Respectful Insolence

They’re coming out of the woodwork

Thanks to having been up all night Thursday night and most of the night a couple of days before that working on a grant, I know I haven’t had a chance to write about the GMC’s ruling on Andrew Wakefield’s unethical conduct in conducting his “clinical research” that according to him linked the MMR vaccine to autism. That dubious and possibly even fraudulent research ultimately fueled the anti-vaccine movement in the U.K. and, aided and abetted by the sensationalistic and credulous U.K. media, Wakefield started an MMR scare that persists to this day, having led to vaccination uptake rates plunging and measles surging back. Much suffering can be laid at his doorstep.

One advantage of having been forced to wait is that, when I finally do get around to blogging about Wakefield (probably on Monday), I can have some fun with the reactions of the anti-vaccine movement in general and the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism in particular. In the meantime, I note that a clueless antivaxer has apparently found her way to a nearly year old post about Wakefield. Have some fun in the meantime. If that’s not enough, there’s also this clueless alt-med supporter on an old thread about Mark Hyman.

Or you could read the complete ruling on Wakefield.

I need a bit of rest now.

Comments

  1. #1 Andyo
    January 30, 2010

    Something related. Sorry to link from an entertainment blog without much content, but the title just cracks me up.

  2. #2 FreeSpeaker
    January 30, 2010

    They are dancing the “Wakefield Weasel”. To have one of the icons of the anti-vax movement (think gastroenterology) trashed like this, is just too much to bear.

    We should expect a serious backlash from the Al Quaeda of Autism Drone Leaders. The suit by BLF was just a warning shot.

  3. #3 squirrelelite
    January 30, 2010

    It’s OK.

    I liked the part about “Arianna’s Funtime Link Party Tribune and Hothouse of Nonsense “.

  4. #4 Jen
    January 30, 2010

    If it wasn’t for the Arianna angle, they may not have written about Wakefield at all, because it’s not really their focus. But they are very aware of HuffPo’s ethical lapses. They helped get Anonymous started by standing up to Scientology‘s lawyers and refusing to take down the Tom Cruise video, and that is something many big publications are not willing to do. In short, I love Gawker. Be sure to stick around to read Richard Lawson’s sweeping essays on the Real Housewives (no, really).

    (PS Someone called Dana Ullman a dangerous man in HuffPo comments today and it was allowed to stand (!))

  5. #5 Bob Calder
    January 30, 2010

    Suppose we come away from the workshop on the social networks and history of global warming denial in San Diego with a smoking gun similar to the Wakefield situation? What then? It’s not like is wasn’t obvious to anyone with a brain for a good length of time.

    The Fox News and talk radio idiot-sphere will dismiss it and roll along as long as their bosses find it profitable. Obviously they are motivated by things other than the prospect of a future blighted by stupidity.

  6. #6 llewelly
    January 30, 2010

    Bob Calder | January 30, 2010 2:55 PM:

    The Fox News and talk radio idiot-sphere will dismiss it and roll along as long as their bosses find it profitable. Obviously they are motivated by things other than the prospect of a future blighted by stupidity.

    You have it exactly backwards. Stupid people are easier to manipulate. Easier to sell unnecessary garbage to. They’re a better target for most kinds of advertising. In the eyes of many advertisers, Faux News has better ad space because their audience is stupid. Faux News sees a future filled with stupidity as a future filled with dollars.

  7. #7 Joseph
    January 30, 2010

    I’m curious. Whatever happened to the PCC complaint against Brian Deer? I understand they were waiting for the GMC verdict.

  8. #8 Dedj
    January 30, 2010

    Hard to say. They may not be very quick on this, and may be waiting news of any further developments in regards the comments regarding fitness-to-practice in the GMC verdict.

    No doubt Wakefields team will not be quick to remind them about the complaint. Wakefield benefits from Deers’ adherance to the ‘stay’, so expect someone else to be doing all the legwork. Just like before.

  9. #9 Party Cactus
    January 30, 2010

    The Fox News and talk radio idiot-sphere will dismiss it and roll along as long as their bosses find it profitable.

    Will any of the large news sources really cover it? And maybe more importantly, even if they do, will they really hammer in the extent of what he did, or just give that wishy-washy ‘everyone’s opinion is equal’ baloney?

  10. #10 jen
    January 30, 2010

    “Much suffering can be laid at his doorstep.” The same thing could be said for the peds who vaccinate off-label and the researchers who do crappy “safety studies.” There are quite a few children out there (and adults) who have suffered from vaccine damages. Oh yes, but as Chris said, they are just “percentages.”

  11. #11 Dangerous Bacon
    January 30, 2010

    Congratulations to Bill Gates for pledging $10 billion over the next decade to develop and implement vaccine programs.

    “Bill Gates, the philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, has pledged to give $10bn over the next 10 years for the development and use of vaccines, the largest single amount ever earmarked by his foundation…“We must make this the decade of vaccines,” Mr Gates said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before.”…A significant but unspecified proportion of the $10bn in grants will go to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi), an international partnership to promote the use of vaccines in the developing world.

    Gavi, which estimates its programmes have helped avert 5m deaths from diseases including measles, polio and yellow fever since its creation a decade ago, is funded largely by government donors but has already received $1.5bn from Mr Gates’s foundation.

    Mr Gates said his priorities would be to accelerate the use of vaccines to protect against diarrhoea and respiratory diseases including rotavirus and pneumococcal infections, as well as support an effective malaria vaccine. He said it was possible there could also be progress with an HIV or TB vaccine in the coming decade.

    A study commissioned by the $34bn Gates Foundation suggested that a 90 per cent coverage using new vaccines against diarrhoea and pneumonia could prevent deaths of 7.6m children under five from 2010-19.”

    Maybe Mr. Gates could also pledge a small amount of money for dental care, to help the antivaxers now gnashing their teeth in rage over the announcement of Gates’ vaccine initiative.

  12. #12 alareth
    January 30, 2010

    Amazingly, HuffPo had a favorable writeup of the Bill Gates announcement for the vaccine initiative.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/29/gates-makes-10-billion-va_n_441638.html

    Not surprisingly, some commenters go nuclear …

  13. #13 Antaeus Feldspar
    January 30, 2010

    Cut the crap, jen. Wakefield’s wrongdoing is there in black and white for the world to see; the notion that vaccines are these monstrously dangerous concoctions which were only unleashed on an unsuspecting public because the researchers who were supposed to test them for safety bungled their job, however, is a theory you have been unable to support with evidence.

  14. #14 Andyo
    January 30, 2010

    I guess it’s OK for Jen to cause suffering so long as she believes someone else is doing it too.

  15. #15 Liz Ditz
    January 30, 2010

    I’ve had alot of fun with this and have discovered some new (to me) skeptical / keep-the-science-in-medicine / rational-thinking blogs.

    I sometimes write a post that collates blog responses, both positive and negative, to a given issue.

    I’m keeping one now on responses to the GMC’s ruling on Andrew Wakefield’s conduct.

    The post is at

    http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2010/01/andrew-wakefield-dishonesty-misleading-conduct-and-serious-professional-misconduct.html

    I’m puzzled, though: the “autism is vaccine injury” & “autism can be cured” crowd have been awfully silent about the GMC verdict. Yes, there were a flurry of posts at Age of Autism, but other than that….not so much.

    Let me know if I’ve missed any.

  16. #16 Marcus Ranum
    January 30, 2010

    Yeah, I know it’s the summary of findings. But – aughhhh – it could use an executive summary. Can you see a journalist reading that all the way through?

  17. #17 a-non
    January 30, 2010

    The same thing could be said for the peds who vaccinate off-label and the researchers who do crappy “safety studies.” There are quite a few children out there (and adults) who have suffered from vaccine damages.

    And untold millions whose lives have been spared thanks to vaccines.

    Besides, the only off-label drug use and piss-poor safety research I’m worried about these days belongs to the autism quacks.

  18. #18 Dr. P
    January 31, 2010

    “Much suffering can be laid at his doorstep.” The same thing could be said for the peds who vaccinate off-label and the researchers who do crappy “safety studies.”

    Right now the only real evidence for crappy studies endangering anyone’s health is on Wakefield’s doorstep…. you have some evidence that’s believeable or are crappy studies o.k. with you?

  19. #19 Jen (post #4)
    January 31, 2010

    Ooops. There are two people here posting as Jen.

    “Will any of the large news sources really cover it?”

    I would be happy to link US print coverage here if you would like. The Gawker story in post #1 linked to a Time Magazine article that came up almost immediately after the news broke. Here is the AP story, from NYT.

    UK Medical Panel Rules Against Doctor Over Vaccine

    The Forbes coverage, mentioned elsewhere on this blog, has been delicious.

  20. #20 Jen (post #4)
    January 31, 2010

    I would like to give a shout-out to Anonymous, who are in the process of rooting out some phonie baloney autism fundraiser at the LA Scientology Celebrity Center.

    Jen @ 10

    This scare tactic rhetoric opens the door for opportunists. Rewind yourself to pre-Wakefield. Were you ever asking these questions before he came on the scene? I’m kind of mad about this name mix-up; I don’t want my previous posts to be put in doubt. In the interests of fairness, I will assume it was an accident, as I made the same mistake when I first posted.

  21. #21 Bob O'H
    January 31, 2010

    I’m curious. Whatever happened to the PCC complaint against Brian Deer?

    Dunno, but the libel case was withdrawn (and Wakefield had to pay costs. that must have hurt, the way the English libel laws are). Deer has a piece up in today’s Times (of London).

  22. #22 DLC
    January 31, 2010

    Gee, not like Wakefield had no conflict of interest.
    Just because his vaccine was in direct competition with the standard MMR vaccine . . .
    But, somehow, because Wakefield’s on The Side of the Angels(sic), and Offit isn’t, we’re to believe that his COI was nothing and Offit’s everything ?
    Tell me another story, Daddy.

    I’m glad to see Wakefield getting hammered for this, at long last. More than a decade later.

  23. #23 Rogue Medic
    January 31, 2010

    It is nice to have some good news coming out of the UK.

  24. #24 Jen
    January 31, 2010

    “It is nice to have some good news coming out of the UK.”

    10:23 Homeopathy Overdose Event (in the improbable event that someone missed it).

  25. #25 Otto
    January 31, 2010

    @Dangerous Bacon: “Maybe Mr. Gates could also pledge a small amount of money for dental care, to help the antivaxers now gnashing their teeth in rage over the announcement of Gates’ vaccine initiative.”

    Get real. Everybody knows that dental problems are completely eradicated with a combination of Weston Price’s “Activator X” and cod liver oil.

  26. #26 Kate
    January 31, 2010

    I would like to thank Brian Deer for his investigations. Great job and well done! I also want to let him know he owes me a new irony meter because after reading the article about where Thoughful House is getting it’s monetary backing, mine broke big time. Seriously people go read it on the Times Online.

  27. #27 Jen in TX
    January 31, 2010

    “I also want to let him know he owes me a new irony meter because after reading the article about where Thoughtful House is getting it’s monetary backing, mine broke big time.”

    I posted something quite a while back about Wakefield’s work being funded by the Johnson and Johnson family. Wonder how many of those adoring parents will still support Wakefield if a link between Tylenol and autism is proven?

  28. #28 Anonymouse
    January 31, 2010

    Orac, when you write about the Wakefield case, I hope you discuss how it was that Lancet published his research. Aren’t peer reviewed journals supposed to have checks in place to prevent shoddy research from being published? How did this ever get past the editors? Also, how did it get past Wakefield’s co-authors (who have now removed their names from the paper)?

  29. #29 Andyo
    January 31, 2010

    Anonymouse, Offit’s great book Autism’s False Prophets explains it in some detail (I think one chapter). IIRC a great deal of the hoopla was Wakefield spouting un-evidenced assumptions at a press conference and then as you can imagine the press ran wild.

  30. #30 trrll
    January 31, 2010

    Anonymouse, peer review is important quality control, but far from infallible. Reviewers normally operate under the assumption that the authors are acting in good faith, and are honestly reporting how the work was done and what reports were obtained. They are looking for errors, not malfeasance. Similarly, collaborators are sometimes at at different institutions, and not in a position to personally oversee the work going on in each other’s labs

  31. #31 kb
    February 1, 2010

    My favorite part, in section 30.a. on page 43:

    “Admitted and found proved with the exception of the word ‘scientific.’”

    The whole thing was a little dry reading, but did Wakefield really try to get out of trouble by claiming his Lancet paper was not scientific? After making it to page 43, I’m not sure my reading comprehension skills are all that great, but I laughed really, really hard when I saw that sentence.

  32. #32 İstanbulhotel
    May 10, 2011

    Orac, when you write about the Wakefield case, I hope you discuss how it was that Lancet published his research. Aren’t peer reviewed journals supposed to have checks in place to prevent shoddy research from being published? How did this ever get past the editors? Also, how did it get past Wakefield’s co-authors (who have now removed their names from the paper)?
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