MMR Doctor ‘Planned to Make Millions,’ Journal Claims
BMJ Reveals How the Doctor Who Claimed There Was a Link Between Vaccines and Autism Planned to Cash In
Keith Barnard, MD
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 11, 2011 -- Andrew Wakefield, MD, the disgraced doctor who claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease, planned to make a vast amount of money as a result of the health scare, according to a new report in the journal BMJ.
It’s the second exposé by investigative journalist Brian Deer, who has spent seven years interviewing key players and following the paper trail.
1998 Lancet Study
The 1998, a study by Wakefield and colleagues in the Lancet attracted worldwide media attention and sparked a health scare that led to a drop in the number of children getting the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.
In 2004, 10 of the 13 authors of the research paper retracted their interpretation of their findings. The Lancet retracted the paper in February last year, accepting that the claims made in it were false.
In January 2010 the UK's General Medical Council (GMC) decided that Wakefield had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly,” a ruling that led to him being struck off the medical register four months later.
In the first part of his investigation, Deer showed how Wakefield was able to manufacture the appearance of a medical syndrome that would hoodwink parents and large parts of the medical establishment with a fraud that “unleashed fear, parental guilt, costly government intervention, and outbreaks of infectious disease."
In the second part, he shows how the discredited doctor planned secret businesses intended to make huge sums of money, in the U.K. and the U.S., from his allegations.
The BMJ report says that Wakefield met medical school managers to discuss a joint business even while the first child to be fully investigated in his research was still in the hospital; and how just days after publication of his Lancet article, he brought business associates to his place of work at the Royal Free Medical School in London to continue negotiations.
Drawing on investigations and information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Deer says Wakefield and his associates used financial forecasts that predicted they could make up to £28 million (about $43.7 million) a year from the diagnostic kits alone.
Deals Could Have Netted Millions
The kits in question were for diagnosing patients with autism. Deer obtained one 35-page document marked "private and confidential" which confidently predicted: “It is estimated that by year 3, income from this testing could be about £3,300,000 rising to about £28,000,000 as diagnostic testing in support of therapeutic regimes come on stream.”
Would-be investors were told that “the initial market for the diagnostic will be litigation-driven testing of patients with AE [autistic enterocolitis, an unproven condition concocted by Wakefield] from both the UK and the USA”.
Deer’s investigation also reveals that Wakefield was offered support to try to replicate his results, gained from just 12 children, with a larger validated study of up to 150 patients, but that he refused to carry out the work, claiming that his academic freedom would be jeopardized.