Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:
Go
Search posts:

Andrew Wakefield: the last gasps of a desperate man?

Posted Jan 07 2011 3:02am

In his interview on Anderson Cooper 360 last night, Andrew Wakefield made some amazing claims against Brian Deer, claiming Brian Deer is part of some vast conspiracy. He wants to distance himself from the word, but that’s what he’s claiming with phrases like “He’s a hit man, he’s been brought in to take me down”, “It’s a ruthless pragmatic attempt…” “Who’s paying this man, I don’t know” and a claim that Mr. Deer is paid by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries.

Anderson Cooper has Brian Deer on tonight:

Brian Deer throws down the gauntlet and challenges Andrew Wakefield to sue him. Wakefield has already brought forth one case against Mr. Deer—and he forced to pay Brian Deer’s legal fees. Mr. Wakefield brought forth a lengthy complaint to the UK’s press complaints commission, only to abandon it without attempting to prosecute the complaint.

He also goes through a number of Mr. Wakefield’s attacks and shows that they are false.

Here’s the transcript from the Brian Deer interview:

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Brian, overall, Wakefield is denying all of—all of the—the evidence that you have put forward in—in this—in this “British Medical Journal” report. What do you make of his—his—his defense?

BRIAN DEER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, “THE SUNDAY TIMES OF LONDON”: Well, two things.

One, what else can he do, where else can he go but to deny it, and to make up even more tall stories about me, suggesting that somehow I’m in cahoots with the drug industry or governments or whoever else. He’s been at that one for years.

Secondly, these revelations are not just my revelations. They have been checked, exhaustively, by editors of “The British Medical Journal,” who have peer-reviewed it, who have gone back into the data individually and checked back and forth to have been sure that what I have said is accurate. So, it’s not just me.

So, I think it’s just the—the last gasps of a desperate man, really.

COOPER: I want to go over some specific things, because I think it’s important to be very specific with these allegations and with his response.

I asked Andrew Wakefield last night to respond to your report and the—the “British Medical Journal” report, which calls his study—quote—“an elaborate fraud.”

Here’s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WAKEFIELD: I have read his multiple allegations on many occasions.

He 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.

COOPER: Wait a minute, sir. Let me just stop you right there.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You say he’s a hit man and he’s been brought in by “they.” Who is “they”? Who is he a hit man for?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: This is an independent journalist who’s won many awards.

(CROSSTALK)

WAKEFIELD: Yes, he’s…

(LAUGHTER)

WAKEFIELD: And he’s—you know, who brought this man in? Who is paying this man? I don’t know. But I do know for sure that he’s not a journalist like you are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Wakefield went on to claim later in the interview that you’re being paid by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries.

Are you?

(LAUGHTER)

DEER: No, I’m not. I have been paid by “The Sunday Times of London.”

COOPER: Have you ever been paid by—by—by them?

(CROSSTALK)

DEER: Never, never once. I can’t even remember the last time I ever spoke to them.

I think I did have a—I did have an interview with some people who did some work for them several years ago. That’s about the closest I have ever got to the pharmaceutical industry.

In fact, one of the awards I received, the citation was that I was probably the only journalist in Britain who investigates the drug industry. So, I don’t think that one goes very far.

COOPER: What initially sparked your interest in investigating Wakefield?

DEER: Well, it was just an absolute routine assignment.

There was a television program that had been paid for by American interest to be broadcast in the U.K., and I was just assigned to do a—do a piece on it. And it started out like that.

And we asked Dr. Wakefield for an interview. And, almost immediately, within a matter of hours, complaints were being made against me to my editors by Dr. Wakefield’s personal publicist.

COOPER: When was that that you started doing these investigations?

DEER: Oh, this was in October, November 2003…

COOPER: OK, because…

DEER: ... a long time ago now.

COOPER: ... as you know, James Murdoch, the owner of—of your employer, “The London Times,” joined the board of GlaxoSmithKline, which is a manufacturer of MMR. He joined that board in 2009.

DEER: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Some people have brought that up as a—as a conflict of interest.

DEER: No, it’s absurd, absolutely absurd.

In fact, it’s interesting that, in the last 24 hours, the only American network to have shown no interest whatsoever in the “BMJ”’s revelations has been the FOX network…

COOPER: I asked Wake…

DEER: The only—they’re the only people.

COOPER: I asked Wakefield to respond to your reporting that—that—that states that medical records of all of the 12 cases that he initially cited in his “Lancet” paper back in 1998, that—that none of them were accurate, fully accurate.

I want to you listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAKEFIELD: That is false. He has not interviewed the parents. That is absolutely not true.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you’re saying the parents—no parents say that what—that what you have said about their children’s medical histories is false?

WAKEFIELD: No, they don’t. What I have said and what has been reported in that paper by me and my colleagues is exactly what we saw.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Did you speak to any of the parents from the 12 cases?

DEER: I personally interviewed one, two, three families of the 12. Somebody else—two others were interviewed on my behalf by other journalists. So, that’s five of the 12.

Oh, no, actually, I interview—and I have had conversations with another, so quite a substantial number…

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, you’re basically saying he falsified or—or got wrong all of the medical history, one way or another?

DEER: I—I—I showed the “Lancet” paper that Wakefield published to a father of a child in California who is child number 11 of this series of 12, and he looked at the paper, and he just looked at what it said about his own child, and he said, “That’s not true.” And that was one of the parents of one of these children in the paper.

But I think Dr. Wakefield has a—has a solution here. These revelations have been published in the U.K. jurisdiction, which is the most onerous libel jurisdiction in the world. Dr. Wakefield should sue, because, if what Dr. Wakefield is saying is true, then he would have an easy case for libel against “The British Medical Journal,” against “The Sunday Times of London,” against me personally.

If what he is saying is true, then he must be the victim of the most sustained campaign of malicious libel that has ever been inflicted on any individual in history.

COOPER: And that’s what he’s saying he is.

(CROSSTALK)

DEER: Well, you know, he has a remedy, doesn’t he?

But the reason he doesn’t take this remedy—in fact, he tried to take this remedy once before, when the doctors’ Medical Protection Society was funding him to sue me, sue the television company, sue “The Sunday Times.” And what happened at the end? He discontinued his action, and he sent me a check. I actually received a check from his lawyers to pay my legal costs.

Dr. Wakefield has a remedy. The trouble is, he can’t take that remedy, because he’s a fraudster. And, after all these years, he’s finally been nailed. We have been able to, over the years, produce the evidence that he was being paid by lawyers. We were able to show that he received three-quarters-of-a-million U.S. dollars.

Next week, we’re going to itemize in “The BMJ” his business interests and the extraordinary sums of money he intended to make from his own vaccine, from diagnostic kits, and from all kinds of other weird products he was going to sell off the back of his scare.

Dr. Wakefield did this for the money. And, finally, he’s been nailed as a cheat and a fraudster, and not just in a sort of academic vanity sense, but in an area of where children’s lives have been put at risk, and, even more importantly, in a funny way, where parents of children with autism have been left to blame themselves, thinking it was their own fault for vaccinating their child that their child has gone on to develop autism.

These are forgotten victims of Dr. Wakefield, and these are people ultimately that Dr. Wakefield preys upon.

COOPER: You know, it’s interesting, because I have gotten a lot of e-mails from parents who don’t—who still believe in Wakefield or believe the research, and are angry at—at, you know, our reporting on this, angry, certainly, at your reporting on this. I’m sure you have heard from them many times over the years.

DEER: Oh, yes.

COOPER: And it is heartbreaking, because there is no answer for what is causing autism. And, clearly, there have been problems with vaccines in the past.

What do you—what do you tell parents? What do you say to them?

DEER: Well, I say to—I say to parents when I talk to them—and, you know, you discuss these things with them, and I will tell you, the killer question to ask these parents, if you get an even conversation with them, is to say, do you blame yourself?

And they do. And I have had parents absolutely break down in tears, blaming themselves, thinking it was their fault for vaccinating their child.

Now, what Dr. Wakefield is able to do is to take that energy of guilt and self-blame, which is quite understandable, but is quite wrong, take that, exploit it, turn it into money, turn it into a business. And that’s what he’s done. And he’s having a wonderful time in Jamaica. I saw you interviewed him in Jamaica. Very nice.

COOPER: Wakefield claims that—that his findings have been independently replicated. Is that true?

DEER: That’s completely false.

COOPER: I mean, he said they have been replicated in five countries around the world. That was news to me.

DEER: Completely false. That’s absolutely, completely false. What he does is what he’s been doing in front of these parents over many years. He takes tangential pieces of research that don’t really relate to what he’s saying and represent them as somehow endorsing what he said.

One of the papers in fact which he cites absolutely, explicitly denies that anything like what he suggests has been found.

COOPER: He—he also…

DEER: He just makes it up.

COOPER: He also claims that—that he wasn’t making a connection between vaccines and—and—and autism, that—that it was parents who—who started making that, that the purpose of the study wasn’t to look at possible associations between MMR vaccinations and autism, but that association came from parents.

DEER: No, he just makes it up.

Those parents were selected by him and the lawyer and the campaign groups—actually, a campaign group organized by a mother who doesn’t have a child with autism, does have a grievously disabled child who I saw in a CNN bulletin just 10 minutes ago.

These people together selected a group of parents who blamed MMR and brought them to the hospital for them to make that allegation. That’s one of the key ways in which this research was rigged. He knew who these parents were. He would telephone them at their homes, invite them to the hospital, bring them in and get them to make the allegations to other doctors.

COOPER: What has angered you most or surprised you most in the years now since 2003 that you have been looking into and investigating this?

DEER: What has angered or surprised me most?

I think what has angered me most is the—is the distraction away from the real needs of children with developmental disorders and the real needs of families who are looking after them, because, very often, the families of children, particularly the ones that Wakefield preys on, are people who are just desperate for answers.

Some of them are financially quite challenged as well. Many of them are—are—are terrified about what’s going to happen to their children in the future. And it’s really shocked me that somebody would really prey upon the vulnerable.

It’s almost as though, if you’re vulnerable, you get picked on. It’s almost as—it’s almost an animal thing that—that people prey on these—these really unfortunate families who have got a—who have got issues.

And I—I just think it’s a shame that the energy that has gone into this anti-vaccine campaign hasn’t gone into a campaign for better services for people with disabilities, more research to get to the bottom of these kind of problems. I think it’s a great tragedy, great diversion of resources.

COOPER: Brian Deer, I appreciate your reporting and I appreciate you talking about it. Thank you.

DEER: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: He said a great diversion of resources for a mysterious and terrifying threat and one that is growing.

I want to show you the numbers that explain the fear. According to the Centers for Disease Control, on average, an estimated one in 110 kids in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder. That’s just under 1 percent, according to the most recent data from 2006.

The number of cases has been growing since 2002. There’s no doubt about it. Now, the rate varies among states, and it’s important to point out that autism spectrum disorder includes a—a range of developmental disabilities,with the most severe being autism.

There have also been changes in how diagnoses are made. And that may explain some of the increase, but not all of it, according to experts. Something else you should know, boys are four to five times more likely than girls to develop an autism spectrum disorder.

And while there’s no known cause yet, clues are emerging. It’s estimated that about 10 percent of kids with autism spectrum disorders have a genetic and neurologic or metabolic disorder, such as fragile X or Down syndrome.

Autism spectrum disorder is obviously an incredibly heartbreaking diagnosis for parents. It’s also extremely costly for both the families and the health care system. According to a recent study, the estimated lifetime cost to care for someone with an autism spectrum disorder is $3.2 million.

Let us know what you think. Join the live chat right now at AC360.com.

We will continue to follow the controversy.

One problem I have seen with this media frenzy over the Wakefield fraud story is that they (the media) are falling into the old traps of false balance, faux controversy, and “he-said, she said” reporting. The question isn’t whether Mr. Wakefield is guilty of misconduct. The GMC has already ruled on that. Mr. Wakefield is not “the accused” but “the guilty”.

CNN has allowed people like Andrew Wakefield and JB Handley a platform to make mostly statements which, at the initial airing, are unchallenged, and unsupported accusations. These people have much experience with handling the media and have been able to avoid the topic of of Mr. Wakefield’s fraud and his proven ethical violations. I appreciate that Anderson Cooper has gone back to do some fact checking, but the damage is already done at that point.

Here is a segment where Anderson Cooper does some fact checking on Mr. Wakefield’s claims and accusations:

Anderson Cooper made an attempt to verify the claims Andrew Wakefield made. Andrew Wakefield claimed that regression followed shortly after MMR vaccination. This has never been replicated. The studies that Mr. Wakefield attempts to use as support do not support that claim. The one attempt to actually replicate the claim, the Hornig study, found there was no association between gastrointestinal symptoms, regression and the MMR.

Anderson Cooper says that the studies Mr. Wakefield cites are “beside the point”. He says that the studies found an association between GI complaints and autism…which isn’t really the case.

Mr. Wakefield and his supporters try to claim, repeatedly, that Mr. Wakefield did not suggest that MMR and autism are linked. Interestingly, his own publisher in a statement to Anderson Cooper says the opposite.

“Yesterday, ‘The British Medical Journal’ published an article deeming the research printed over a decade ago by Dr. Andrew Wakefield suggesting a connection between autism and vaccines fraudulent. Wakefield stands strong in asserting that the allegations of ‘BMJ’ journalist Brian Deer are entirely false.”

Here’s the transcript of that section:

We begin, though, as always, “Keeping Them Honest.”

Tonight, the emotional and bitter debate over childhood vaccines and autism is louder than ever, if that’s even possible. Tonight, supporters of Andrew Wakefield, a discredited doctor who’s now accused of outright fraud by “The British Medical Journal,” “BMJ,” are standing by their man. To them, he remains a hero and a victim.

Wakefield is the lead author of the 1998 study that triggered a worldwide scare over childhood vaccines. It suggested vaccines given to kids may cause autism. His study, which looked at just 12 children, has been discredited. And last year, “The Lancet,” the journal that originally published it back in 1998, they retracted the study over concerns about its methods and ethics, as well as financial conflicts of the interests—on interests on the part of Wakefield.

Months later, Wakefield actually lost his license. It was taken away, his medical license, in the U.K. And now an award-winning investigative journalist, Brian Deer, has uncovered evidence he says proves Wakefield deliberately faked his study. Deer lays out his case in a series of articles that began running last in the “BMJ” last night. In a moment, you are going to hear directly from Mr. Deer. He will respond to attacks that Andrew Wakefield made last night in an exclusive right here on 360.

Things got pretty heated. He denied point-blank every accusation laid out by Mr. Deer. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW WAKEFIELD, AUTHORED RETRACTED AUTISM STUDY: He is a hit man. He’s been brought in to take me down.

COOPER: Wait a minute, sir. Let me just stop you right there.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You say he’s a hit man and he’s been brought in by “they.” Who is “they”? Who is he a hit man for?

WAKEFIELD: Who brought this man in? Who is paying this man? I don’t know.

COOPER: You’re basically saying this is a—some sort of conspiracy against you. Is that—is that your argument?

WAKEFIELD: Conspiracy is your word.

What this is, is a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any investigation…

COOPER: Well…

WAKEFIELD: Because the truth is in that book.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: However, I have read Brian Deer’s report, which is incredibly extensive. Sir, I’m not here to let you pitch your book. I’m here to have you answer questions.

(CROSSTALK)

WAKEFIELD: If you read the record that I have set out in the book, you will see the truth. You will see a detailed…

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But, sir, if you’re lying, then your book is also a lie. If your study is a lie, your book is a lie.

WAKEFIELD: The book is not a lie.

I suggest you do your investigation properly before making such allegations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, we believe in facts here at 360, so, today, we followed up on some of the claims that Mr. Wakefield made last night. If we got something wrong, we would want to set the record straight, obviously.

One point Wakefield was adamant about was that other researchers have reproduced his study’s findings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You have been offered the chance to replicate your study, and you have never taken—taken anybody up on that. You have had plenty of opportunity to replicate your study.

(CROSSTALK)

WAKEFIELD: You just accused me of giving you a falsehood. I’m telling you that this work has been replicated in five countries around the world.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Then why has it been completely discredited by—by—by public health officials around the world?

WAKEFIELD: I suggest you do your investigation properly before making such allegations.

OK, if you look up the name Gonzalez, if you look up the name Balzola and Krigsman, you will see that the work has been replicated independently by other doctors around the world. They fail to mention that in these allegations. And Deer has failed to mention that at any time. Is that honest?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, today, we tracked down three of those studies and spoke to experts about all five that Wakefield kept citing.

And what we found is, they’re basically beside the point. They looked at gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, and nothing else. Like Wakefield, they found an association between gastrointestinal problems and autism, but they say nothing at all about a connection between autism and vaccines. So his suggestion of any such link remains his alone.

Now, a lot of parents have stopped vaccinating their kids because of Mr. Wakefield’s study. There have been deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases like measles and whooping cough as a result.

I asked Wakefield about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sir, what’s also growing in number is the number of children who have died because they haven’t been vaccinated. Do you feel any sense of responsibility for that?

WAKEFIELD: I have never said not vaccinate. I have offered, I have suggested that children have the option of single vaccines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, what he means by that is giving kids separate vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, rather than a three-in-one combination vaccine.

Parents in the U.S. can choose which type their kids get. We checked out the rest of his claim. And it’s true. We found no instance of him saying do not vaccinate, period.

In 2003, Wakefield told “The Sunday Herald” newspaper: “I think parents are well-informed. They are not inherently anti-vaccine, nor are we. We have advocated throughout that children continued to be protected, but, in the light of this evidence, there’s a question mark. And while that question mark exist, parents must have the choice over how they protect their children.”

That’s what he said. But, at the same time, Wakefield is the undisputed champion of the anti-vaccination movement. And the people in this movement commonly cite his research as the reason for not vaccinating their kids.

Wakefield has never stood up to put a stop to this movement. In fact, the forward of his book, the book he kept trying to promote last night, is written by Jenny McCarthy, a vocal autism activist who believes her son’s autism was caused by vaccines.

She writes: “Unfortunately, it appears that a product intended for good, vaccines, also has a dark side, which is the ability to do harm in certain children. This ability to do harm has unfortunately increased quite a bit in the last few decades because children today receive so many more shots than when—than when most parents were kids.”

McCarthy also writes that Andrew Wakefield—quote—“listened to parents who reported two things: Their children with autism were suffering from severe bowel pain, and the children regressed into autism after vaccination. He listened. He studied. And they published what he learned.”

So, even if Wakefield hasn’t said do not vaccinate in so many words, he has certainly fueled the fear and distrust of vaccines. Wakefield’s publisher released a statement today on his behalf, and its headline reads—quote—“Vaccines Continue to Ruin Some Children’s Lives While Mainstream Medical Community and Big Drug Companies Refuse to Respond to the Series Medical Concerns of Worried Parents.”

The release goes on to say: “Yesterday, ‘The British Medical Journal’ published an article deeming the research printed over a decade ago by Dr. Andrew Wakefield suggesting a connection between autism and vaccines fraudulent. Wakefield stands strong in asserting that the allegations of ‘BMJ’ journalist Brian Deer are entirely false.”

So, the release itself describes Wakefield’s research as—quote—“suggesting a connection between autism and vaccines.”

And that’s exactly why his study, which the “BMJ” now says is flat-out fraudulent, has become such a powerful piece of the autism- vaccine controversy.

Want to show you something else. This is from the study itself, the one that’s been debunked. It’s a table listing autism diagnoses in one column and then the vaccines the kids in the study received. The table also shows when the kids got the vaccines.

To an average parent, with no scientific background, that would look pretty scary, if it were true. You can see how many parents desperate for an answer might latch on to that data.

But, after seven years of investigating, Brian Deer says he’s proved the data was faked. Here’s what told me about when we talked earlier.

In the end, this is probably the last major spike of news attention for Andrew Wakefield. Sure, in his new role as spokesperson for a consortium of vaccines-cause-autism organizations, he will get in the news again. And there will be at least one more BMJ article. But, what else is there? His research efforts even before he was let go by Thoughtful House were unimpressive to say the least (remember the Monkey study that used 2 controls and claimed that unvaccinated infant monkey brians shouldn’t grow, but the vaccinated ones should?). Perhaps he will be a study author on the Generation Rescue “vaccinated/unvaccinated” study. Even that won’t gain him the notoriety of his Lancet paper. With the paper debunked, his ethical violations in pursuing that paper and others proven by the GMC hearing and, now, the entire effort described as fraudulent, what’s left? Not much.

  1. Jackie:
    Another problem with this, is it leads to people saying Autism is a heartbreaking diagnoses. Why don't we get parents of children of incurable diseases on a show, talking about how heartbreaking having a child with Autism is compared to a child DYING. I'm sure that would shut the martyr parents up!
  2. walburt:
    What's this about Wakefield's so-called amazing claims: "he’s been brought in to take me down" What's amazing about that? Deer WAS "brought in". In his own words he was commissioned by the BMJ. DEER: I was commissioned by the “British Medical Journal” to write the piece, yes. That’s what the journalists do How many other journalists have been 'commissioned' to write papers in medical journals? Yet this is being spun as if it were a new medical report. Whether Deer was paid or not - he has an enormous personal interest in the anti-Wakefield case. That this can be spun as 'a new medical report' is surprising. It's not new (much the same allegations as in the GMC hearing), it's not medical (no medics) and not even a report (as the other side, Wakefield's responses, is not given space). http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full
  3. Joseph:
    What’s amazing about that? Deer WAS “brought in”. In his own words he was commissioned by the BMJ.
    Complete nonsense. When they say "bought in" they don't mean he was payed like any consultant should for doing a job. What they mean is that he was payed to fabricate false allegations. Big difference.
    as the other side, Wakefield’s responses, is not given space
    And what is his side, exactly, other than "buy my book!" ?
  4. Sullivan:
    Walburt, Science journals do pay for articles sometimes. This is especially true for review articles. The BMJ editors fact checked the article and wrote their own piece as well. Can you point to factual errors in the BMJ articles?
  5. Chris:
    walburt:
    How many other journalists have been ‘commissioned’ to write papers in medical journals?
    Lots, actually. I recently read a series of articles on schizophrenia in a special issue of (I think) Nature, where more than one was commissioned from a journalist. They do this to increase readership. You should go to a local college library and read one some time.

Write a quick comment | View 5 more comment(s).


Post a comment
Write a comment:

Related Searches