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The fall of Andrew Wakefield

I must admit, I never saw it coming.

At least, I never saw it coming this fast and this dramatically. After all, this is a saga that has been going on for twelve solid years now, and it’s an investigation that has been going on at least since 2004. Yes, I’m referring to that (possibly former) hero of the anti-vaccine movement, the man who is arguably the most responsible for suffering and death due to the resurgence of measles in the U.K. because of his role in frightening parents about the MMR vaccine.

I’m referring to the fall of Andrew Wakefield

Wakefield has shown an incredible ability to avoid the consequences of his actions, so much so that, as recently as the end of 2009, what has happened to him over the last month or so would have been almost unthinkable to me. No, I’m not referring to Wakefield’s having been found guilty by Britain’s General Medical Council of grossly unethical behavior with respect to his conduct while carrying out the “research” (and I use the term loosely) that resulted in his trial-lawyer funded, incompetent, and quite likely scientifically fraudulent 1998 Lancet paper. It was the study that launched the most recent (an possibly most virulent) iteration of the anti-vaccine movement, led to dramatically decreased MMR vaccination rates in the U.K., and launched a thousand quacks in the form of the “autism biomed” movement, which has in essence made autistic children the victims of unregulated and sometimes dangerous experimentation all in the name of trying to “cure” them of their autism. The price autistic children have paid for Wakefield’s pseudoscience is horrific enough, but the potential price that thousands of children, both autistic and neurotypical, are paying and will likely continue to pay in terms of suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases, will probably be even worse.

As I’ve pointed out before, I was quite happy when the British GMC told it like it is, so to speak, and found Wakefield guilty of research misconduct and in no uncertain terms called him “irresponsible and dishonest.” I was not surprised that the GMC had ruled against Wakefield; I was, however, surprised at the vehemence of the ruling and that it took three years after revelations by investigative journalist Brian Deer for the GMC to convene proceedings against Wakefield. Ironically, it was after those revelations, described in a Sunday Times investigative report and a TV news documentary on the U.K.’s Channel 4 entitled MMR: What They Didn’t Tell You, that Andrew Wakefield himself demanded the GMC investigation to “clear his name.” On February 23, 2004, the day after Brian Deer’s article Revealed: MMR research scandal that Andrew Wakefield himself was quoted as saying:

Serious allegations have been made against me in relation to the provision of clinical care for children with autism and bowel disease, and the reporting of their disease. It has been proposed that my role in this matter should be investigated by the GMC. I not only welcome this, I insist on it and I will be making contact with the GMC personally.

Be careful what you ask for, I always say.

As I pointed out, the verdict of the GMC alone was not enough to bring about Andrew Wakefield’s fall. Indeed, I’d consider it, to use baseball parlance, strike one. Or, to mix metaphors as I am wont to do at times just for the heck of it, it could be viewed as the first piece of rock or ice to start falling from a mountainside, triggering more rocks to fall and ultimately leading to an avalanche that buried Wakefield. The second strike (or second rock, to continue my habit of mixing metaphors) occurred less than a week later, when the editors of The Lancet finally did the right thing. True, it took them six years after revelations of Wakefield’s conflicts of interest in the form of payments from trial lawyers and his having applied for a patent on a vaccine to compete with the MMR plus his research misconduct in the form of having performed medically unnecessary invasive procedures such as lumbar punctures and colonoscopies on autistic children were first brought to light by investigative journalist Brian Deer, but at least they finally did the right thing. They retracted Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet article from the scientific literature. That doesn’t even cover the revelations from nearly exactly a year ago, once again revealed by Brian Deer, that Wakefield was not only in the pocket of trial lawyers who wanted to sue vaccine manufacturers to the tune of £435,643 in fees, plus £3,910 expenses but he may well have committed scientific fraud in how he carried out his Lancet study.

From my perspective, the editors should have retracted Wakefield’s study back in 2004, when ten of the original thirteen authors retracted their support for the article and its interpretation. At the time, Andrew Wakefield and Peter Harvey refused to to retract. If the the editors had had any guts back then, they would have retracted the paper then and there. It would have been the right thing to do. After all, the editors all but admitted that Wakefield had violated The Lancet‘s rules on disclosure of conflicts of interest. Come to think of it, if Andrew Wakefield and Peter Harvey had had one iota of honor, they would have retracted the paper themselves, as honorable scientists do when serious flaws are brought to light. Not surprisingly, Wakefield did no such thing, because he is not an honorable man. Moreover, it should be noted that the involuntary retraction of a scientific paper by the editors of a journal is a very rare thing, particularly by a journal as high profile as The Lancet.

Wakefield’s dishonesty and lack of honor aside, up to this point, up to the two strikes against Wakefield, his supporters continued to rally around him. Two months earlier, the anti-vaccine National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) had invited Wakefield to be its keynote speaker at its annual pseudoscientific conference, even going so far as to award him its Humanitarian Award. Then, in the weeks leading up to the expected GMC verdict at the end of January, the anti-vaccine propaganda blog Age of Autism ramped up its praise of Andrew Wakefield, even likening him to Galileo and the GMC to the Inquisition. As they say, to claim the mantle of Galileo, it isn’t enough to be “persecuted” for your views. You have to be right. Andrew Wakefield was anything but right. AoA also published a whole series of posts by John Stone and Martin Walker trying to discredit the GMC in advance of the expected ruling, along with pure idiocy published by Mark Blaxill. There was even a defense of “that paper” by Andrew Wakefield himself, plus a new “study” published in a new autism vanity journal claiming to have replicated Wakefield’s findings. Clearly, the crew at AoA was pulling out all the stops.

As I pointed out three weeks ago, the anti-vaccine movement continued to circle the wagons after the GMC ruling, but the defenses of Andrew Wakefield and attacks on his critics continued even after the Lancet retraction. The most bizarre of these came, courtesy of–who else?–Generation Rescue. In rapid succession, GR’s spokescelebrities Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey released a statement, soon followed by the founder of GR, J.B. Handley. The message? Well, here’s what Jenny and Jim said in a statement entitled, appropriately enough A Statement from Jenny McCarthy & Jim Carrey: Andrew Wakefield, Scientific Censorship, and Fourteen Monkeys (mirrored on the Generation Rescue website):

Dr. Andrew Wakefield is being discredited to prevent an historic study from being published that for the first time looks at vaccinated versus unvaccinated primates and compares health outcomes, with potentially devastating consequences for vaccine makers and public health officials.

It is our most sincere belief that Dr. Wakefield and parents of children with autism around the world are being subjected to a remarkable media campaign engineered by vaccine manufacturers reporting on the retraction of a paper published in The Lancet in 1998 by Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues.

But what was the study that the nefarious Vaccine Illuminati were going so far to squelch? Take a guess:

Behind the scenes, the pressure to keep the work of Dr. Wakefield and his colleagues from being published is immense, and growing every day. Medical journals take extreme risk of backlash in publishing any studies that question the safety of the vaccination program, no matter how well-designed and thorough the research might be. Neurotoxicology, a highly-respected medical journal, deserves great credit for courageously publishing the first phase of this vaccinated monkey study.

Yes, it’s the execrable unethical waste of primates to the cause of pseudoscience that I’ve blogged about twice before under the titles Monkey Business in Autism Research and Monkey Business in Autism Research, Part II. The excellent skeptical blogger Prometheus also deconstructed the study in A “Made for Court” Study? Read those posts if you want the gory details. Suffice it to say, that once again Wakefield was pushing bad, bad science, and, unfortunately, had managed to fool the hapless and apparently naive reviewers and editors at NeuroToxicology to publish the first part of his study. J.B. Handley added to this conspiracy theory vibe, apparently while trying to channel Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire by repeating “Show me the monkeys!” eleven times in the course of his post. Even David Kirby launched his own bit of dissembling nonsense on that repository of all things quackery, The Huffington Post, in a post entitled The Lancet retraction changes nothing.

I thought so, too, David, at least in terms of the lionization of Andrew Wakefield by the anti-vaccine movement, but it turns out I may be wrong, as we shall see, but it took one more thing to change everything. But what was that one more thing, that strike three, that beginning of the real avalanche that buried poor Andy?

It happened one day after J.B. Handley’s “show me the monkeys” cry (or, at least, it was noticed one day later), making me think that Handley knew something was coming. That something arrived when NeuroToxicology withdrew Wakefield’s previously accepted “monkey business” paper. Not surprisingly, the lunatic fringe of the anti-vaccine movement viewed this as still more evidence that there was some sort of conspiracy theory against Wakefield. Topping off the conspiracy-fest, Ginger Taylor drew an elaborate chart of the nefarious forces in a post she called Anatomy of a witch hunt, leading a certain friend of this blog to ask, “But what about the Illuminati and David Icke’s reptilians?” While rational people could but shake their heads in disbelief, believers reacted to the charge of conspiracy theory correctly leveled against them by lamely claiming that the American Revolution started out as a conspiracy.

Meanwhile, the reaction of AoA was, surprisingly, much more subdued and delayed. So, surprisingly, was the reaction of the very same organizations that had so defended Wakefield, such as SafeMinds. Editorials defending Wakefield still showed up on AoA, and Mark Blaxill even managed to get a pro-Wakefield editorial published in USA TODAY, but they didn’t mention the withdrawal of Wakefield’s NeuroToxicology study. This presaged something I never would have expected. On Wednesday evening, a message appeared on the Yahoo! Thoughtful House Group:

Dr. Wakefield has resigned from Thoughtful House

The needs of the children we serve must always come first. All of us at Thoughtful House are grateful to Dr. Wakefield for the valuable work he has done here. We fully support his decision to leave Thoughtful House in order to make sure that the controversy surrounding the recent findings of the General Medical Council does not interfere with the important work that our dedicated team of clinicians and researchers is doing on behalf of children with autism and their families. All of us at Thoughtful House continue to fight every day for the recovery of children with developmental disorders. We will continue to do our very best to accomplish our mission by combining the most up-to-date treatments and important clinical research that will help to shape the understanding of these conditions that are affecting an ever-increasing number of children worldwide.

Jane

Jane, in case you weren’t aware, is Jane Johnson. Yes, that Jane Johnson, as comment from Liz Ditz pointed out and provided some relevent background, first from 2008:

In 2007 alone, Thoughtful House saw 1,500 new patient requests — or about 60 percent of the center’s current total patient load — and almost a 50 percent increase in new patient requests in the last six months, says Anissa Ryland, director of operations. Thoughtful House’s funding, which comes largely from foundations and private donors, has also been rising steadily in the last two years. From 2005 to the end of 2007, the nonprofit saw a 48 percent increase in private donations and an 84 percent increase in donations from foundations and trusts, Ryland says. In the past two years, the nonprofit raked in $5.5 million in donations.

And then from Kristina Chew:

A number of celebrities and “prominent central Texans” are supporters of Thoughtful House. Former Dell Inc. executive Charlie Ball and his wife, Troylyn, are among the founders of Thoughtful House; their son has “struggled with physical and developmental problems.” The co-managing director of Thoughtful House’s board is Jane Johnson of New York, part of the family of the Johnson & Johnson health care products and services company. Johnson (who co-authored Jepson’s book, Changing the Course of Autism) and her husband, Chris, donated $1 million to lay the groundwork for Thoughtful House in 2004:

Naturally, I can’t resist suggesting that, given that a heiress of the Johnson family of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical and health products company is a founding donor of Thoughtful House when it was established in 2004 and sits on its board of directors, that, by Jake Crosby’s logic on Age of Autism, Wakefield has clearly been a minion of big pharma at least since 2004. Given how often AoA fequently calls Dr. Paul Offit “Dr. PrOffit” and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. calls him a “biostitute,” perhaps the science-based community should start calling Andrew Wakefield the same thing.

Now here was a bombshell. At first, I wasn’t even sure whether to believe it was true. After all, since its founding in 2004, Andrew Wakefield has been the face of Thoughtful House, and it was his fame that attracted patients. Few people have heard of Drs. Arthur Krigsman or Bryan Jepson, but everybody knows Wakefield, at least in the autism “biomed” circles. My guess at the time was that Wakefield’s notoriety due to the recent one-two punch of his having had an unfavorable ruling by the GMC followed by the retraction of his 1998 Lancet paper might have become a problem for Thoughtful House in that it might have brought unwanted attention from the Texas Medical Board and other local authorities. Add to that the retraction of the very last shred of Wakefield’s apparent (to anyone beside those who pay attention to his story) scientific credibility, his monkey study, and it’s possible that saner heads wanted Wakefield gone. It turns out that it was true. Wakefield was toast. On February 18, the day after the cryptic announcement appeared, Andrew Wakefield’s name disappeared from the list of Thoughtful House staff, as did his defense of his Lancet article published after the GMC ruling. On Friday, the news was confirmed by mainstream news sources. Then yesterday, Brian Deer reported:

Five days later [after the GMC ruling], the Lancet retracted Wakefield’s research. “It was utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false,” Dr Richard Horton, the journal’s editor, told The Guardian. “I feel I was deceived.”

The following day, Dr Joan Marie Cranmer, editor of the specialist journal Neurotoxicology, told her New York publisher that she would withdraw a new Wakefield paper, already released online, which also claimed to incriminate vaccines.

It’s understood that Cranmer “took another look at the paper” in the light of a GMC finding of research dishonesty, but a spokesman for the publisher, Elsevier, declined to comment. “It would be inappropriate to go into a lot of detail,” he said.

The Neurotoxicology decision is believed to have been the last straw at Thoughtful House, a centre founded in 2005 by the rich parents of developmentally-challenged children. The clinic was set up to enable Wakefield to continue activities which in October 2001 saw him fired from a London research position, and which eventually led to the GMC charges.

Within two days of Wakefield’s resignation, it was announced that Dr. Krigsman was also leaving Thoughtful House:

Re: Dr. Krigsman

Dr. Krigsman’s decision to relocate his clinical practice to a facility outside Thought House reflects his belief that the complexities inherent in a referral-based practice can be best addressed by his working independently. We will continue to refer patients for GI evaluations when appropriate, and we look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Krigsman on research projects. We are grateful to Dr. Krigsman for his dedication to Thoughtful House and for the work he does on behalf of the children we serve.

Just to be clear, this is official.

Jane

It looks as though a purge was under way at Thoughtful House, most likely instigated by Jane Johnson. Adding to the impression that Wakefield’s departure from Thoughtful House was not voluntary is this:

In further brief comment on the departure, Jane Johnson, a Thoughtful House board member and also executive director of the US Defeat Autism Now organisation of alternative practitioners, said that those who knew Wakefield “will not find it implausible” that he quit for the good of the centre.

Observers say that the doctor may now be the victim of a domino effect, which threatens to see him lose his fellowship of the UK’s Royal College of Pathologists, which he obtained in 2001 on the basis of a submission of his publications, and even potentially spark the collapse of a new celebrity-led American anti-vaccine movement.

So, in a period of time encompassing January 28, which is when the GMC decision was first announced, to February 17, which is when Wakefield was apparently forced to resign from his position at Thoughtful House, all the accumulated pseudoscience, dishonesty, conflicts of interest, and incompetent research finally caught up with Andrew Wakefield and reduced Thoughtful House from three practitioners of autism woo to just one. It was a breathtaking fall to those of us who have been following the case for years. So slimy and slick has Wakefield been that I had honestly thought that he could weather even the GMC ruling plus the Lancet and NeuroToxicology retractions. I was wrong. It was three strikes that sent Andy back to the dugout.

So what now?

Clearly, the retractions of Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet and his 2009 NeuroToxicology papers were the last nails in the coffin of whatever zombie of Wakefield’s scientific respectability remained to shamble about and eat the brains of hapless and unsuspecting journal editors. Those two developments guarantee that for the foreseeable future Wakefield will almost certainly not be able to fool a respectable journal into accepting one of his manuscripts again. He will thus be relegated to publishing in crank journals like JPANDS and Medical Veritas. The stream of seemingly respectable “research” would thus dry up and further compromise Thoughtful House’s ability to raise cash and attract patients not belonging to the anti-vaccine fringe–which is almost certainly why Wakefield had to go. In light of this development, I see a clinic in central America or someplace with similarly lax regulation of medical clinics in Wakefield’s future. Or maybe someplace as close as Tijuana. He could even still live in the U.S. and commute across the border.

Or maybe not. Autism pseudoscientists and quacks are nothing if not, as James Randi would put it, unsinkable rubber ducks. Wakefield is down, but I wouldn’t count him out–unfortunately. After several days of utter silence, Age of Autism’s very own Dan Olmsted published an interview with Wakefield in which Wakefield states that he will “move on to a new phase of leadership in the autism community” after leaving Thoughful House and going on the offensive to answer the GMC’s ruling. Never mind that it had been nearly four days after his resignation and two days since the mainstream press had started reporting on his departure. In that context, Wakefield’s announcement comes as anticlimactic at best.

The only question that I have remaining is this: Who would want Andy now? My top two guesses would be a position with either Generation Rescue or SafeMinds, the two premier organizations promoting autism pseudoscience these days. I fear we won’t have too long to wait for the answer promised us in his Age of Autism press release.

Posted in: Medical Ethics, Neuroscience/Mental Health, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (57) ↓

57 thoughts on “The fall of Andrew Wakefield

  1. jster says:

    This must be the best news I’ve heard in ages! Finally a victory for the guys who listen to the evidence. Hopefully not long until this whole tower of vaccine-autism pseudoscience comes crashing down and the true body count can be calculated.

  2. Now if someone could just bust the Geiers…

  3. windriven says:

    It isn’t time to uncork the champagne yet. These people are like zombies; they aren’t slain by ordinary methods. Their supporters and enablers are the intellectually destitute sort who, faced with intractable problems, typically join hands and sing Kumbaya. It doesn’t accomplish much but it makes them feel ever so much better.

    Unfortunately, in this case they have advocated a criminally negligent course of action by rabble-rousing against MMR vaccination. One wonders what the mothers and fathers of children who died needlessly of measles think of themselves and their prophets now? One wonders when Oprah will pick her fat butt off her throne and denounce these poseurs she has heretofore lionized?

    When will society at large stop treating fatally dangerous fraud as simply a difference of opinion?

  4. daijiyobu says:

    Perhaps North American naturopathy will take him under their teflon-coated wings.

    -r.c.

  5. Maybe he could get a fellowship at the Discovery Institute. I’m sure they could use his monkey data for something.

  6. Fifi says:

    daijiyobu – I’d think naturopaths wouldn’t use teflon! Don’t they just use smoke and mirrors to give the illusion they have wings? ;-)

  7. DavidCT says:

    Gee Dr. Gorsky doesn’t your school need a new director of Quackademics and Woo studies – I mean Integrative Medicine. I believe in doing what we can to keep Austin weird but Wakefield is just a fraud. It is time somebody else got to enjoy his talents.

  8. David Gorski says:

    Doesn’t Detroit have enough problems already without adding Andrew Wakefield to the mix?

  9. Alex Knapp says:

    This is a bright spot in an otherwise murky day. I’d like to say that, as a result of his actions, Wakefield won’t be able to find work again. But alas, showing him to be a fraud only seems to make him a martyr in the anti-vaccination world.

  10. cervantes says:

    I really think there is hope now that the whole vax-autism movement will start to fade away. It happened quietly so we didn’t particularly notice it, but Duesberg and AIDS denialism have largely faded from view. I also don’t hear a lot about chronic Lyme disease and 6 month courses of IV antibiotics any more, and I’m sure we can think of other examples. These fads aren’t necessarily immortal.

    Now if we could just extinguish the creationists. . .

  11. wannabeer says:

    Long time lurker, first time caller. This won’t end, finally, until someone shows up with a really promising autism treatment that ameliorates many of the most baffling symptoms. Shy of that, the crowd will continue to find a villain in science (even if they move on from vaccines to something else — aspirin, bacteria in doctor’s offices, carbohydrates), as they remain convinced that very few in the community are actually working on a “cure.” It has a lot more to do with Public Relations than science, and the Wakefields of the world are masters of self-aggrandizement masquerading as “smart guy working for poor, helpless parents.”

  12. litwin says:

    There will be some people people at Generation Rescue and SafeMinds that will want him and other that will not want to be associated with him. This will only create division among the members.

    Good job SBM, you have been a big part of this also.

  13. lizditz says:

    Thanks for the mention, Dr. Gorski.

    This is a start on a long road. Ultimately, the impact of the anti-vaccination movement comes down to millions of decisions made by parents relative to each vaccination decision. I don’t see the “totally freaked out” safety-parent meme fading away anytime soon, though. See Totally Freaked Out, published yesterday in Toronto Life.

    A generation of moms and dads has taken a purity pledge for their kids. You can’t throw an organic terry cloth teething ring today without hitting a parent obsessing over pesticides on apples and phthalates in soothers.

    However, there is some science-based light on the other side of the Atlantic. UK’s National Health Service funds homeopathy. But maybe not any more.

    British homeopathy funding is “bad medicine”: panel

    Britain should end its state funding for homeopathic treatments because they are “scientifically implausible” and work no better than placebos, an influential parliamentary panel said on Monday.

    The Science and Technology committee said homeopathic products are not medicines and should no longer be licensed by medicines regulators.

  14. micheleinmichigan says:

    lizditz on
    “Thanks for the mention, Dr. Gorski.
    This is a start on a long road. Ultimately, the impact of the anti-vaccination movement comes down to millions of decisions made by parents relative to each vaccination decision. I don’t see the “totally freaked out” safety-parent meme fading away anytime soon, though. See Totally Freaked Out, published yesterday in Toronto Life.
    A generation of moms and dads has taken a purity pledge for their kids. You can’t throw an organic terry cloth teething ring today without hitting a parent obsessing over pesticides on apples and phthalates in soothers.”

    I must rise from my flu ridden stupor to question why commentors at SBM seem so inclined to associate environmentalism, organic products and concerns about food safety or product safety with the anti-vax movement.

    I had my children vaccinated to keep them safe. Does that make me “Totally Freaked Out?”

    Just because I have my concerns about pesticide use and other farming methods here in the U.S. and in countries that import to the U.S., (But then I’m one of those children who used to run behind the DDT spray wagons…) does not make me anti-vax.

    I’m sure there is some logic puzzle about how not all noddles are spoodles to demonstrate, but…bed calls.

    Good Article Dr. G., thanks for protecting Detroit from the unsavory.

  15. windriven says:

    @micheleinmichigan

    Right on! I am wholly disgusted by those in the skeptics movement who engage in outrageous and ludicrous projections. Perfectly reasonable concerns about environmental toxins do not equate with anti-vaccination beliefs – at least I have never seen any study suggesting such an association.

    All belief systems and technologies are worthy of skepticism until a body of plausible scientific evidence assuages the doubts. That does not mean that these belief systems or technologies should be entirely eschewed until scientifically validated. But it suggests that whole hog adoption isn’t prudent either.

    The true skeptic knows that few things are all black or all white; the prudent course is to carefully weigh risks and benefits and then act accordingly.

  16. Zoe237 says:

    “I must rise from my flu ridden stupor to question why commentors at SBM seem so inclined to associate environmentalism, organic products and concerns about food safety or product safety with the anti-vax movement. ”

    I agree, of course. The area is just so murky that it’s difficult to make absolute assertions. Organic proponents have certainly been guilty to a degree of overselling their argument- organics may not be more nutritous for example, and pesticides ARE used in organic farming (just not synthetic ones, but we all know that natural does not equal safe). There is however, good reason to be concerned about pesticide overuse for farmworkers’ health along with pesticide runoff into water supplies (for example).

    I recommend “The Truth about Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line” by Jeff Gillman for a balanced approach. Along with Food Politics by Marion Nestle that I got off of a recommendation from another commenter here at SBM- loved it!

    On topic, I am VERY glad that Neurotoxicity got rid of the monkey study. I do happen to think that the weeks events have perhaps irreparably damaged the anti-vaccine movement (much more so than calling individual parents stupid because they’re scared). Better late than never.

  17. Anne says:

    What’s next? Well, Dr. Wakefield does have a US patent for “a method for the diagnosis of regressive behavioral disease (RBD) from a body derived sample.” It appears that Dr. Wakefield has invented both a new disease and the method of diagnosing it, so maybe he’ll develop that commercially. Of course, he’ll need somebody to help him get the body derived samples. Dr. Krigsman might be available.

  18. Chris says:

    Maybe Wakefield will now move to South Carolina and work with Hugh Fudenberg!

    They have worked together before, and have similar issues with medical licensing:

    Among Brian Deer’s findings was that Andrew Wakefield had filed patent claims for a vaccine and a possible cure for autism, based on a fringe theory of “transfer factors”. His collaborator and “co-inventor” was Hugh Fudenberg, who claimed in a 2004 interview with Brian Deer to cure autistic children with his own bone marrow. Here is Fudenberg’s record with the South Carolina board of medical examiners. In November 1995, he was banned indefinitely from prescribing – a worrying picture for the Royal Free medical school in London, which, before hosting the launch of the anti-MMR campaign in 1998, was waiting on Fudenberg’s “business plan”.

  19. sheldon101 says:

    It is very encouraging that Wakefield didn’t announce where he was going to.

    For months and months, it has been obvious that he was going to be hammered by the GMC panel.

    But he doesn’t have anything prepared. There is no announcement that he is joining the Age of Autism or Generation Rescue. So I think he got pushed out. And it has finally occurred to some of these groups that supporting Wakefield is one thing, having him in your organization is something else entirely.

  20. BillyJoe says:


    You fast the triggers
    for the others to fire.
    Then you set back and watch
    When the death count gets higher.
    You hide in your mansion
    As young people’s blood
    Flows out of their bodies
    And is buried in the mud.

    And I hope that you die
    And your death’ll come soon.
    I will follow your casket
    In the pale afternoon.
    And I’ll watch while you’r lowered
    Down to your deathbed
    And I’ll stand o’er your grave
    ‘Till I’m sure that you’re dead.

    Bod Dylan.

  21. micheleinmichigan says:

    zoe – thanks for the references,

    windriven – thank for saying it better than me

    BillyJoe, gets the award for applicable Dylan song.

  22. DavidCT says:

    Sorry Dr. Gorsky. Of course you don’t need more misfortune in MI. As has been pointed out over at http://www.ratbags.com Hulda Clark’s clinic is sorely in need of a new director. That would move Dr. Wakefield away from both of us.

    Joking aside, it is infuriating that the anti-vax liars will not go away. Facts have never been much of a concern to those true believers. In fact the publicity will probably cause some parents to continue to have doubts and avoid vaccinations for their children.

    There may have been significant advance for the scientific community with the withdrawal of two pieces of poor research. We have yet to see if this will translate into a shift in public opinion.

  23. Michelleinmichigan, this is a personal anecdote so cannot be used to state anything definitively, but here’s my observation of how people committed to environmentalism and food safety often overlap and move in the same circles as the antivaxers.

    Health food stores.

    The same store that sells locally-grown produce and is dedicated to sustainability and other noble causes often sells shelfloads of other “natural” products, like stuff with no preservatives, and soaps with natural essential oils, herbs, books on herbs, herbal remedies, homeopathy– the progression from the rational to the religious is pervasive, and so subtle that the uninitiated doesn’t really notice that half the stock has no evidence base!

    At least, *I* didn’t notice, back when I was 21, and got one of my first jobs working in one such store.

    This sort of place attracts a customer base with a love of nature in common. However, there are nature-lovers, and those for whom Love of Nature is a RELIGION. It is the latter type of person who easily slides into the conspiracy theories other well-meaning people put forth, that the earth is being raped by voracious corporations and the Big Government who is in their pocket. It is this type who is most vulnerable to the fearmongering conspiracy stories of the antivax movement. I have seen wonderful, loving, well-meaning people sucked in. Hell, I was *nearly* sucked in, myself!

    It was really thanks to a lot of years’ extra maturity, good science and logic classes in school, and years of reading the engaging writing of sciencebloggers, physician bloggers, and nurse bloggers that showed me, hey! Healthcare workers are not motivated by a desire to poison ur babbees! and that treatments are best applied with logic and reason. Oh– and that doctors, nurses and scientists are in the fields they chose because they CARE about people, and in many cases, about the planet, too! :)

  24. lizditz says:

    @micheleinmichigan

    I must rise from my flu ridden stupor to question why commentors at SBM seem so inclined to associate environmentalism, organic products and concerns about food safety or product safety with the anti-vax movement.

    I imagine you were too flu-struck to click through to the article, which is responsible for making the connection you reference. I certainly don’t equate environmentalism or food-safety concerns with the anti-vax movement.

    I’m sure you are all familiar with the concept of the Venn diagram. There’s a cohort of anti-vaccine folk. There’s a cohort of people (some of whom are parents) who embrace “environmentalism, organic products and concerns about food safety or product safety. ” There is some overlap between the two: not a one-to-one correspondence. See for example the discussions on mothering.com and other discussion boards.

    Anecdote: At least where I live (Northern California) there’s a certain element of “competitive purity parenting” — showing your superior parenting of your infant & child’s well being by what kind of diapers you use, how you make your own baby-food from organic ingredients, and so forth. A vocal minority of this element is also anti-vaccination. It makes for depressing infant Mommy & me play group conversation.

  25. Fifi says:

    PerkySkeptic – I’ve witnessed the same thing you have in the health food store or yoga circuits, and this is where anti-vaxers and environmental romanticism (and activism) do crossover. There is certainly a contingent of people who romanticise nature and are pagans. That said, a lot of the environmentalists and people I know who are into sustainable food practices are scientists, atheists and skeptics and not anti-vaxers (particularly the younger people I know, though they don’t have a faith based approach to medicine either). I first learned about how the environment through science (though I also learned about nature from simply spending time in nature). It is research scientists who have been warning governments and providing proof of the environmental impact of industrial toxins on human health and our environment since the 70s. Environmental science is science, it’s not some form of woo. And, while conservative think tanks do try to equate science with technology and industry – science (as a practice) is not industry just because industry uses science and we use science to build different technologies. This pro-industry position is no less filled with woo and unreality based thinking as the pagan nature worshippers are (climate change deniers are a good example). Some environmentalists I know are even tech geeks who tend to have highly optimistic views of technology. So, environmentalists come from all kinds of cultures and, like preventative medicine, it’s really rather silly to equate environmentalism and a love of nature with being anti-science. Particularly if one is simply going to uncritically trot out propaganda and pseudoscience promoted by industry – then you really are simply the other side of the woo coin!

  26. Fifi says:

    I also find the whole anti-nature pro-industry kind of thing weird on an SBM blog. After all, medicine is about biology and what is biology but nature. Not only that, but germ theory and the hygiene hypothesis are entirely about how our bodies interact with the environment around us to increase or decrease health. I sometimes wonder if some people are just as unreasonably fearful about nature as others are unrealistically trusting.

  27. micheleinmichigan says:

    “I imagine you were too flu-struck to click through to the article, which is responsible for making the connection you reference. I certainly don’t equate environmentalism or food-safety concerns with the anti-vax movement.”

    Yes, I figured reading your comment was sufficient. I was not up to a four page article on “freaked out parents” that seems to describe a bunch of folks I have never met, But maybe that’s because I’m from the Midwest, not California.

    I will say I wasn’t happy about the whole lead in toys thing. Particularly because my daughter was a huge toy chewer, but also because I think it is indicative of problems with globalization that need to be looked at closely and resolved.

    Also, I get tired of the media spending so much time on topics design to grab eyeballs and freak out parents, then alternately criticize them for being freaked out. Go figure.

    Perky Skeptic – I did not mean to say that there is no sub-group of environmentalist, food safety people that weren’t anti-vax, only that they are separate issues and I get annoyed when people make sweeping generalizations. If someone wants to argue the pros and cons of certain environmental measures, the relative safety of organic vs traditional, EPA regulations, etc, please do so directly not by association.

    As to the insidious effects of health food stores, I equate it to walking into a bar. Some people are probably alcoholics and will be negatively effected, others will end up with a bad hang-over and learn a lesson and others can get their beer (or arnica gel) have fun and go home none the worse for wear.

    Sorry to post off-topic. I’ll stop now.

  28. The “toxin” hysteria movement (which includes the antivaxers) is a caricature of rational environmentalism, but is fairly good at portraying itself as being part of the latter, and sometimes the two appear to agree–particularly in the seemingly reasonable (at first glance) appeal to the “precautionary priniciple,” which can be found everywhere in environmentalism and also in antivax screeds, eg, here: http://www.relocalize.net/the_precautionary_principle

    A conspicuous voice warning agains environmental toxins is Michael Lerner of Commonweal, who can sound rational to a point, if rather shrill: http://www.commonweal.org/pubs/lerner/article_extinction.html

    I suspect many non-woo based parents and others would consider him to represent science-based environmental opinion, but he is a regular at “academic” sCAM conferences, eg, Harvard’s, where I heard him speak a few years ago. To see why, look here: http://www.commonweal.org/pubs/choices-healing.html

  29. Zoe237 says:

    You know, freaked out parents could be afraid of the diseases too. I’d be careful about associating anti vaccination sentiments with the environmental movement in general.

  30. Zoe237 says:

    And this post is about an unethical scientist and the fact that it tooks years for the scientific community to censure him. Does that mean we can now say all kinds of things/ make all kinds of conclusions about the invalidity of science as a whole? I don’t think so. There will always be various kinds of extremists in any movement or subject.

  31. micheleinmichigan says:

    # Zoe237

    “You know, freaked out parents could be afraid of the diseases too.”

    Yes, or you could combine the two. I have a bottle of all-natural hand sanitizer in my purse. :) (In my defense, my hands crack, alcohol stings like crazy)

  32. Fifi says:

    Dr Atwood – Funnily enough, I first learned the “precautionary principle” via medicine’s “first do no harm/Primum non nocere” motto/screed/principle from my doctor parents! Apparently medicine is also rife with this screed! Funny how it’s a screed when it’s “them” and it’s an ethical principle when it’s “us”… ;-)

    I think we’re all pretty clear at this point that simply being associated with Harvard means very little in terms of whether someone is an advocate or practioner of SBM or good science or is a promoter of pseudoskepticism and pseudoscience.

    And, of course, an environmental toxin may very well be entirely a product of nature and not a manufacturing process or industrial pollution. It’s interesting how locked into the industry vs naturalist fallacies about environmental toxins even a lot of people who consider themselves to be science first types are! It seems to me that the science is still out on the biological and environmental effects of a lot of plastics and chemicals used by industry…this is partly because industry tends to be very secretive about the chemicals they use and it’s partly because we haven’t been studying the effects for very long. Clean air acts and so on only started in the late 50s and a lot of environmental protection of land and waterways didn’t even start to get going until the 70s. Of course, industry doesn’t have to be so terrible for the environment, it’s just usually more profitable when it doesn’t care about the people or processes and materials being used.

  33. Fifi,

    I don’t disparage reasonable uses of the precautionary principle, only when it is used to extremes. By ‘screed’ I was referring to the larger statements of the antivax crowd, not to the precautionary principle per se.

    FWIW. :-)

  34. Fifi says:

    Dr Atwood – Fair enough! Thanks for explaining and, yes, that’s a pretty accurate use of “screed” ;-) I’d just hate to see the anti-vaxers and ideologues take over the precautionary principle (which seems pretty fundemantal to ethical science) like they’ve managed to claim preventative medicine, nutrition and exercise as their domain.

    One problem is that the world is fuzzy and people often gather around a common belief or concern, particularly when it comes to activism of any kind. For instance, SBM attracts activists/supporters from all different kinds of political and social outlooks who are interested in reality-based thinking. Personally I’m quite willing to work towards a common goal with people who have quite different worldviews or beliefs to me. It’s pretty much the only way you get things done in the world and getting locked into one’s own perspective can make one very blind and short sighted since, after all, we all view the world subjectively despite our best efforts to be objective. This is the very reason we developed the scientific method, to mitigate our own inability to be entirely free of confirmation biases and the myriad other cognitive traps our kluge of a brain sets for us! ;-)

  35. micheleinmichigan says:

    lizditz said “A vocal minority of this element is also anti-vaccination. It makes for depressing infant Mommy & me play group conversation.”

    On second thought, the weather’s really miserable here. If you fly me out to California I’d be happy to regale your vocal anti-vax minority in the mommy and me group with the rousing tale of how I had my daughter RE-vaccinated with all her infant vaccines at age 1+ . I don’t normally like to stir the pot, but it might be fun in this case.

  36. SD says:

    Well, Comrade, I’ll be generous to the alleged Dr. Wakefield and note that whether or not he was right (yes, yes, he wasn’t, but still, it doesn’t matter whether he was or not for the purposes of this statement), he sure fucked that up but good. Proving, once again, that doing things The Wrong Way and lying is a recipe for well-deserved failure.

    And so, Andy… This one’s for you.

    — snip —

    [sung to the tune of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" - with apologies to REM]

    “What’s the causation, Andrew?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
    You had a theory, locked down, satisfaction guaranteed
    Falsified data from a sciency dream
    Persecution from the pharma machine
    You never understood the causation, uh-huh
    You tried heroism but you wound up a douche, uh-huh

    Everybody studied your papers, data, background, poor troubled youth
    Popper said “Desire ain’t the source of truth”
    A smile like a preacher, hair perfectly cut
    You said that autism was found in the butt, oh
    You blamed your failure on the pharma machine, uh-huh
    You never understood the causation, uh-huh

    “What’s the causation, Andrew?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
    Data faked, bullshit called, a tragic mess on the scene
    A smile like a preacher, hair perfectly cut
    You said that autism was found in the butt, OH
    You tried heroism but you wound up a douche, uh-huh
    I couldn’t understand
    Popper said “Desire ain’t the source of truth”, uh-huh
    I couldn’t understand
    You blamed your failure on the pharma machine, uh-huh
    I couldn’t understand
    I never understood, how fucking douchey, uh-huh

    — snip —

    “sic semper doucheannis”
    -SD

  37. tgastaldo says:

    I post here because London attorney and blogger Jack of Kent called attention to,

    “THE WRETCHED AND DISHONEST ANDREW WAKEFIELD” in his blog entry about David Gorski, MD, PhD’s “story of The Fall of Andrew Wakefield.”

    Whereas Dr. Gorski HUMOROUSLY suggests (“can’t resist suggesting”) that Dr. Wakefield “has clearly been a minion of big pharma”…
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3941

    I am SERIOUSLY suggesting here that Dr. Wakefield has been a minion of big pharma.

    Given the obvious crimes of big pharma’s MD drug salesmen/drug pushers [see below] – it is not beyond the pale to suggest that big pharma is behind the success of certain medical doctors whose JOB it is to ultimately be caught thereby – as planned – leaving egg on the face of all the “anti-vaxxers” who have followed him/promoted him.

    (In addition to the birth-canal-closing crimes [discussed below], big pharma’s MD drug salesmen/drug pushers are fraudulently promoting vaccinations using planned endangerment of vaccinated children as well as FAILING to promote breastfeeding as immunization thereby, in effect, denying massive numbers of babies massive numbers of free daily immunizations. Details to any who ask.)

    Excerpted from…

    JACK OF KENT: OBGYN WRETCHES AND THE WRETCH DAVID GORSKI, MD, PhD…
    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/chiro-list/message/4972

    Alternate URL: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/chiro-list3/message/1371

    READERS: Please help stop the massive, sometimes-fatal birth-canal-closing crime of OBGYNs.

    FURTHER EXCERPT…

    REPORT – and urge others to report.

    ACCORDING TO THE JOURNAL PEDIATRICS, MDs AND DCs SHOULD WORK TOGETHER ON THIS…

    VOHRA ET AL. [2007] wrote in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics/AAP that concern for patient safety DEMANDS a greater collaboration “particularly” with doctors of chiropractic “such that we can investigate and report harms related to spinal manipulation together.”
    –Sunita Vohra, MD FRCPC MSc et al. Adverse events associated with
    pediatric spinal manipulation: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2007
    Jan;119(1):e275-83.
    Epub 2006 Dec 18. PubMed abstract, emphasis added.

    Report even though the US Attorney for the District of Oregon is looking the other way^^^…

    Report even though two federal judges in Oregon are rubberstamping the US Attorney’s failure to stop the obvious mass OBGYN child abuse crimes…

    ^^^A US Attorney for the District of Oregon – Karin Immergut – resigned not long after she sued me – not long after I pointed out the obvious obstetric crime in my Motion to Dismiss. Maybe Immergut’s resignation would have happened anyway – but why did she ignore the obvious crimes I pointed out to her? Why is she STILL ignoring the massive OBGYN child abuse crimes?

    Immergut’s replacement – Acting US Attorney Kent Robinson – recently withdrew his application to become permanent US Attorney.

    See ATTN: DR. OFRI/BELLEVUE LITERARY REVIEW: DR. OZ: **YOU**: GIVING SOMETIMES-FATAL
    BIRTH ADVICE
    http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/chiro-list/message/4908

    It is perhaps relevant that the wife of the man in charge of all US attorneys – US Attorney General Eric Holder – is an OBGYN…

    Thanks for reading.

    Sincerely,

    Todd

    Dr. Gastaldo
    Hillsboro, Oregon
    USA
    todd@chiromotion.com

  38. Prometheus says:

    OK, the above rant by “Dr.” Gastaldo was amusing…in a visit-to-Bedlam sort of way.

    I’m still wondering what the “birth-canal-closing crime of OB/Gyn’s” might be – I really can’t imagine what he’s raving about.

    Interestingly, Mr. Gastaldo is not listed as a licenced chiropractor in the state of Oregon.Or Washington state. He did have a license in California, but that was cancelled in 1994.

    What I did find was that he has a history of claiming that OB’s cause the “birth canal to close up to 30%”. Now, I’d like to tell you that my reading of the “sources” he suggested made this clear to me, but they didn’t.

    Mr. Gastaldo appears to need some professional help – and I don’t mean a spinal adjustment.

    Prometheus

  39. SD says:

    @prometheus:

    “What I did find was that he has a history of claiming that OB’s cause the “birth canal to close up to 30%”. Now, I’d like to tell you that my reading of the “sources” he suggested made this clear to me, but they didn’t.”

    Wow. Women spending all that money on “revirginization” treatments and doing Kegel exercises, and they could get the same thing for free just by going to an OB? I have only one word for this:

    …AWESOME.

    Clearly Cmdr. Gastaldo is in tune with “the frequency”, yes, but he has done us all the service of bringing something very important to our attention. Three cheers for OBs and shrinking birth canals!

    “the frequency has been found, kenneth”
    -SD

  40. Chris says:

    I remember Gastaldo from Usenet (which I have not been on for several years). He hasn’t changed. Ignore him.

  41. Prometheus says:

    To save other people from the chaos of looking up the basis of Mr. Gastaldo’s claim that “the birth canal” closes by 30% because of routine obstetric care, I’ll post a summary:

    According to “certain sources” (including – according to Mr. Gastaldo – Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen), the opening of the pelvis (the bony pelvis, I have to assume) is reduced by 30% in the supine position (laying on the back) compared to its size when standing.

    This, of course, makes no sense at all, for at least two reasons:

    [1] While the symphysis pubis and other pelvic joints do become more flexible during pregancy, the bones remain the same size. The ring structure of the pelvis allows for some distortion of “the birth canal”, but it would take more than gravity in the supine position to cause a 30% decrease in the size of the opening.

    [2] Even if the pelvic bones were completely disarticulated at the end of pregnancy (which would make walking or standing impossible), uterine contractions forcing the child’s head through “the birth canal” would reposition those bones into the “maximum opening area” configuration.

    Mr. Gastaldo is – to be charitable – misinformed. About a great many things.

    Prometheus

  42. wildman says:

    Holy balls..SHEEEEEPLES UNITE! Wakefield’s work is so scary for you? I bet he was never smeared to keep the truth from being known?

    http://www.lowellsfacts.com

    Gorski, all you are is another pharma lying scoundrel, that has been brainwashed by the pharma elite to the point you can’t think outside of the brainwashed circle. Either that or you are paid to lie for them; to keep the parents blind to the facts. Pure evil to the core!

    9 Questions That Stump Every Pro-Vaccine Advocate and Their Claims.
    David Mihalovic, ND
    http://www.medicalvoices.org/vaccination/articles/9-questions-that-stump-every-pro-vaccine-advocate-and-their-claims.html

  43. wildman says:

    The philosophy is “if they cannot deny the message, then they will discredit the messenger.” This is simply how the system works.

  44. Chris says:

    Actually Wakefield’s work is not scary because it is worthless.

    The now withdrawn Lancet study was just a dozen case studies that really did not prove anything. Even without the undisclosed conflict of interest or the fudged data, in no way did it prove the MMR vaccine was associated with autism.

    Bad science is not scary when it is exposed. Of course, the problem is bad journalism that trumpets bad science.

    I am afraid that you have been sucked in by bad journalism.

    By the way, the ND after (using his proper professional title) Mr. Mihalovic is short for Not a Doctor.

  45. Chris says:

    Further proof that Mihalovic is a completely clueless Not a Doctor is that in his little essay he wrote:

    7. What to ask: Could you please provide scientific justification on how bypassing the respiratory tract (or mucous membrane) is advantageous and how directly injecting viruses into the bloodstream enhances immune functioning and prevents future infections?

    Um, dude… can you tell which vaccine is ever injected into the bloodstream?

    And the answers to the rest of his silly questions are covered here:
    http://sciencebasedmedicine.org/reference/category/vaccines/

  46. Chris says:

    aargh… failed to close bold tag after the word “Not”!

    A preview would be handy!

  47. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @Chris

    Not just that, is there evidence that bypassing the respiratory tract is harmful? How is it different from a microbe getting access to the body by a skin puncture? Presumably our ancestors had to deal with sharp sticks, rocks, bites by infected animals (or humans), or getting sneezed on when you have a cut. Surely the evolution of our immune system allowed for this. And how does crossing the membrane between the inside and outside world alter a pathogen, as Mihalovic’s question strongly implies? And vaccines don’t enhance the immune system, they challenge it with a weakened or killed version to enhance recognition. Not to mention that in many cases vaccine injections do not use viruses. And how does the body deal with viruses anyway when they reach the blood, as all viruses do? Mihalovic’s questions spend more text misrepresenting vaccination than they do asking the question.

  48. wildman says:

    This link does not answer any of those 9 questions

    http://sciencebasedmedicine.org/reference/category/vaccines/

    As for those 14 studies they do not answer those questions either!

    As far as those 14 studies; every main stream study that exists can be proven as to its flawed design, clear predetermined outcome, as well as that they are directly sourced, paid for, and connected to either the CDC or the AAP.

    Full analysis
    http://www.putchildrenfirst.org/index2.html
    http://www.safeminds.org/research/commentary.html

    Further more when this guy gets done with what he is doing, the entire vaccine program will be floating in the cesspool of the junk science archives!

    http://www.tolerancelost.com

    9 Questions That Stump Every Pro-Vaccine Advocate and Their Claims.
    David Mihalovic, ND
    http://www.medicalvoices.org/vaccination/articles/9-questions-that-stump-every-pro-vaccine-advocate-and-their-claims.html

  49. Chris says:

    Actually, you just don’t like the answers. And a reminder that “ND” really means “Not a Doctor.”

    Using the websites you are citing is close to using whale.to, and they should be added to Scopie’s Law. So we’ll just continue to ignore you little rants.

  50. Chris says:

    The truth is that you just don’t like the answers to those nonsense questions posted by the ND (which really stands for “Not a Doctor”) who does not even know how vaccines are administered.

    Both of those other websites can be classified as unreliable. I don’t have time to look now but I am pretty sure the authors have been discussed on this blog (Putchildrenfirst is a JB Handley project, and SafeMinds is Lyn Redwood, Sallie Bernard and Mark Blaxill). Take note that none of them have any real vaccine or immunology expertise.

    Andrew Wakefield has been removed from the Thoughtful House, had at least two papers removed from the scientific literature, has never qualified to practice medicine in the USA, and may soon lose privileges in the UK.

    In short: he no longer matters. Get over it.

Comments are closed.