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MMR doctor ‘planned to make millions’ claims journal

In the second part of a special report, the BMJ reveals how the doctor who claimed there was a link between the MMR jab and autism planned to cash in
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard

12th January 2011 - Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced doctor who claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease, planned to make a vast amount of money as a result of the health scare, according to a new report in the BMJ.

It’s the second exposé by award winning investigative journalist Brian Deer, who has spent seven years interviewing key players and following the paper trail.

1998 Lancet study

The 1998 health claims by Wakefield and colleagues in TheLancet attracted worldwide media attention, and in the UK sparked a health scare that led to a drop in the number of children having the MMR jab.

In 2004, 10 of the 13 authors of the research paper retracted their interpretation of their findings. The Lancet retracted the paper in February last year, accepting that the claims made in it were false.

In January 2010 the General Medical Council (GMC) decided that Wakefield had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly”, a ruling that led to him being struck off the medical register four months later.

In the first part of his investigation, Deer showed how Wakefield was able to manufacture the appearance of a medical syndrome that would hoodwink parents and large parts of the medical establishment with a fraud that “unleashed fear, parental guilt, costly government intervention, and outbreaks of infectious disease”.

Business deals

In the second part, he shows how the discredited doctor planned secret businesses intended to make huge sums of money, in Britain and the US, from his allegations.

The BMJ report says that Wakefield met medical school managers to discuss a joint business, even while the first child to be fully investigated in his research was still in the hospital; and how just days after publication of his Lancet article, he brought business associates to his place of work at the Royal Free Medical School in London to continue negotiations.

Drawing on investigations and information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Deer says Wakefield and his associates used financial forecasts which predicted they could make up to £28 million a year from the diagnostic kits alone.

Deals could have netted millions

The kits in question were for diagnosing patients with autism. Deer obtained one 35-page document marked ‘private and confidential’ - designed to raise £700,000 from investors - which confidently predicted: “It is estimated that by year 3, income from this testing could be about £3,300,000 rising to about £28,000,000 as diagnostic testing in support of therapeutic regimes come on stream.”

Would-be investors were told that “the initial market for the diagnostic will be litigation-driven testing of patients with AE (autistic enterocolitis, a new syndrome concocted by Wakefield) from both the UK and the USA”.

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