Frantic: CDC’s Dr. Diane Simpson Travels the World to Find Dr. Poul Thorsen
Posted Mar 06 2010 12:00am
By J.B. Handley
Without Dr. Diane Simpson, a CDC employee, Dr. Poul Thorsen would likely be a person none of us would have ever heard of. I’m looking forward to following the case of Dr. Thorsen and the implications it may have for the withdrawl of some of the most important documents used to shut the door on the possible link between thimerosal and autism. For AoA readers, I provide some background on Dr. Simpson’s critical and “frantic” role in locating data.
This story below is an excerpt from the website, PutChildrenFirst a Generation Rescue initiative, an excellent resource to see this dark tale spelled out in detail CDC's effort, beginning in the summer of 2001, was in anticipation of the IOM's report coming out in the October 2001. They knew what it was going to say and they knew it was going to be trouble.
The CDC's subsequent worldwide effort was an attempt to find corroborative data showing no link between autism and thimerosal and get it to the IOM or release it at the same time as the IOM report was released. As Dr. Diane Simpson says in this August 7, 2001 email "I don't have any new data at the moment and am frantically trying to see what is available and how best to get it in time for the expected IOM report release (we have given up trying to submit it in time for the report as they are in the process of writing it)."
Dr. Simpson's actions beginning in June of 2001, require some context. The Deputy Director of the NIP, Dr. Simpson, was given the task of finding data on autism and thimerosal in other countries. And not just any data, she was looking for data that would support the idea that there was no relationship between mercury and autism, despite the fact that she had seen the Generation Zero data and attended Simpsonwood.
Further, you have the division of the CDC that is responsible for keeping vaccination rates high, the division that would be held most responsible for creating the autism epidemic, and one of the leaders of that division, Dr. Robert Chen, who had the most to lose, directly involved in a process to find data about the relationship between thimerosal and autism.
Would CDC be "frantic" to find data that would corroborate the conclusion coming from IOM, that the thimerosal-autism relationship was "biologically plausible"? No, she was frantic to find data to disprove it.
In the same month, she tells a Swedish researcher in this email that they could fly to Sweden immediately to look at data, "because our IOM committee's work is in process and we expect them to issue their report in the next several weeks, we expect increased public concern and questions in the near future."
In an email an email with another CDC employee, referring to data she may have unearthed in Denmark, she writes, "it is also possible that the data won't help us at all, but we won't know until we see it."
How won't it help? It won't help unless it can be used to exonerate Thimerosal and the CDC.
As an example, Dr. Simpson's communication with the State of California (where autism data is the best in the country) produced a stunning data set, and one quickly buried. In this email , we see data provided by Dr. Loring Dales from the California Dept of Health showing the relationship between the vaccination rates of DTP by second birthdays, and the number of autism cases in California. One of Dr. Simpson's colleagues mentions "this looks like material for a graph." The graph is created, page 3 of the email, and there is a clear, linear relationship between the increase in vaccination rates (from 50.9% to 75.7%) and the number of autism cases per year (from 176 to 1182, a 6.7x increase) between 1980-1994. Needless to say, California was not the source of additional follow-up.
Dr. Simpson was an interesting choice to lead this initiative. She was oblivious to the full-blown epidemic of autism, as this email , on June 8, 2001 shows "I have seen statements claiming huge increases in the incidence rate of autism in the US over the past 10-15 years. The only data I have seen from California. Are there national estimates for autism in the US or is everything extrapolated from the California data?"
Nonetheless, Dr. Simpson began her search, as introductory emails to California , Sweden , Belgium , and Denmark show. Dr. Simpson's goal, through her emails, was very clear: exonerate thimerosal.
Not all of Dr. Simpson's correspondence was well received, and in fact some of it was quite comical. A Swedish Doctor, Dr. Marta Granstrom, responded in this email this email to Dr. Simpson with a clear point of view on thimerosal "I am very well aware of the recent concerns in the US over thiomersal (an alternative name for thimerosal). On the expert committee of the European Pharmacopoeae I represent Sweden and had in vain tried to get Europe to ban its use in single dose vials until the US interest in the issue...I thanked Neal Halsey [AAP member who spearheaded the joint statement in 1999] in the name of European infants for the help when I met him again last year."
By August, Dr. Simpson was getting desperate as she lamented in an email that, "events have slightly accelerated with Walt's return [Walter Orenstein, Director of the NIP] and anxiety over trying to get these data. Consequently, we are TENTATIVELY planning for you and I to go to Denmark and Sweden on August 22...if a trip is to occur in time for the IOM it has to be in this time frame."
In many ways, the trip to Sweden and Denmark was Dr. Simpson's last shot at finding data, as her August 6 email shows "Should we find that any other country has good data on both autism and vaccines, we will work to get that data on a case by case basis. i.e., I don't know what we are going to do and don't want to think about it right now- but we will do something."
The "something" Dr. Simpson did was find a Danish vaccine company, Statens Serum Institute, willing to work with CDC. A company who sold thimerosal-containing vaccines and a company who would soon see an enormous rise in the number of vaccines sold to the United States. Along with her colleague, Dr. Paul Stehr-Green, Dr. Simpson was heading to Denmark. Two years later, Dr. Simpson and Dr. Stehr-Green would be published authors, along with employees of SSI, letting the world know that the Danish data proved that thimerosal does not cause autism. These Danish studies would then form the basis for a NEW IOM, initiated by CDC, that in 2004 would declare that the thimerosal-autism hypothesis was without merit, and has since been referenced as "proof" that thimerosal is safe.
It all started with Dr. Diane Simpson's trip to Denmark. We even found a copy of her travel voucher.