Friday, June 29, 2007

Andrew Wakefield, Chronology and "Bad Science"

Timeline graphic on a wall

Mr Matanoski, a lawyer for the US Govt. Health and Human Services Dept., recently made this remarkable comment in his concluding statements for the first part of the Autism Omnibus hearings (pdf) in the US. The MMR-autism case has no plausible or verifiable science to support it.
It's at best speculation, idle speculation. Now, at worst--at worst--it's a contrivance. It's a contrivance that's been developed and articulated and promoted by its chief proponent, and that's Andrew Wakefield. He promoted it for financial gain. Either way it's not science.
pgs 28-9: Day 12 Transcript of Cedillo v. Secretary of Health and Human Services (pdf)
As part of his closing, he presented this unsettling chronology of events. (For a more detailed summary of events, see Brian Deer and the MMR-autism scare.)
I've mentioned several times in the course of these proceedings Andrew Wakefield and his theory, and there's a reason for that. That's because all the strands through these cases come back to him. He presented bad science.

I'm going to run through the chronology again because it's important, the chronology of how this arose and how it was promoted. In 1996, Alexander Harris, a firm of solicitors in Great Britain, approached Andrew Wakefield and asked him to consult with them in cases involving MMR, allegations of MMR causing autism. Andrew Wakefield was paid 55,000 pounds for his efforts at that point.

Andrew Wakefield in 1997 took out a patent for a monovalent measles vaccine. In 1998, he published the paper that caused the stir that we've now seen reinterpreted, rearticulated a number of times until more than 10 years later we have it in our courtroom today.

He did not reveal at the time that he published that paper that he had this financial interest. He did not reveal that several of his patients in that paper were in fact litigants in the MMR litigation.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield approached John O'Leary and consulted with him. John O'Leary went on to set up Unigenetics, a company of which he was the director and shareholder. Unigenetics' purpose was to test samples for the U.K. MMR litigation.

Now, you've heard testimony about the reliability of that testing. You've seen the papers that have come out of that lab. In fact, the Uhlmann paper that was discussed here at length and relied on so heavily by the Petitioners, the patients, some of the patients at least, some of the patients in that case study were MMR litigants. There's a direct connection between that litigation and our litigation here. That litigation folded. Unigenetics went away, but we have it back here now in this case. It folded in 2004 after the whistle was blown on Andrew Wakefield and it was revealed his substantial financial connection with ongoing litigation.
pgs 30-2: Day 12 Transcript of Cedillo v. Secretary of Health and Human Services (pdf)
According to Brian Deer, the £55,000 was a payment for clinical and scientific tests on the children of clients: Wakefield had been retained by a solicitor involved in anti-MMR action since Feb. 1996. Brian Deer put in a Freedom of Information Act request to the Legal Services Commission and in December 2006 they provided a spreadsheet of fees to paid witnesses in the MMR lawsuit. According to that payment schedule, Wakefield had been paid £435,643 [about $780,000], plus expenses, for his expert participation in the legal case against MMR. Brian Deer reports that these sums do not include the fees for work on individual children's records.

A substantial number of the signatories to the Nigel Thomas petition believe the claim that:
The threat that faces Dr Andrew Wakefield, Professor John Walker Smith and Professor Simon Murch is that they may be struck-off the medical register for daring to investigate why these children are so ill, which no-one else has been prepared to do.
On just one page of signatories, people write of Wakefield as a hero, as a prisoner (who is awaiting crucifixion and will be retrospectively vindicated) and in terms of Pasteur and Galileo. There is no final word on the charges but the GMC is not convening a hearing because these researchers investigated these children, nor, as Patrick Holford would have us believe, for "challenging the status quo".

Related posts
Patrick Holford and Dr Andrew Wakefield's Discredited Findings: Part 1
Patrick Holford and Dr Andrew Wakefield's Discredited Findings: Part 2
Kevin Leitch on Andrew Wakefield and the death of the MMR debacle and Justice for Katie
Mike Stanton on Patrick Holford and his unusual views on vaccination, MMR and autism
Patrick Holford Claims Remarkable Benefits for Homeopathic Vaccinations
Holford Watch: Holford believes Secretin is "Worth considering" as an autism treatment; however, there is no evidence that this treatment is effective and
Holford is sceptical about off-label prescribing, but thinks that secretin for autism is "Worth considering"
Patrick Holford alias Doctor Knock aka Holt Senior

Image detail on Flickr

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