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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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Autism/MMR Vaccine Study Faked: FAQ

Facts Behind Journal's Claim That Autism Study Was Hoax

What was wrong with the Wakefield study?

Details of the medical histories of all the children in the Wakefield study were made public in an investigation by the U.K. General Medical Council. Deer also interviewed several of the parents whose children were in the study.

Here are some of the major problems with the study, as laid out by Deer in BMJ:

  • The children in the study were not randomly selected. None of them lived anywhere near the hospital where Wakefield's team examined them. One came from as far away as California. All were recruited through anti-MMR-vaccine campaigners.
  • Wakefield did not disclose that he was acting as a paid consultant to a U.K. lawyer who was suing MMR vaccine makers for damages. Wakefield was paid about $668,000 plus expenses.
  • Despite being described as "previously normal," five of the children had evidence of developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine.
  • Only one of the 12 children in the study had regressive autism, although the study reported that nine of them had this condition. Three of these nine children were never diagnosed with autism.
  • In nine cases, gut examinations of the children were changed from "unremarkable" to "non-specific colitis."
  • For all 12 children in the study, medical records and parent accounts contradict case descriptions in the published study.

The BMJ editors conclude that these discrepancies show that Wakefield deliberately faked the study.

"Is it possible that he was wrong but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project or to report even one of the 12 children's cases correctly?" they ask. "No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted."

What is Wakefield's explanation?

Wakefield did not reply to WebMD's interview request in time for publication. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, he denied any wrongdoing.

Of the BMJ articles, he said, "It is a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any investigation into vaccination concerns."

Deer, he told Cooper, "is a hit man. He has been brought in to take me down."

Wakefield claims Deer is in the pay of pharmaceutical companies, although Deer reports funding only from the Sunday Times of London and U.K.'s Channel 4 television network. His BMJ reports were funded by the journal.

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