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The Lancet Recants Study Linking Autism To Vaccine

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the reel-in-the-wingnuts dept.

Medicine 590

JamJam writes "The Lancet, a major British medical journal, has retracted a flawed study linking the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to autism and bowel disease. British surgeon and medical researcher Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues originally released their study in 1998. Since then 10 of Wakefield's 13 co-authors have renounced the study's conclusions and The Lancet has said it should never have published the research. Wakefield now faces being stripped of his right to practice medicine in Britain. The vaccine-autism debate should now end."

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The vaccine-autism debate should now end... (2, Insightful)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002680)

...but it won't. Because the birthers *know* that the face on mars means that aliens ate my buick. ...In other news, Jack Sprat seen eating lean cuisines... details at 11.

The debate is long from over. (-1, Troll)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002804)

Just because one side of the debate has used bad data and judgment doesn't mean there is no merit to the debate. The other side does too. The trick is finding the truth in the whirlwind of lies and deceit.

Anecdotally, my brother works for a hospital. Everyone who works in the Emergency room was offered the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it became available. Each of those who got the vaccine came down with swine flu. Most of those who were unvacinated didn't.

These companies do make mistakes. Like any large organization with money at stake, they want to believe they can handle these problems quietly without large payouts. Is there a link between vaccines and autism? I don't know. I don't believe for a moment that the debate is over. There's way too much anecdotal evidence, even if there is no merit.

Re:The debate is long from over. (3, Insightful)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002858)

The problem is exactly what is written above, although not in the way the author thinks.

Who are you refering to? (0, Troll)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002916)

Are you referring to what I wrote, to what ak_hepcat wrote, to what JamJam wrote, or to the original article?

Re:Who are you refering to? (3, Funny)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002990)

Not enough anecdotal evidence to make a conclusion?

Re:Who are you refering to? (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003106)

Apparently not ;)

Re:Who are you refering to? (4, Insightful)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003228)

I believe it's due to what you wrote.

You've stated something as fact, and it is based on your perception. It's an example, and it may be valid, or it may be exaggerated, or it could be totally wrong... But to you, it's fact. You believe that the H1N1 vaccine gives people the swing flu... At the very least you imply that it does, and your proof is in your anecdote. If you have hard numbers to show us that people will get the swine flu from the vaccine (or at least that they have a higher incidence rate), then please provide them.

I'm guilty of this too on occasion.. I'm trying to be better about it.

Re:The debate is long from over. (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002924)

I think the fact that no other researchers have managed to get anything like the results Wakefield did should be influential in forming opinions about this.

Re:The debate is long from over. (3, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002930)

There is more anecdotal evidence to prove vaccines don't cause autism, so wouldn't that push the debate into being over, if anecdotal evidence is the measuring bar?

Re:The debate is long from over. (1, Interesting)

ThinkOfaNumber (836424) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003018)

Nope, it doesn't work like that.

It only takes one exception to disprove a rule, but to prove a rule you need to prove it for all cases.

Friends of ours have a daughter who started descending into autism one week after the MMR vaccine.

However I think the larger issue here is the weakening of the human race - as we continue to vaccinate, use antibiotics, and fix defects with surgery, we're allowing weak genetic traits to propagate that would otherwise be bred out. Nevertheless I still get my kids vaccinated.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003078)

I had the MMR vaccine and never have been diagnosed with autism.

Re:The debate is long from over. (2, Informative)

ThinkOfaNumber (836424) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003230)

me too, but that's my point which you might be missing. You can't take one healthy MMR-vaccinated person and prove that all MMR vaccine cases will never cause any side-effects.

It only takes one person with a side effect LINKED to the MMR vaccine to prove that they're all potentially dangerous. Note the link has to be well proven.

I'm not saying it is or isn't a good vaccine, I'm just talking about proofs.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003310)

Or its proof there was something else wrong with the person who took the vaccine and it was all coincidental that they showed symptoms after being vaccinated.

The night before I showed symptoms of ALL, I had been playing with a late 1970s Han Solo blaster pistol in my uncle's unfinished basement. Dose that mean a toy gun, an unfinished basement and/or playing are linked to ALL?

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

madprof (4723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003218)

"Descending into autism" is an awfully broad term. It's sure as hell not scientific. Just right for anecdotal evidence really.

The scientific studies conducted over hundreds of thousands of people that showed no evidence that MMR caused autism may carry more weight than what your friends say.

Re:The debate is long from over. (2, Insightful)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003082)

To remain clear, I didn't say that it was the measure of truth, only a measure of continuing debate.

There are lots of people who drink and drive who have never been in an accident. Does that push that debate to being over? Of course not.

It's statistics. If a drug or vaccine is unsafe for a small population, it needs to be restricted or banned. At issue is a large group of parents of autistic children who blame the vaccines. It doesn't matter to them if vaccines usually don't cause autism. They each see their own child as evidence that vaccines can cause autism. They band together and support each other's beliefs. Rarity doesn't matter to them. (as it shouldn't, statistically.)

Additionally, autism is on the rise, and nobody quite knows why. Sometimes, anecdote is all that we have. (unfortunately)

Re:The debate is long from over. (4, Insightful)

Knara (9377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003140)

No, autism *diagnosis* is on the rise. It is a subtle but important difference.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003202)

Granted, but the decline in undiagnosed cases is only one theory. I want to believe that's all it is, but I don't. I do believe it is a significant contribution to the change, though.

Re:The debate is long from over. (4, Interesting)

Knara (9377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003150)

Oh, and it's "Autism Spectrum Disorder" now, which includes everything from very slight Aspergers to the very profoundly autistic. This is a good measure of the increase, if not most of it.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003232)

Like what others here stated, the diagnosis is on the rise, not the incidence of autism.

I was diagnosed with ALL three months after my MMR. Does that mean MMR gave me Leukemia? Of course not. Does that mean there should be a debate on vaccinations and ALL? Of course not.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

Forthac4 (836529) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003260)

Conclusions should never be drawn from anecdotal observation, conclusions drawn from research which is instigated by anecdotal observations. Case in point http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_death [wikipedia.org] anecdotes are rife with observation and sampling biases and are not reflective of a total sum of truth. Also your analogy between drunk driving and vaccines causing autism is not really parallel, drunk driving research has not been unsubstantiated.

Re:The debate is long from over. (4, Insightful)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002998)

Just because one side of the debate has used bad data and judgment doesn't mean there is no merit to the debate.

It does when the only reason the debate ever started was because of that bad data.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003134)

Check here. [slashdot.org]

There are many cases like this. I don't make any claims, but this study isn't the only reason for the debate.

Re:The debate is long from over. (2, Insightful)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003302)

There are many cases like this. I don't make any claims, but this study isn't the only reason for the debate.

Yes it is. Blaming it on the vaccine makes about as much sense as blaming it one whatever she had for dinner, and would be as likely if it weren't for the "OH NOES THE VACCINES ARE CAUSING AUTISM" crowd.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

quantaman (517394) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003184)

Just because one side of the debate has used bad data and judgment doesn't mean there is no merit to the debate. The other side does too. The trick is finding the truth in the whirlwind of lies and deceit.

Anecdotally, my brother works for a hospital. Everyone who works in the Emergency room was offered the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it became available. Each of those who got the vaccine came down with swine flu. Most of those who were unvacinated didn't.

These companies do make mistakes. Like any large organization with money at stake, they want to believe they can handle these problems quietly without large payouts. Is there a link between vaccines and autism? I don't know. I don't believe for a moment that the debate is over.

I readily acknowledge that the debate isn't over as Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy have obviously yet to concede.

But the scientific debate has been over for years. There are definitely cases where pharmaceuticals have done unethical things, but the questions of vaccines and autism has been studied far too thoroughly by multiple scientists for that to be the case.

It's like using the fact that dirty judges exist to make the claim that the US legal system is staffed entirely by members of the Illuminati, conspiracies just don't scale like that.

There's way too much anecdotal evidence, even if there is no merit.

The plural of anecdote isn't data.

Anecdotal evidence can provide motivation for scientific research, but the moment you get good scientific research that addresses the issues and accounts for the anecdotes you can forget about the anecdotes.

Also, not to engage in Ad-Hominems, but when your movement is led by an unethical doctor with massive conflicts of interest and airhead former playboy models, and every study you try to publish has massive and obvious flaws, than it's a pretty good indication that the movement is full of BS.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003314)

There's way too much anecdotal evidence, even if there is no merit.

The plural of anecdote isn't data.

Get off your high horse for a moment. I didn't call it data, and I said that there may be no merit. Please refrain from strawmen arguments. I merely said that debate would continue because of it. Nothing more.

but when your movement is led...

It's not my movement. It's a movement that I watch with concern, but it's not one that I've sided with. I'm interested in the claims and facts from both sides.

Also, not to engage in Ad-Hominems, but...

Followed by an ad hominem. Cute.

Re:The debate is long from over. (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003204)

Is there a link between vaccines and autism? I don't know. I don't believe for a moment that the debate is over. There's way too much anecdotal evidence, even if there is no merit.

What does that even mean? "There's too much anecdotal evidence, even if there is no merit"? So, like, we both know that anecdotal evidence is crap, and the science all says otherwise, but because there's "too much" spouting off of post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies, it has to mean something? Yeah, it means most people are incapable of making good observations, have no understanding of statistics, and are more than happy to let confirmation bias run wild.

Also, anecdotally, none of these geniuses I've ever seen discuss the issue have any understanding of history, and of the suffering the human race endured before vaccination existed. Whatever tiny increase in autism they think actually exists, even if it turned out against all reason and evidence to be true, wouldn't be worth going back to that.

I swear, if there's ever an outbreak of smallpox, and these retarded fuckers refuse to get vaccinated, I'm going to start taking them out for the good of humanity.

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003248)

The trick is finding the truth in the whirlwind of lies and deceit.

The truth appears to be that the peer-reviewed study that is the basis for arguments that autism is linked to vaccines... isn't valid. Against that are numerous studies which did not find a link [newsweek.com] , and clear and obvious [time.com] health problems with not vaccinating children. Specifically brain damage, blindness, death.

So basically the "don't vaccinate your kid" side now only has old playboy models [time.com] and paranoia going for it. Forgive me if I think the "whirlwind of lies and deceit" is actually all on one side of the "debate."

Re:The debate is long from over. (1)

colonelquesadilla (1693356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003292)

since swine flu is hard to tell from seasonal flu, and anyone who has had the vaccine already has swine flu antibodies, isn't it hard to say whether they all came down with h1n1? Part of my thinking is that there was, in fact, a study in canada that seemed to show a link between higher seasonal flu infection rates, and having been immunized against h1n1. Canada acted on it and stopped recommending the vaccine for low risk groups. Anyway just my two cents.

But (4, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002682)

Wasn't it peer reviewed?

Re:But (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002742)

As someone else pointed out to me not long ago, peer review is really not geared toward finding certain kinds of mistakes, or deliberate fraud. There is still an assumption of integrity; an assumption that has caught a number of reputable journals in recent years.

Re:But (1)

dunezone (899268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003190)

From my understanding a journal is a source to publish ideas that may or may not be conclusion. In this case a study of 12 children came to a conclusion that their might be a link between the MMR vaccines and autism.

The problem was that the sample size was 12 children and since then several studies have been released that showed in a much larger sample the link wasn't so obvious.

The real question is why wasn't this study retracted earlier? Or did it take 12 years to debunk the study?

Re:But (5, Insightful)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003278)

That's a good way to think about it. Peer review, like the market, only works with honorable actors. Scientists are presumed to be honorable, so the way peer review is structured doesn't attempt to look for deliberate forgeries or falsehoods. Peer review is more along the lines of "this conclusion isn't backed up by your data" or "you forgot about this possibility" - that is, it catches mistakes or oversights. And it's pretty good for that.

These spates of disreputable science (this, and the ghost writers for example) is a good bit concerning. There historically hasn't been much deception at all, at least in modern science... I hope this isn't the harbinger of politics-as-science.

Re:But (2, Interesting)

stumblingblock (409645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003280)

I remember from my course in Medical Literature Evaluation in college, The Lancet has rather more loose standards than, say British Medical Journal, and as a result, everybody loved to read it cuz it always had provocative and often amusing articles.

Oh, the naivete. (5, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002684)

The vaccine-autism debate should now end.

Yeah, right. Since when have facts ever got in the way of a 'good' conspiracy theory?

Re:Oh, the naivete. (1, Insightful)

AhNewBis (42974) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002744)

Now the Vaccine Industry has scared or bribed the other doctors into recanting the evidence and they are going to destroy this Doctor's ability to practice medicine as a warning to anyone else that dares to come forward with the truth.

There isn't a rolleye big enough to express how likely it would be for this to end the discussion.

Re:Oh, the naivete. (1)

ThinkOfaNumber (836424) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003048)

And now they're scaring parents who might want to research this issue by posting a picture of a young guy with mumps in the middle of the article...

FUD!

Re:Oh, the naivete. (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003326)

And now they're scaring parents who might want to research this issue by posting a picture of a young guy with mumps in the middle of the article...

FUD!

Yeah, they really shoulda gone with the Fark.com shot of Jenny McCarthy with the caption "Every time a child dies I GET STRONGER!"

Re:Oh, the naivete. (2, Insightful)

JSG (82708) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003138)

Hmm 1 (or 13) doctors responsible for the wave of anti-MMR vaccine hysteria that swept the UK for years. Bollocks.

This story ran and ran and ran ad nauseum on all media. It was admittedly perhaps sparked by those doctor's (researchers??) paper but the journalists kept it going way beyond what it was worth. The media went quite literally beserk.

From what I can gather (IANAD) autism is a bit of a common diagnosis nowadays (it's a spectrum, and I'll bet most of /. readers will be on it somewhere. That's the joy of a spectrum - it can be as sensitive as you like). I don't wish to belittle the real difficulties that many autistic people endure - the sense of alienation and confusion etc but it is diagnosed rather more often nowadays than in the past.

As I recall it there were a small number (teens) of kids who were diagnosed as autistic shortly after receiving the MMR jab. So all we need now is a statistician to crank the numbers and find P(Aut/MMR) in a population that is being systemically although voluntarily vaccinated.

So if you allow that autism is a common diagnosis and that the country was pushing to have all children immunized with a one shot MMR vacc then the coincidence of the two in a population sample is likely to be pretty high.

Really its a case of crap statistics and a gullible media playing it way beyond its worth.

Oh and the side effects of all this - increased incidences of M M and R. I don't have the figures to hand (does anyone?) but I would imagine there will be an increase in deaths, disfigurements and other nasty side effects of the diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination.

Conspiracy? Only you can decide.

Re:Oh, the naivete. (4, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002750)

Since when have facts ever got in the way of a 'good' conspiracy theory?

There was one once, but they covered it up, I swear it.

Not much of a debate... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002688)

...when it's scientists debating fat midwestern housewives whose "evidence" is nothing more than sad anecdotal stories. Fucking retards holding back progress.

Re:Not much of a debate... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002760)

The problem: scientists were on both sides of the issue. Guess what? Scientists can be wrong too, not just mortals!

Re:Not much of a debate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002932)

But only one side had FMW's, and they're always wrong.

Re:Not much of a debate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002918)

The same thing happened with silicone breast implants. A bunch of women claimed that their implants caused a whole mess of problems when there wasn't any evidence to back them. The won a lawsuit got some money, lawyers got rich, Dow-Corning went bankrupt, and a bunch of folks lost a lot of money.

Re:Not much of a debate... (3, Insightful)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002940)

Fucking retards holding back progress.

Herd immunity issues aside, I'm all for the stupid reducing their evolutionary fitness. Natural selection and all that.

Well (1)

jwinster (1620555) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002694)

Even if he loses his medical license, at least he'll be a budding star in any modern media corporation.

Re:Well (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002816)

Maybe he can get a job at the Climatic Research Unit.......I hear they're looking for a new director. http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/ [uea.ac.uk]

Hell, that's a bonus (3, Insightful)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002852)

They can just advertise that he lost his licence because the powers that be want to supress information and they are doing it by silencing this guy. So spend $29.95 a month to sign up for our web site and learn what the man doesn't want you to know. (You know it'll work out just like that.)

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31003170)

If he's shameless enough he could become the Jack Thompson of vaccination! Maybe Scientology could sponsor him.
I think you have to be bat-shit crazy to qualify for either one, though. Maybe if he huffed some mercury.

It wasn't much of a debate to begin with (2, Insightful)

Senes (928228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002698)

If you read about it in other places besides here, what you'd more likely see is just endless mockery that would blind people to anything that really *could* go wrong with vaccinations. It is like discussing fertile land turning to desert in rural Africa, then hearing someone chime in that global warming is a hoax because it is snowing outside his window right now.

For our sake (4, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002704)

Can someone outline the flaws in the study? I know we here at /. are experts at things like that. But I also don't want to RTFA.

So why exactly should I not believe the original study? From where I stand (which is little to zero knowledge on the subject) I could conclude that each of the co authors one by one were persuaded by the various pharmaceutical companies which standed to be harmed by this research.

Re:For our sake (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002780)

By the same principle, since you know nothing, why exactly SHOULD you believe the original study?

Re:For our sake (2)

SCVirus (774240) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002884)

As the original study /seems/ (at face-layman value) to be an expose on the backroom actions of big pharma. The findings are intuitive and were published in a major journal with no obvious (monetary) reason for falsehood. Perhaps fame for the authors would be a reason to make this up... but certainly less compelling than the alternative. Mercury in vaccines bad? Sounds reasonable. Big corporation cover up to save profit margins? Sounds likely. Definite? Certainly not. Worth investigating without the resistance of pretentious douche-bags who pretend to be world class researchers... ? A good conspiracy theory sounds reasonable (including clear reasons, and potential participants for cover up), tugs at heart strings, AND has the support of an/some authority(ies) on the subject. This had all of them.

Re:For our sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002904)

Interesting my ass, you moron mods. The paper actually has data and aruguments, wouldn't they.

Re:For our sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002792)

At least the main author had financial interests in the results of the study. The study reached conclusions far stronger then their evidence supported, contradicting earlier studies with larger sample sizes. There was data-mining (if you check 100 variables and 5 of them support your conclusion at 95% certainty levels... you have exactly what you'd expect by chance. But that won't stop you from saying that you're 95% certain of your conclusions, if you're unscrupulous). And most of all there was evidence that the data was actually faked.

Re:For our sake (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002808)

So why exactly should I not believe the original study? From where I stand (which is little to zero knowledge on the subject) I could conclude that each of the co authors one by one were persuaded by the various pharmaceutical companies which standed to be harmed by this research.

From Quackwatch.org [quackwatch.org] :

The only "evidence" linking MMR vaccine and autism was published in the British journal Lancet in 1998. An editorial published in the same issue, however, discussed concerns about the validity of the study. Based on data from 12 patients, Dr. Andrew Wakefield (a British gastroenterologist) and colleagues speculated that MMR vaccine may have been the possible cause of bowel problems which led to a decreased absorption of essential vitamins and nutrients which resulted in developmental disorders like autism. No scientific analyses were reported, however, to substantiate the theory. Whether this series of 12 cases represent an unusual or unique clinical syndrome is difficult to judge without knowing the size of the patient population and time period over which the cases were identified.

If there happened to be selective referral of patients with autism to the researchers' practice, for example, the reported case series may simply reflect such referral bias. Moreover, the theory that autism may be caused by poor absorption of nutrients due to bowel inflammation is senseless and is not supported by the clinical data. In at least 4 of the 12 cases, behavioral problems appeared before the onset of symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, since publication of their original report in February of 1998, Wakefield and colleagues have published another study in which highly specific laboratory assays in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, the posited mechanism for autism after MMR vaccination, were negative for measles virus.

Re:For our sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31003142)

Don't forget that Wakefield was also paid by a lawyer working for families who looked to gain financially from any data implicating vaccines.
http://www.pointoflaw.com/archives/2010/01/mmr-scare-docto.php

Re:For our sake (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31003296)

Of course drugs dont have side effects. How could that shit ever happen. Drugs only do 1 thing they dont do other things that they werent designed for. And you are a retarded conspiracy theorist if you think its possible for drugs to have more than one effect. Whats next black helocopters flying out my ass to drop stormtroopers on antarctica for the underground alien base so the aliens can rule the world? Idiuts!

Re:For our sake (5, Informative)

expatriot (903070) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002810)

second entry on Google:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704022804575041212437364420.html [wsj.com]

Ten of the 13 authors of the original paper, all of whom were researchers at the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine in London, partially retracted the paper in 2004. However, the first author, Andrew Wakefield, didn't. Dr. Wakefield, who is now at the Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin, Texas, didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

"Many consumer groups have spent 10 years waging a campaign against vaccines even in the face of scientific evidence," said Dr. Horton of the Lancet. "We didn't have the evidence back in 2004 to fully retract the paper but we did have enough concern to persuade the authors to partly retract the paper."

The Lancet decided to issue a complete retraction after an independent regulator for doctors in the U.K. concluded last week that the study was flawed. The General Medical Council's report on three of the researchers, including Dr. Wakefield, found evidence that some of their actions were conducted for experimental purposes, not clinical care, and without ethics approval. The report also found that Dr. Wakefield drew blood for research purposes from children at his son's birthday party, paying each child £5 (about $8).

The Lancet's Dr. Horton said the journal was particularly concerned about the ethical treatment of the children in the study, and that the children had been "cherry-picked" by the study's authors rather than just showing up in the hospital, as described in the paper.

The authors "did suggest these children arrived one after another and this syndrome was apparent, which does lead you to think this is something serious," said Dr. Horton.

To name just one (3, Informative)

overshoot (39700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003026)

The technician who did the original PCR tests for measles virus in the biopsy samples came up negative. So Wakefield sent it off to a lab to do a different kind of test that's prone to false positives -- and which didn't use negative controls. Result: positives! For some reason the earlier results weren't reported.

It's amazing what results you can get if you keep repeating the experiment until you get the results you want.

Re:To name just one (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003308)

For some reason the earlier results weren't reported.

It's amazing what results you can get if you keep repeating the experiment until you get the results you want.

You mean if you are unscrupulous and are willing to change the experiment until it is flawed in such a way that it provides the answer you want.

To use my favorite counter example, Michelson and Morley [wikipedia.org] very much wanted their experiment to demonstrate the existence of the Aether. And to that end, they repeated it over, and over, and over, and over, with every variation they could think of, hoping that it would give them a positive result.

Yet, because they were scrupulous and their experiment was correctly designed, they were never able to report success, and their experiment became known as evidence against the aether.

So yeah, I get what you're saying. I'm just pointing out -- it's not wanting a certain result that results in bad science, it's unethical and unscrupulous behavior that results in bad science.

Re:For our sake (5, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002820)

Why should you not believe Wakefield?

(1) Wakefield performed at least some parts of his study in an unethical manner.

(2) Subsequent to the publication of this study, other researchers have tried to duplicate Wakefield's results but nobody has succeeded in doing so.

(3) Wakefield is not a disinterested party; he has received a great deal of money from those who stand to profit from his conclusions.

(4) Various circumstances [including (2) and (3) above] have caused others in the medical community to suspect Wakefield of fraud related to this "study".

Re:For our sake (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31003028)

Why should you not believe Wakefield?

And this is different from global warming how?

(1) Wakefield performed at least some parts of his study in an unethical manner.

Deleting data in response to Freedom of Information requests, "losing" documentation on weather sites in China that revealed the huge impact of urbanization on temperature, redefining "peer-reviewed journals" whenever critical studies were published.

(2) Subsequent to the publication of this study, other researchers have tried to duplicate Wakefield's results but nobody has succeeded in doing so.

It's impossible for anyone to duplicate results when the data has been deleted and the models used to predict global warming are kept under wraps.

(3) Wakefield is not a disinterested party; he has received a great deal of money from those who stand to profit from his conclusions.

NASA GISS scientist James Hansen received $720,000 from the "Open Society Institute".

(4) Various circumstances [including (2) and (3) above] have caused others in the medical community to suspect Wakefield of fraud related to this "study".

Hmm....

Re:For our sake (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003110)

"And this is different from global warming how?"

Personally, I agree with you that there are similar disturbing circumstances surrounding some "global warming" research. However, interesting as the comparison is, it is somewhat off-topic.

Re:For our sake (1)

Nov Voc (1619289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002826)

Can someone outline the flaws in the study? I know we here at /. are experts at things like that. But I also don't want to RTFA.

So why exactly should I not believe the original study? From where I stand (which is little to zero knowledge on the subject) I could conclude that each of the co authors one by one were persuaded by the various pharmaceutical companies which standed to be harmed by this research.

For the study, Dr. Wakefield took blood samples from children at his son's birthday party, paying them 5 pounds each ($8) for their contributions and later joking about the incident.

From TFA. I don't think it's really necessary to explain why his sampling methods were ridiculous, but it easily casts a fair amount of doubt on most aspects of the study. I would guess at more if I could find the original study in question, but IANAD, either.

Re:For our sake (3, Informative)

arikol (728226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002848)

Sure.

His methodology was deeply flawed:
his selection of research subjects very biased as he chose subjects he already had experience with and knew their problems so he could skew the control group like he wanted,
Some research subjects were selected/tested at a children's birthday party,some without parents consent (serious violation of research ethics).
No proper double blinding was done,
and even then the results were mismanaged in such a way that they showed a strong correlation (which in fact, even his skewed results did not really show).

Apart from him (Dr.Wakefield) having ties to anti vaccination groups and heading some of them and making a ton of money on his scare tactics (the results of which are little things like an increase in children dying from measles and other such lovely things).

basically, anything which could be done wrong WAS done wrong. I've seen better done research in homeopathy journals, and they're not really known for using science at all.

Re:For our sake (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003032)

To add to this, he had also filed for a patent on something suspiciously like a single-vaccine for measles, which would only have had a market if the MMR fell out of use.

This conflict of interest went undisclosed.

Re:For our sake (5, Informative)

wolrahnaes (632574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002906)

The guys over at Science-Based Medicine have you covered: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3660 [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

If you look back through their post archives, you can find dozens more touching on the subject of Wakefield's paper in particular and vaccines in general, among other things.

Re:For our sake (3, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002986)

Maybe you want to just understand why, and when you find a common denominator possibility, you jump on it, wanting to be a simple answer.

Like Mencken said, complex problems have easy and understandable answers, and they're wrong.

I wanted to find why a relative of mine has autism. Sure would be nice if we could blame it on the vaccine he got in 1963. But it wasn't. Like the retractions, many many things have been bandied about and none of them appear to be the cause. Was it his mother's smoking? Bad diet? He was a normal toddler, then it all went away. Years later, he can't live on his own. Do I want to know why?? Sure. But the Lancet published bad research that lots of people latched onto as a probable reason without knowing how low the sample size was, and so on. We still don't know. I wish we did.

Re:For our sake (3, Informative)

dmr001 (103373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003014)

Wakefield had a financial conflict of interest with lawyers [briandeer.com] suing HM Government

His sample size was 12

His study population were not randomly recruited

Some of the study siubjects showed signs of autism prior to their MMR vaccination

Re:For our sake (1)

raygundan (16760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003042)

He fudged the data, failed to get approval for the study, got blood samples from kids at his son's birthday party, had a conflict of interest (was working on a vaccine alternative), didn't get permission to do invasive tests on kids (lumbar punctures and colonoscopies, among others), only used 12 subjects, didn't get the hospital's permission for the study, was censured for ethical violations, lost his medical credentials, had his study retracted, and lost the support of even his co-authors.

But that's all beside the point-- the critical thing is that substantially larger and longer-running studies have consistently contradicted his findings.

No problem (0)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002706)

Hey, it's okay, these things happen. At least they caught it before it could cause any major damage or start some anti-vaccine movement or anything. Good job, guys.

Re:No problem (1)

arikol (728226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002888)

yeah, and before kids started dying from diseases which had been wiped out by vaccines some decades ago...

Serious screwup, but thankfully it is now being corrected as much as is possible.

Incidentally, Wakefield was already in some anti vaccination organizations BEFORE the study was done, his research just gave them some credibility.

big pharma had nothing to do with this decision! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002716)

i'm sure big pharma had nothing to do with the Lancet changing its view!

Doesn't dispell the basic fud (2, Insightful)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002772)

Here my neck of the woods, I've heard countless mothers talk about how they would never get their kids vaccinated for seasonal or H1N1 flu, because of "what if..." syndrome. As in "What if.. the vaccine wasn't sufficiently tested, or what if my kid has a reaction, or I'd rather he get the flu than have a side effect.

Of course if their kid gets sick and gives it to the kid's entire 25student classroom. The mother doesn't give a shit, because atleast she didn't get the side effect.

My favorite is, "We have no idea what the side effect is of this vaccine in 10 or 20yrs."

Re:Doesn't dispell the basic fud (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002836)

Um... why didn't the other 24 kids in their class get vaccinated?

Re:Doesn't dispell the basic fud (2, Insightful)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002944)

Perhaps some had an allergy, or their insurance didn't cover it, or their immune system was too compromised for the vaccine to work effectively, or they had an appointment scheduled for next Tuesday. Those people would usually be protected anyway by herd immunity, but when people start deliberately not getting a vaccine on a large scale, that doesn't work anymore.

Re:Doesn't dispell the basic fud (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003040)

1) Because their parents are also idiots.
2) Because no vaccine is 100% effective, the whole point is to try to prevent the disease from getting a foothold. But once someone has the full-blown disease and is exposing everyone around them to it, the system begins to fail.

In case 2, it's unlikely all the kids would actually get the flu. But some might, even if vaccinated. And then those sick kids might infect some others, even if vaccinated.

That's why these stupid fuckers are so dangerous -- not so much those who don't vaccinate for the flu, but those who avoid the serious ones. Herd immunity is what truly makes vaccines effective, but it requires that nearly everyone participate. And these morons obviously have no freaking clue of the horrible diseases they're allowing to return just because they're scared of an incredibly tiny chance that these things cause a tiny increase in autism rates.

Re:Doesn't dispell the basic fud (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003092)

They should have done. But if all 25 sets of mothers and fathers have the same reaction, you've got 25 unvaccinated kids. Pity the poor kids who can't get vaccinated for any given reason.

On the subject of the MMR vaccine, this applies to my GF. She cannot have that particular vaccine due to an allergic reaction. In theory she should still be protected by herd immunity, but alas no-more. Particularly worrying as she is a teacher (in contact with said unvaccinated children) and the diseases in question are particularly dangerous to pregnant women (she isn't, but no reason why she couldn't be).

Re:Doesn't dispell the basic fud (1)

arikol (728226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002978)

Yeah, and the REALLY stupid thing is that even with the most scary made up statistics we can find on vaccines their danger is only a fraction of the danger of the diseases which the vaccines should stop.

Flu kills (seasonal flu).
Children, adults and the elderly DIE from these diseases. I got H1N1 a little before the vaccine arrived in my neck of the woods, so did my wife and children.
I got pneumonia and got VERY sick. My one year old daughter got veryvery sick but my two year old got a much higher fever (40C/104F) but recovered quicker. My wife got minor flu-like symptoms.

I can tell you, we would rather have wanted the vaccination, even with the side effects. H1N1 didn'd kill nearly as many as was feared/scaremongered but it was really nasty anyway, probably the sickest I've ever gotten.

Re:Doesn't dispell the basic fud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31003180)

The favorite might hold some truth in there:

http://www.physorg.com/news127915025.html
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331183755.htm
http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/abstract/23/9/3121

Well, duh. (1)

d474 (695126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002784)

Everyone knows autism is caused by plastic contaminated foods.

Vaccines? Is that guy crazy? Maybe he ate too many of those cheese & cracker snacks you could make tunnels in the cheese with, using that little red cheese spreader knifey thing, all of which was made of plastic.

Re:Well, duh. (1)

pookemon (909195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002952)

You did read when the original study was published, didn't you.

But I guess you just made your theory up then and there and didn't bother to read the summary, let alone TFA. I suggest you go and read about Autism before you hurt yourself.

The Retraction (5, Informative)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002786)

Here's the actual retraction, rather than reporting on reporting on the retraction:

The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 2 February 2010
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60175-7

Retraction—Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children

The Editors of The Lancet

Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council's Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al(1) are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation.(2) In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were "consecutively referred" and that investigations were "approved" by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.

References

1 Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, et al. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet 1998; 351: 637-641
2 Hodgson H. A statement by The Royal Free and University College Medical School and The Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust. Lancet 2004; 363: 824.

Re: "consecutively referred"? (1)

ThinkOfaNumber (836424) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003122)

What does that mean? And because the local ethics committee didn't approve it does that mean the results are invalid? (Granted assuming the tactics didn't skew the results, they could still be valid)

Sounds like mudslinging to defame them.

It did pass a previous investigation after all.

Politics, not science (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002828)

Lets see... by using threats they got 10 out of 13 of the co-authors to renounce a study which had a result they didn't like, and it took them more than a decade to do it. It sounds more like the Inquisition than science. The study itself may have been flawed, but the current result is purely a political thing which doesn't prove anything one way or the other.

Re:Politics, not science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31002868)

Are you kidding? If you read anything about how the study was conducted and the incredibly unethical things Wakefield has done, I'm not sure how you can reach this conclusion. I'd argue the opposite- the defense of Wakefield is agenda driven and political.

Re:Politics, not science (3, Insightful)

Ruke (857276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003022)

You're absolutely correct: the retraction doesn't prove anything. However, decades of attempts to reproduce the study, none of them reaching the same conclusion, does prove an error in the initial study. It turn out that the act of publishing doesn't actually have an effect on the underlying science, while the repeatability does.

The vaccine-autism debate should now end. (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002912)

Like that matters. It should have ended a long time ago, but facts don't stand a chance against people who would give Lupron [wikipedia.org] to children. Consider Boyd Haley's recent business of selling an industrial chelator (for cleaning up SuperFund sites) which doesn't even have an industrial MSDS for medical administration to children as a "dietary supplement" (wink, wink.)

The debate ended long ago (1)

Dgtl_+_Phoenix (1256140) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002922)

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and the WHO have long since agreed that there is no credible proof for link between autism and vaccine. The 1998 study has been under intense fire for over a decade, with most of the doctors having pulled their names from it long since. We've been at the point of next to zero proof for a long time and yet the "debate" drags on. I would postulate that the cause is tightly linked the timing of childhood vaccinations in relationship to the symptoms of autism first becoming apparent. Unfortunately, I think that means that the debate is far from over.

End the debate? (3, Insightful)

Canberra Bob (763479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002946)

After reading TFA, as far as my medically ignorant mind makes out, the study was withdrawn due to ethical issues obtaining the samples for the study, not due to issues with the conclusions drawn. I can see how this would lead Wakefield to be deregistered due to ethical considerations however how does this disprove his conclusions? The logic seems to go "your study shows there may be a link between autism and vaccines, you obtained samples unethically, therefore this proves once and for all and hereby ends the discussion that there is conclusively no link between autism and vaccines". I always pay extra close attention when a scientific discussion starts descending into claims of absolutes, a statement like "the possibility is laughably remote that there is a link between x and y" makes sense, "there is no link between x and y and nobody is to suggest there is" smacks of dark ages medicine rather than science.

I would love someone more medically inclined to provide more background as I sense a lot of info was missing from the story / article.

Re:End the debate? (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003084)

There were 12 patients used in the study. They were not randomly selected. That's pretty much enough to ignore that study entirely, and there isn't really any other research showing any sort of link.

Respectful Insolence (1, Insightful)

overshoot (39700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003112)

Or ratbags.com, or sciencebasedmedicine.org, or badscience.net, or leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk or ...

You're asking for a detailed fisking in a /. comment? Those details are out there, have been for years. Just read -- my favorite is scienceblogs.com/insolence -- partly because Orac is a damned sharp cookie, and partly because he dials up the snark to 11.

Nice of Lancet to come around (5, Informative)

rbrander (73222) | more than 4 years ago | (#31002972)

I thought Kennedy had rather too-strong opinions on the subject when he appeared on Jon Stewart a few years back. Then I found this article on Slate, 2005: http://www.slate.com/id/2123647/ [slate.com] ...by Arthur Allen, the guy who first did an in-depth story on the subject for the New York Times magazine in 2002. Early paragraph:

"Since then, four perfectly good studies comparing large populations of kids have showed that thimerosal did not cause the increased reporting of autism. The best evidence comes from Denmark, which stopped putting thimerosal in vaccines in 1992; the rate of autism in kids born afterward continued to increase. "

...suffice to say, by the end of that article, I'd lost interest in the subject. About the only question of interest here, is "what took the Lancet so long?" Physician and SF writer F.Paul Wilson runs a blog at TrueSlant.com: http://trueslant.com/fpaulwilson/ [trueslant.com] ...where his most recent post riffs off the BBC story about the Lancet article author actually being cited for "acting unethically". Wilson puts it:

The MMR is the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. The UK's General Medical Council also ruled that Dr. Andrew Wakefield ...acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in doing his research... Get this: the guy is a gastroenterologist and he was doing spinal taps on kids. He paid kids and his son's birthday party £5 each for blood. His so-called research was published in 1998 in the respected journal The Lancet, but he neglected to mention that he was being paid to advise the lawyers for parents who believed their children had been harmed by the MMR. The board said he had acted with "callous disregard for the distress and pain the children might suffer".

Click on Dr. Wilson's link to see his copy of a graph showing the slight drop in MMR vaccinations resulting in a sharp increase in measles cases. Fortunately, a mere thousand or so more per year will only mean a couple of deaths, blindings, sterilizations, and so forth. Words fail me.

Follow the money... (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003060)

The debate over the autism link is being stirred by personal injury lawyers [psychologytoday.com] , it has nothing to do with science:

Among the dozens of charges the GMC deemed proven against Wakefield are that he provided a research proposal to a lawyer seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers for causing autism.

A message to Mrs. McCarthy (5, Insightful)

elenaran (649639) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003062)

suck it, Jenny McCarthy & Oprah [slate.com] !

Re:A message to Mrs. McCarthy (1)

Snarkalicious (1589343) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003144)

Immune to shame/reason. No metaphorical bj for you.

Conflict of Interest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31003114)

With the gov't, media, and pharma all so interconnected, it is incredibly obvious that there is never any pressure on any party in that group to do things (e.g. threats to revoke license to practice medicine, legally protecting pharma from lawsuits, etc.) that might benefit the other. I mean, when has corruption in any of those parties ever existed?

"The vaccine-autism debate should now end" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31003216)

I can't imagine being that naive.

There are legal fortunes to be made. Government regulators to ensconce. The issue is far too lucrative to be allowed to vanish because some trumped up nonsense published last century has been discredited.

Politically protected 'science' doesn't submit to mere evidence. See climate-gate.

A good move, but ineffective (1)

nilbog (732352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003242)

This study has already been thoroughly discredited. If evidence didn't sway the anti-vaccine movement, having a paper pulled from a "big-pharma shill" journal probably won't help either.

Let's not rush to judgement... (4, Funny)

nilbog (732352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31003262)

...I for one am waiting to see what Jenny McCarthy has to say about this.

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