The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has now-retracted a British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines calling it “an elaborate fraud that has done long-lasting damage to public health.”  An investigation just published by the BMJ concluded that the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study — and that there was “no doubt” Wakefield was responsible.

The journal went on to say, “It’s one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors, but in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”

The UK has revoked Mr. Wakefields medical license in May. “Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession,” BMJ states in an editorial accompanying the work.

This bogus research paper caused worldwide panic amongst parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years. In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers -- a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose.

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5347.full