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Natural News Takes on the Growing Poul Thorsen Autism Vaccine Research Scandal

Posted Apr 01 2011 12:00am

Where's Poul 3 A Gamondes By J.B. Handley

“Understand what is being alleged here: That Thorsen stole taxpayer dollars intended for medical research, then pocketed them in his own private bank accounts and used the money to buy luxury items for his personal use. This is a man with a history of strong ties to the CDC, research universities and medical journals. This is a person whose research has been widely quoted by the vaccine apologists who say vaccines are safe. And now, in the midst of all this, how many mainstream newspapers do you see covering Thorsen's indictment and his ties to the CDC? Virtually none.”

-                Natural News, April 28, 2011

It’s great to see another media outlet cover the Poul Thorsen scandal, and provide both original research and opinion, so I highly recommend you jump over and read the article at Natural News and check out the awesome web of influence chart HERE .

Most journalists have no historical perspective on the importance of Denmark’s data in exonerating the role of vaccines in the autism epidemic, nor do they understand the desperation with which the CDC pursued data from other countries during a time when the Institute of Medicine was starting to explore the link between thimerosal and autism. Perhaps if they did, they, too, would wonder if a “pay to play” deal was hatched to save the CDC.

For the benefit of AoA readers, and hopefully an honest journalist or two, herewith is a pretty thorough history, replete with emails from many of the key players in what we can only hope will be a growing scandal.

It all started with Diane Simpson, circa 2001

Without Dr. Diane Simpson, a CDC employee, Dr. Poul Thorsen would likely be a person none of us would have ever heard of.

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. Alert parents even found a copy of her travel voucher.

The first study from Denmark: Thorsen’s legacy?

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 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 (and hopefully his enablers!), I we’re certainly finding out.

Author’s note: find even more detail at


Posted by Age of Autism at April 29, 2011 at 5:45 AM in JB Handley Permalink

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