Dr. Andrew Wakefield GMC case: Autism Organizations Support Dr. Wakefield
The Dr. Andrew Wakefield GMC case has been the focus of much media attention. In light of the rebuke handed down by the disciplinary council of the UK's General Medical Council to Dr. Andrew Wakefield, we're reproducing an enlightening list of FAQs about some aspects of the GMC's findings and what has been reported about them.
Also included are some statements of support for Dr. Wakefield from several autism groups, as well as links to other relevant information.
We'll begin with Age of Autism's excellent summary of some of the facts (which are different from what is being presented as facts) of Dr. Andrew Wakefield's GMC case.
A Short Form FAQ About the Wakefield GMC Case
Below is a short form FAQ from Age of Autism about the GMC case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield and colleagues Professor John Walker-Smith and Professor Simon Murch.
Did the Ethics Practices Committee of the Royal Free Hospital NHS approve Dr. Wakefield and colleagues' proposal for research biopsies to be conducted on children which ultimately resulted in publication by the Lancet?
YES. The Ethical Practices Committee of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust approved proposal # 162-95 before any biopsies were collected for the case study on the Lancet 12.
Was the 1998 Lancet article based on a research study or a case study?
The Lancet article was based on a case study. Case studies do not have control groups.
Did the 1998 Lancet case report say that the MMR vaccine causes autism?
NO. The Lancet case report reads, "We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome (autistic enterocolitis) described." The Lancet case report ends with a call for additional research. "We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine."
If the Lancet case report did not say MMR vaccine causes autism, what did some of the co-authors partially retract in 2004?
Nothing. Some of the original co-authors partially retracted an interpretation despite the fact that it never existed in the case report.
The co-author's partial retraction reads, "We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient. However, the possibility of such a link was raised and consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed upon these findings in the paper, according to precedent."
Again, the original case report itself never interpreted the data as establishing a causal link between MMR and autism, so there was no "causal" interpretation to retract.
If the Lancet case report did not say MMR causes autism, and if his collection of biopsies for research purposes was pre-approved by the Ethical Practices Committee, why is there a case against Dr. Wakefield (and colleagues)?
Medical authorities in the UK (and the United States) do not like it when licensed medical professionals ask questions about vaccine safety. Licensed medical professionals and medical researchers who question vaccine safety are more difficult to dismiss than parents who notice adverse reactions after vaccination.
The prosecution of Dr. Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Murch is an example and warning to other licensed medical professionals and researchers. The warning is clear: If you question the safety of a vaccine, you put your license and career at risk.
Does industry have anything to gain by prosecuting Dr. Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Murch?
Yes, possibly. Industry may use the prosecution of Dr. Wakefield and colleagues in an effort to argue that the MMR vaccine is safe. Merck manufactures both MMR vaccine and Proquad vaccine. In 2009, Merck eliminated the option of single dose Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccines when they announced they are discontinuing the manufacture of those monovalent vaccines. Now that the single dose option is no longer available, Merck's would benefit if the public perceived MMR's 3-live-viruses-in-1-shot as a safe option for customers wary of Merck's new 4-live-viruses-in-1-shot Proquad.
Additionally, in internal emails regarding Vioxx in Australia, Merck employees discuss"destroying" doctors critical of their products "where they live". MMR is a Merck product. Dr. Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Murch all lived in the UK at the time this study was conducted.
From Editors of Natural Health Strategies.com: Thank you, Age of Autism, for succintly addressing some of the most often repeated misinformation being "reported" by mainstream "news" organizations.
from Age of Autism.com January 28, 2010
A Sad Day for the Future of Children
The General Medical Council’s (GMC) verdict today concerning Dr. Andrew Wakefield brings together autism organizations across the United States who stand united in support of him, unequivocally renounce the GMC’s findings, and demand an investigation into possible conflicts of interests at the GMC.
We further challenge the U.K. and U.S. governments to offer grants for gold standard research into why so many children with autism have gastrointestinal pathology, as well as any links between this pathology and the symptoms of autism, before all of the children of the world are affected.
Today's verdict by the General Medical Council epitomized their negligence in respecting all of the sound scientific studies worldwide replicating the findings of Dr. Andrew Wakefield.
In the United States we will continue to fund studies replicating Wakefield’s work. We will focus more heavily on helping to educate the British public about the dangers of the MMR. We will look with renewed vigor into possible misconduct by the GMC. And, most importantly, we will continue to recover children from autism thanks, in large measure, to Dr. Wakefield’s pioneering work.
We have witnessed and applaud the sustained courage and dignity of Dr. Andrew Wakefield. He has stood by the children, and we will stand by him.
Autism One Autism Research Institute Generation Rescue National Autism Association SafeMinds Schafer Autism Report Talk About Curing Autism Unlocking Autism
Members of the Autism Collaboration
Reproduced from Age of Autism, January 29, 2010
Statement from Generation Rescue in Support of Dr. Andrew Wakefield
Do you think pharmaceutical companies have too much influence in the laws, policies, and regulations of our government? We do.
Do you think pharmaceutical companies do things that most Americans would view as unethical to protect their profits? We do.
In a court case in Australia involving the use of the drug Vioxx, it was proven that Merck (the manufacturer of Vioxx) "made a hit list of doctors who had to be "neutralised" or discredited because they criticised the anti-arthritis drug the pharmaceutical giant produced."
In fact, a Merck employee wrote in an email concerning these doctors:
"We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live."
This isn't the stuff of conspiracy theories, this isn't the stuff of cynics or crazy parents, this is court-documented behavior of Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world who happens to also be the manufacturer of one of the world's most profitable vaccines, the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella).
The recent decision by the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom against Andy Wakefield shouldn't surprise anyone who understands the stakes, profits, and reputations at risk in the debate over vaccines and autism.
The sole purpose of the GMC's ruling this week is to try and quell the growing concern of parents that the expanding vaccine schedule and the remarkable rise in autism are correlated. The GMC will no doubt be helped by a press that barely understands the debate and has never read any of the dozens of studies published by Dr. Wakefield in many different respected medical journals.
Dr. Wakefield's journey began with twelve children with autism. Like many of our kids, all twelve of them regressed into autism, and eight of the parents blamed their child's regression on the MMR vaccine, just as tens of thousands of other parents do.
Having heard the stories of thousands of other parents, we can't tell you how many times we've heard the same exact story about regression after MMR.
Dr. Wakefield, a highly respected gastroenterologist in the UK, was presented with the cases of these twelve children who had all regressed into autism and were all experiencing severe gut pain. He felt it was his duty to investigate the concerns of these parents and figure out what had happened to their children. In this interview with CBS News (please watch it), Dr. Wakefield recounts:
"The conclusion was that there is a bowel disease in children with autism which is new which has not been investigated before, that this may well be related to the developmental regression since they occurred around the same time and that the parental association with MMR exposure needed to be thoroughly investigated."
Dr. Wakefield's study, which we hope all journalists will take the time to read, was published in February 1998, twelve years ago. Nowhere in the study does Dr. Wakefield tell parents not to vaccinate their children, despite rampant misreporting on this topic.
It has taken twelve long years for the medical community to catch up with Dr. Wakefield's findings. Finally, just last month, in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal, Pediatrics, a landmark study was published with the finding that:
"Gastrointestinal disorders and associated symptoms are commonly reported in individuals with ASDs [autism]."
Thanks, AAP, we've known that for more than a decade thanks to Dr. Wakefield!
This month, a study published in Autism Insights became public and went one step further: it replicated the findings of Dr. Wakefield's paper from twelve years ago, finding once again that the majority of children with autism studied, in this case 143 children, suffered from severe bowel disease -- read the full study by Dr. Arthur Krigsman here.
You will hear that Dr. Wakefield's other study authors retracted their findings (they didn't). You will hear that this ruling somehow implies the MMR is safe for all children (it doesn't). You will hear that this ruling somehow means that vaccines and autism are unrelated (again, it doesn't).
What we think the GMC and pharmaceutical companies fail to realize is that every time this debate makes the headlines, parents win. The truth about what is being done to our kids is evident to anyone who takes the time to look just one layer below the headlines. When the debate makes the front page again, our community grows.
Dr. Andrew Wakefield is perhaps this debate's greatest hero. He's a doctor who has held onto the truth, unbowed, through pressure that would break most mortals. Dr. Wakefield's influence in saving other children from the fate that befell so many children is incalculable.
While the GMC's ruling was completely expected, we are all blessed to have the unexpected courage of Dr. Andy Wakefield watching over our children.
With great respect and admiration,
Generation Rescue January 28, 2010
SafeMinds Supports Dr. Andrew Wakefield
[The Coalition for SafeMinds (Sensible Action For Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders) is a private nonprofit organization founded to investigate and raise awareness of the risks to infants and children of exposure to mercury from medical products, including thimerosal in vaccines. SafeMinds supports research on the potential harmful effects of mercury and thimerosal.]
GMC Rules Against Wakefield et al, Yet Medical Establishmen Agrees Further Study of GI Disease in Children with Autism Is Top Priority
Thursday, January 27, 2010 - Today the General Medical Council (GMC), the regulatory body for doctors in the UK, made findings of fact in connection to a complaint filed by journalist Brian Deer. The complaint alleged conflicts of interest and unethical research against Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Dr. John Walker-Smith and Dr. Simon Murch relating to their 1998 case series published in the Lancet. As a result of these findings, the GMC will now determine the severity and appropriate sanctions, which could go so far as the loss of their licenses to practice medicine.
SafeMinds is very disappointed by the GMC’s findings. The false testimony and the ensuing GMC FTP hearing have had the effect of delaying necessary research into cause and treatment for autism, and dissuading scientists from pursuing research relating to vaccines as a cause of chronic disease.
In the Lancet paper Wakefield et al reported a novel inflammatory bowel disease in 12 children with developmental regression (autism) and expressly stated that "We did not prove an association between measles mumps and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described." The conclusion drawn by the case series was that, "Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to the vaccine." The study’s conclusion and call for additional research is often incorrectly misinterpreted as a call to discontinue immunization against measles, mumps and rubella.
It is widely known that many children with autism suffer from gastrointestinal disease and requires further scientific investigation and treatment. This field of research is in fact identified as a short term research priority in the Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research issued by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). Additionally, the following organizations and agencies have also clearly stated the need for research related to the potential relationship between gastrointestinal disease and autism.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) - Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in individuals With ASDs: A Consensus Report states "The evidence for abnormal gastrointestinal permeability in individuals with ASDs is limited. Prospective studies should be performed to determine the role of abnormal permeability in neuropsychiatric manifestations of ASDs." (Statement 5).
AAP also says in their Recommendations for Evaluation and Treatment of Common Gastrointestinal Problems in Children With ASDs that "Well-designed trials are needed to develop an evidence base for optimal diagnostic and treatment strategies to manage gastrointestinal disorders in children with ASDs."
The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) National CADDRE Study: Child Development and Autism states that, "A number of factors will be studied for their potential link with ASDs. These factors were picked after an in-depth look at existing studies...These factors include...Gastrointestinal features: The study will follow up on reports that children with autism have abnormal gastrointestinal function, and whether it might be related to the causes of autism."
Scores of parents have reported, including from the original group of 12, that Dr. Wakefield’s work has brought great relief to their children when no other doctor was willing to take their medical condition seriously.
While controversy will continue to rage regarding Dr. Wakefield and the MMR vaccine, his key point and interest has been validated time and again; many children with autism are experiencing great suffering due to co-existing gastrointestinal disease and further research is urgently needed to identify the cause and most effective treatments. SafeMinds supports these concerns and calls for additional research into gastrointestinal disease in individuals with autism.
SafeMinds is a charitable non-profit and leader in funding and advancing the science regarding mercury exposure as it relates to autism. Our expertise extends beyond mercury-related exposures to broader vaccine safety issues, as many of our Board Members hold government agency committee positions such as the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, various CDC Vaccine Committees, the Department of Defense Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Program and the National Vaccine Advisory Committee’s Vaccine Safety Working Group.
Following are comments from the editors of Natural Health Strategies.com, along with mentions of other articles related to the Dr. Andrew Wakefield GMC case.
Could this excerpt from the Guardian report reveal the real reason for Dr. Andrew Wakefield's GMC rebuke?
"... Wakefield, in a press conference, told the world he believed the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines in the MMR jab should not be given in one combined shot, but in single doses, preferably a year apart. It triggered a furore and was the direct cause of the major slump in take-up of MMR which has led to outbreaks of measles in some parts of the country. (Emphasis added by editors of Natural Health Strategy.com, who do not claim originality in this possible interpretaion of the events surrounding the Dr. Andrew Wakefield GMC case.)