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First Fraud: Dr. Poul Thorsen and the original “Danish Study”

Posted Mar 08 2010 12:00am

Dominoes By J.B. Handley
 
In my last post Frantic: CDC’s Dr. Diane Simpson Travels the World to Find Dr. Poul Thorsen , I detailed the desperate world travel of Dr. Diane Simpson, a CDC employee tasked with proving, at all costs, that thimerosal in vaccines was not causing autism.
 
If desperate times call for desperate acts, than there is no desperate act more extreme than the study ultimately published due to Dr. Simpson’s world travel, Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence From Danish Population-Based Data .
 
More than any other, this study has been used to club our community over the head that thimerosal couldn’t possibly cause autism. Of course, it was published in Pediatrics, a journal that appears to have no standards whatsoever if a paper written by anyone anywhere exonerates vaccines.
 
A few years ago I took the time to read every published study that “proved” vaccines don’t cause item. Knowing this “Danish study” was the biggie, I started here.
 
It’s hard to put into words how dishonest and outrageous a study this is, and I knew after reading it that we were in for a long fight: if scientists will lie this explicitly and call it a study and if Pediatrics will publish something this dishonest, they are playing to win at all costs.
 
Herewith, an analysis of the original Danish study, prepare to be disgusted and outraged 
Thimerosal was removed from Danish vaccines in 1992, and the original Danish study published in Pediatrics in 2003, Thimerosal and the Occurrence of Autism: Negative Ecological Evidence From Danish Population-Based Data  (with co-author Dr. Poul Thorsen) proclaimed that not only did autism rates not go down after its removal, they actually went up! The study's lead other, Kristeen Madsen, had been one of the Danish researchers Dr. Diane Simpson reached out to early on in her world travel of 2001. This study was highly fraudulent for the following reasons:
 
The data as it was captured was blatantly obscured.
 
The study looked at data between 1970-2000. In 1995, the Danish registry added "Outpatient Clinics" to their count of autism cases. It turns out that Outpatient Clinics are where 93% of Danish children are diagnosed with autism, so the number of autism cases before 1995 did not include the clinics. More surprising, the authors even note this in the study: "since 1995 outpatient activities were registered as well...the proportion of outpatient to inpatient activities was about 4 to 6 times as many outpatients as inpatients...this may exaggerate the incidence rates."
 
Exaggerate the incidence rates? It is the equivalent of doing a study on "Divorce Rates in North America" and counting Mexico and Canada only for the first few years, then adding in the United States, and noting that divorce rates went up.


 As a SafeMinds critique of the study noted, "Therefore, their purported increase after 1994 can be explained entirely by the registration of an existing autism population that did not require hospitalization." To compound the problem, Denmark also changed the diagnostic code they used, to the more universal ICD10 code, beginning in 1993, which would have further raised the rates.
 
Dr. Madsen, in his communications with Dr. Diane Simpson two years earlier, actually noted this discrepancy in Danish data in an email exchange 
Dr. Simpson: "Did they [autism rates] increase after 1993??"
 
Dr. Madsen: "Yes but not very dramatically and there could be more reasons for that. First of all we had a change from ICD8 to ICD10 in 1994 and furthermore our outpatient clinics were registered in our surveillance from 1995."
 
The rates of autism in Denmark and the number of vaccines and amount of mercury received in children are markedly lower than the U.S.
 
Danish children receive 75% less Thimerosal than American children, they receive immunizations when they are older, and the U.S. autism rate is TEN TIMES the rate of Denmark (Denmark is 1 in 1,600, U.S. is 1 in 166).
 
As an example, here is an email   exchange back in 2001 discussing data from Great Britain between Dr. Verstraeten, the author of the CDC's internal analysis, and Robert Chen. Dr. Verstraeten notes that the British numbers will probably not be helpful because the Thimerosal received by British children is too low relative to American children:
 
"The maximum exposure is indeed relatively low...it may not be worth doing this after all." Denmark's Thimerosal was as low or lower than Britain, but they proceeded with the study anyway.
 
The study authors were conflicted, and the conflicts were not reported in the study, as they should have been.
 
Of the seven co-authors of the study, three had received direct funding from the CDC on vaccine-safety related projects. Two of the authors were employees of Statens Serum Institute, a Danish vaccine manufacturer. Here's SSI's Annual Report  . Interestingly, page 28 shows that sales of vaccine products to the U.S. were particularly high in 2002. None of these conflicts are mentioned anywhere in the study.
 
CDC actually wrote a letter to Pediatrics recommending publication of the study. 
 
This letter , written prior to the official date of submission, reveals how involved in the study CDC was (remember, one of their employees was a co-author). Jose Cordero, Director of the Division of the CDC responsible for developmental disabilities, oversees the CDC's efforts to fight autism. He notes, "its findings provide one strong piece of evidence that thimerosal is not causally linked to autism." Dr. Cordero, too, had seen the Generation Zero data and attended the meeting in Simpsonwood. (Author’s note: it is always Pediatrics that is willing to publish these studies, for obvious reasosns.)
 
The public health establishment seems to have a simple strategy: get anything published, and then spin the hell out of it and confuse the public, and they perhaps never did it better than with this original “Danish study” which is still cited as proof by many that “vaccines don’t cause autism.”
 
*     *
 
As you can imagine, when the study was published in 2003 it was criticized by our community, and for good reason. Here’s AoA’s Mark Blaxill back in 2003, from this great analysis, Danish Thimerosal-Autism Study in Pediatrics: "A report by Madsen et al. published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in their journal Pediatrics1 claims to provide evidence against a link between autism rates and the mercury in thimerosal, a preservative used in childhood vaccines. Unfortunately, the study analysis is full of flaws and inaccuracies, invalidating the conclusions regarding thimerosal.
 
The study adds little of value to the scientific literature on autism and mercury. The report provides information on autism rates in Denmark that is distorted and misleading. These distortions allow the authors to make assertions about a rising trend in autism "incidence" in the 1990s that has no basis in fact."
 
And, here’s Boyd Haley, Ph.D., recounting his experience with the 2004 IOM when he tried to explain the fraudulent nature of this work (a work which was cited as one of the primary studies behind the 2004 IOM’s conclusions) 
“I have been calling this work fraud every since it came out, even at the 2004 IOM Committee meeting where Dr. Marie McCormick ended my questioning of Dr. Hviid, who was presenting the Danish data, because he would not, or could not tell me the autism rates in the USA vs Denmark---he feigned not understanding my question because the maximum rate of autism was less than 4/10,000 in Denmark in 2000 whereas in the USA the rate was 67/10,000 having increased from about 3-4/10,000 from 1985 and earlier. 
 
This makes all the Danish studies invalid, it is like studying the effect of mosquitoes on the spread of malaria and doing the studies in Alaska instead of the Panama…This data was manipulated to appear to cause an increase in the autism rate after the removal of thimerosal.  One educated in epidemiological sciences has to be really incompetent to not find this deceptive utilization of the Danish data-----this apparently includes the responsible individuals at the CDC and in the AAP.”
 
When I first read this study I remember wondering, “what the hell kind of scientists would even put their name next to something like this?” As we learn more about Dr. Poul Thorsen, I think we’re finding out.

J.B. Handley is Co-Founder of Generation Rescue .

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