sure to generate lots of heat, and perhaps a little bit of light.

There are many twists and turns to this story. It’s about “regressive autism,” MMR vaccine, “non-specific colitis,” “enteritis/disintegrative disorder,” bowel inflammation, ethics, fraud. Readers will be familiar with the terms. Most of what Mr. Deer reports here has appeared in previous accounts. He explains that parents said their children had conditions prior to their injections, even though Dr. Wakefield’s study claimed they did not; that the time of onset of symptoms was incorrectly reported in the study; that medical records of the children were altered. And there are more accusations. Read for yourselves.

Mr. Deer’s paper was commissioned and externally reviewed. It is sure to be the subject of scrutiny, though some of that scrutiny will likely be unfounded, ill-spoken, and ad-hominem rather than reasoned and rationale. His work deserves to be retraced carefully and objectively. Some people are unlikely to accept it, even if it meets the most demanding standards for accuracy.

Although a downloading a pdf of the full article requires a subscription or other special access, one can download the supplemental materials for Mr. Deer’s report on line and read an html version.

Deer, B. (2011). Secrets of the MMR scare: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed. British Medical Journal, 342, 77-82. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5347

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