Andrew Wakefield has been thrust back into the limelight today, along with his discredited views on links between the MMR vaccine and autism.
The world’s media has jumped at the chance to have another shot at Wakefield, as provided by the BMJ, which has peer-reviewed the claims of journalist and long standing bane-of-Wakefield, Brian Deer.
Deer’s work for the Sunday Times was the first to really detail the flaws in Wakefield’s claims and the baseless nature of subsequent public scares over what now appears to be a non-existent link between receiving the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine and developing autism. Deer was also the target of legal action by Wakefield over his work, although the doctor eventually abandoned the case.
Now his allegations of fraud in the key paper in the MMR scandal, published by the Lancet, have been scrutinised by the BMJ.
In an editorial accompanying the latest of Deer’s takedowns the journal’s editors say it is clear that Wakefield is guilty of fraud:
Is it possible that he was wrong, but not dishonest: that he was so incompetent that he was unable to fairly describe the project, or to report even one of the 12 children’s cases accurately? No. A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross.
Or, as one headline writer succinctly puts it: “Lying MMR Doc set out to scare mums over jabs”.
On one level, all this repetition of what has been widely reported already is likely to make very little difference to Wakefield. He has already seen that Lancet paper withdrawn and been slammed by doctors’ regulator the GMC.
On the other hand, some are now calling for Wakefield to face fraud charges over his use of public funds in his research. This would be a serious development, although not one likely to damage his standing among the dwindling but increasingly fanatic supports of the anti-vaccine movement.
Talking to CNN, Wakefield said he had not read the latest BMJ articles but that Deer’s previous allegations were false. Wakefield claimed “he’s a hitman, he’s been brought in to take me down because they are very, very concerned about the adverse reactions that are occurring in children”. He said he did not know who ‘they’ were.