Dr. Andrew Wakefield launched autism vaccines scare in 1998 with a paper in the Lancet medical journal. It was recently found that he faked the data and was paid off to make the publication. The scare led to lower vaccination rates in turn leading to at least 2 childhood deaths. The Lancet medical journal has just retracted Dr. Wakefield's original paper.  (Source: Daily Mail)
Messy case of malpractice is now expunged from the research records

Autism is one of most unusual and painful diseases to face mankind today.  It is unclear what causes autism, but studies have shown its rates to be on the rise.  Potential suggested causes have included parents having children at an older age and increased chemical exposure.

One unusual cause was suggested in 1998 by British doctor Andrew Wakefield.  He suggested that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine might be causing not only late-onset autism, but bowel disease as well.  Backed by the findings of his junior doctors, Dr. Wakefield published a study in the prestigious Lancet medical journal.

The public was shocked.  It wasn't long before autism advocates like Jenny McCarthy were decrying the evils of vaccination.  In Britain, thanks to the scare, vaccine rates dropped from 92% to below 80%.  This led to the number of measles cases in England and Wales to soar from 56 in 1998 to 1,348 in 2008.  Two children died as a result of the disease.

Something wasn't adding up about the vaccines link, though.  Try as they might, researchers couldn't replicate Dr. Wakefield's results.  And the children he evaluated were found to have no signs of bowel disease when a second opinion was obtained.

Then came shocking allegations, starting a couple years ago.  It was revealed that Dr. Wakefield had his subordinates falsify data, obscuring that the children studied had already shown signs of autism pre-vaccination.  He also had them record that children had bowel disease when they had none.  And worst of all, he apparently did it for profit.

In 2004, it was revealed that Dr. Wakefield had been approached by representatives from the UK's Legal Aid Board (now the Legal Services Commission), a law firm that was preparing a suit against vaccine manufacturers.  Lacking scientific evidence, the firm essentially bought it, paying Dr. Wakefield £55,000 ($88K USD) to falsify the data.

Dr. Wakefield also was rewarded in other ways.  Even as children died or became terribly ill from his fraud, in November 2001 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists.  And after allegations emerged in Britain, he fled to the U.S., where he now serves as Executive Director of Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin, Texas.

At the end of last month, some justice was finally served.  On January 28, Britain's General Medical Council found that Dr. Wakefield had "failed in his duties as a responsible consultant", shown "callous disregard" for his patients' trust, and had behaved "dishonestly and irresponsibly".  The council is still mulling over disciplinary actions, but is possible his medical license will be revoked.

On February 2, the Lancet medical journal finally retracted the paper [PDF] that launched the vaccines controversy.  The journal released a statement, commenting, "It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield ... are incorrect.

Many physicians are angry that it took so long for the veteran journal to retract the study. States Adam Finn, professor of pediatrics at Bristol University, "This is not before time. Let's hope this will do something to re-establish the good reputation of this excellent vaccine."

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