Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine Case

21 Sep

This story is in the U.K. version of the Huffington Post. The article, Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine Case, brings the question of MMR litigation back up, but in a different way. First, the families are claiming that encephalitis, not autism, was the claimed injury. Second, they are suing the law firm that handled the case, not the vaccine manufacturers.

Three families who claim their children suffered a potentially fatal illness from the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine are suing a law firm they say grouped them with a now discredited case over a link between the jab and autism.

A case was brought against the manufacturers of the MMR jab – Smithkline Beecham, Smith Kline & French Laboratories and Sanofi Pasteur MDF – in 2007, over claims that the jab caused autism in children. However three families who say the vaccine caused encephalitis in their children, not autism, believe they were unable to claim compensation because of the way the case was dealt with.

Note that the Huffington Post has the dates wrong in the section quoted above. The case was brought in the late 1990’s and abandoned in 2003 when lack of evidence resulted in a loss of public funds to support the investigation further.

The BMJ also covers the story, noting that in 2002 the then chairman of the UK’s Committee on Safety of Medicines, Alasdair Breckenridge, said: “There is sound evidence that mumps vaccine containing the Urabe stran of virus is associated with a risk of meningitis and [has} no proven additional benefits. The risk to children of a potentially serious neurological complication makes its use unacceptable.”

Since the focus here at Left Brain/Right Brain is primarily autism, and the Wakefield case has been discussed (and discussed, and discussed), I expect that most readers know the basic story. But, indulge me for a moment while I give a short history.

Back in the mid-1990’s, some families believed that MMR caused their child’s autism. They sought both legal and medical expertise to pursue their case. The legal end was led by Richard Barr of the firm Alexander Harris. For medical expertise, they (parents and leagal team) approached Andrew Wakefield, a research gastroenterologist who had just recently implicated the measles vaccine in Crohn’s disease.

After Mr. Wakefield and his team published their first paper in The Lancet in 1998 (a paper since retracted), he became even better known for his views on MMR. Sometime after this, attorney Richard Barr was contacted by a public health insider with concerns about the MMR. Mr. Barr and Mr. Wakefield met with this “whistleblower” in secret.

The thing is, the concern was about encephalitis from the mumps component. Not autism from the measles component, as was Mr. Wakefield’s hypothesis.

The meeting between Mr. Wakefield and this gentleman became known only recently, 1998, while Mr. Wakefield faced charges before the General Medical Council. Mr. Wakefield released details of his story and threatened to disclose the name of the “whistleblower”. Mr. Wakefield later followed through on this threat.

This raises very important questions. Most notably, why didn’t the legal and scientific team working on MMR litigation follow up on the mumps/encephalitis question? The idea was known to Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Barr. The MMR litigation went forward with the theory that the measles component was causing autism, and failed.

And now some parents consider these events to be a strong enough case to sue a law firm handling their case: Alexander Harris.

The families claim the MMR vaccine brought neurological injury and are suing the law firm that brought the original litigation against the vaccine’s manufacturer.

As part of the group autism case, the families claim they were deprived of the compensation likely to come from bringing individual actions.

Mr. Wakefield’s discussion of his meeting with the “whistleblower”, together with commentary from Brian Deer, is in the video below:

While Mr. Deer focuses on how Mr. Wakefield is treating the “whistleblower”, another big question is left open by this discussion: did Mr. Wakefield act on the information he was given? Did the attorneys? The secret meeting in the train station makes a rather dramatic story, but it doesn’t really reflect well on Mr. Wakefield.

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20 Responses to “Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine Case”

  1. Mary September 21, 2011 at 19:35 #

    So the MMR causes encephalitis (brain damage) and not autism. I always beleived that brain damaged kids were being improperly diagnosed as autistic by psychiatrists. Good to see that this has finally been verified as fact.

  2. Science Mom September 21, 2011 at 20:48 #

    So the MMR causes encephalitis (brain damage) and not autism. I always beleived that brain damaged kids were being improperly diagnosed as autistic by psychiatrists. Good to see that this has finally been verified as fact.

    MMR has been estimated to cause an encephalitis in less than 1/1,000,000 doses. Nothing of your assertion has been “verified as fact”. Furthermore, the plaintiffs face an uphill battle with their suit as they appear as ‘sour grapes’ since they went along with the original suit and claimed their children had persistent measles virus, not mumps meningo-encephalitis.

    • Sullivan September 21, 2011 at 21:06 #

      “Good to see that this have finally been verified as fact”. What has been verified as fact? Your language is so vague. But I assume you are saying that kids with encephalitis are misdiagnosed as autistic? Did you read the article? The parents are stating that their kids are *not* autistic and are complaining that their cases were combined with the autism litigation in contradiction to the needs of their family.

      Whether their vaccine case or their case with the attorneys have merit is pretty unclear.

  3. Chris September 21, 2011 at 21:34 #

    Mary:

    So the MMR causes encephalitis (brain damage) and not autism.

    Which MMR vaccine are you talking about?

    You might find this paper helpful: Risks of Convulsion and Aseptic Meningitis following Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in the United Kingdom. This quote is why it is important to note the mumps strain when discussing the MMR vaccine:

    Subsequent reports from other countries showed that aseptic meningitis was associated with all mumps vaccine strains except the Jeryl Lynn strain.

    The Jeryl Lynn mumps strain has been used the American MMR since its introduction in 1971.

    Now go back and read what Sullivan wrote. Especially this paragraph:

    The thing is, the concern was about encephalitis from the mumps component. Not autism from the measles component, as was Mr. Wakefield’s hypothesis.

  4. Mary September 21, 2011 at 21:46 #

    “The thing is, the concern was about encephalitis from the mumps component. Not autism from the measles component, as was Mr. Wakefield’s hypothesis.”

    This is great news for the million’s of families in the U.S. who’s kids are brain damaged. Do you think they really care whether they call it encephalitis, autism or mental retardation? Do you think they really care which component of the vaccine, whether it’s the mumps component, the measles component, the mercury, the aluminum, the residual DNA from aborted fetal tissue or the 71 combined injections is to blame?

    • Sullivan September 21, 2011 at 22:05 #

      Hello Mary,

      Let’s see. My kid is autistic, as well as other big challenges. You know what we need? Accurate information. Not people like you making up weird logic to promote vaccine fears.

      So, yes, we do care what it is called. Much more, we care what is really going on. Somehow I expect you to ignore that fact and go on lecturing people about what I want.

      That said, given that the MMR vaccine doesn’t increase the risk of autism, I don’t care at all what mechanisms there are proposed to cause the injuries that aren’t happening. Same goes for thimerosal.

      There is no good mechanism proposed for aluminum other than, “Well, it’s a metal and in extremely high doses it causes harm”. As to the “residual DNA from aborted fetal tissue”, please, enlighten us. By what mechanism does that cause harm? Please, in detail, give us a rundown of how DNA fragments cause autism. Please include a description of how the DNA travels to the brain, ignoring all other cells along the way. Also, include a discussion of how the cells incorporate foreign DNA, when their function is to do exactly the opposite. Then, please, discuss how DNA, which has somehow travelled to the brain and, by some mechanism counter to current understanding and experiment in biology, incorporated itself into a cell, tell us how that causes the structural changes which result in autism. Include a discussion of how this happens, when most indications are that autism begins prenatally.

      In other words–you are repeating the talking points of those who wish to use autism as a tool to create fear about vaccines. Either demonstrate that you actually understand what you are claiming, or apologize for causing fear with your ignorance.

  5. Chris September 21, 2011 at 22:05 #

    Mary:

    This is great news for the million’s of families in the U.S. who’s kids are brain damaged.

    Even those whose children had seizures from an actual disease?

    At this moment you seem to be just casting out a bunch of assertions without any basis. I suggest you actually read the article with some form of reading comprehension, and then come back with some actual evidence that the MMR vaccine that is presently used in either the USA or UK causes more harm than measles, mumps and rubella.

    (by the way, no form of the MMR vaccine has ever contained thimerosal)

  6. Chris September 21, 2011 at 22:27 #

    Mary, to help you with the question of the diseases versus the vaccine the experience in Japan should be educational. They also used the Urabe strain of mumps in their MMR vaccine. They decided to bow to the fear mongering and completely dropped their MMR vaccine.

    What happened was an increase in measles (with several deaths), rubella and mumps. Since the perceived problem was the mumps strain they resumed vaccination with an MR vaccine with just measles and rubella.

    Now read the following carefully, since I explain what happened and provide supporting evidence. You can find the papers in PubMed. When you reply with your answer to the dangers of vaccine, be so kind as to provide the following level of evidence.

    Even though they removed their MMR vaccine, there was no effect on autism:

    MMR-Vaccine and Regression in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Negative Results Presented from Japan.
    Uchiyama T et al.
    J Autism Dev Disord 2007; 37(2):210-7
    *Subjects: 904 children with autism spectrum disorder
    (Note: MMR was used in Japan only between 1989 and 1993.)

    No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study.
    Honda H, Shimizu Y, Rutter M.
    J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;46(6):572-9.

    And then their citizen causing measles elsewhere became a national embarrassment:

    Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2010 Sep;29(9):794-800.
    Measles outbreak associated with an international youth sporting event in the United States, 2007.
    Chen TH, Kutty P, Lowe LE, Hunt EA, Blostein J, Espinoza R, Dykewicz CA, Redd S, Rota JS, Rota PA, Lute JR, Lurie P, Nguyen MD, Moll M, Reef SE, Sinclair JR, Bellini WJ, Seward JF, Ostroff SM.

    J Travel Med. 2008 Mar-Apr;15(2):82-6.
    Measles exportation from Japan to the United States, 1994 to 2006.
    Takahashi H, Saito H.

    So they restarted vaccination for measles and rubella, but not mumps. They are now experiencing large numbers of mumps, which has caused many children to lose their hearing, and more to get aseptic meningitis:

    Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2009 Mar;28(3):173-5.
    An office-based prospective study of deafness in mumps.
    Hashimoto H, Fujioka M, Kinumaki H; Kinki Ambulatory Pediatrics Study Group.

    Vaccine. 2007 Mar 30;25(14):2742-7. Epub 2006 Jan 31.
    A comparative study of the incidence of aseptic meningitis in symptomatic natural mumps patients and monovalent mumps vaccine recipients in Japan.

    This one says:

    The incidence of aseptic meningitis was 13/1051 (1.24%) in patients with symptomatic natural mumps infection and was estimated to be 0.7-1.1% of overall infection in considering asymptomatic infection, and 10/21,465 (0.05%) in vaccine recipients. Although aseptic meningitis is a clear side effect of the mumps vaccine, the incidence is considerably lower than among those with symptomatic natural infection. Our results provide an informative data for consideration to resume mumps vaccine as a part of routine immunization schedule for Japanese children.

    Auris Nasus Larynx. 2005 Jun;32(2):125-8. Epub 2005 Apr 7.
    Epidemiological study of mumps deafness in Japan.
    Kawashima Y, Ihara K, Nakamura M, Nakashima T, Fukuda S, Kitamura K

  7. Mary September 21, 2011 at 22:41 #

    Thanks Chris. Here’s a little reading for you. I have about a 100 more.

    Horvath K et al. Gastrointe­stinal abnormalit­ies in children with autistic disorder. J Pediatr. 1999;135:5­59-63. (US replicatio­n)
    Horvath K, Perman JA. Autism and gastrointe­stinal symptoms. Curr Gastroente­rol Rep.2002;4­:251-8.

    Horvath K, Perman JA. Autistic disorder and gastrointe­stinal disease. Curr Opin Pediatr.20­02;14:583-­7.

    Kawashima H et al. Detection and sequencing of measles virus from peripheral mononuclea­r cells from patients with inflammato­ry bowel disease and autism. Dig Dis Sci. 2000;45:72­3-9.

    Kushak R, Winter H, Farber N, Buie T. Gastrointe­stinal symptoms and intestinal disacchari­dase activities in children with autism. Abstract of presentati­on to the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroente­rology, Hepatology­, and Nutrition, Annual Meeting, October 20-22, 2005, Salt Lake City, Utah.

    D’Eufemia P, Celli M, Finnochiar­o R, et al. Abnormal intestinal permeabili­ty in children with autism. Acta Pediatrica­. 1996;85:10­76-1079.

    Horvath K, Collins RM, Rabsztyn R et al. Secretin improves intestinal permeabili­ty in autistic children. J. Ped. Gastroente­rol. Nutr. 2000;S31:3­1

    De Magistris L, Familiari V, Pascotto A, et al. Alteration­s of the intestinal barrier in patients with autism spectrum disorders and in their first-degr­ee relatives. J Pediatr Gastroente­rol Nutr. 2010;51:41­8-24.

    Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Hoien T, Nodland M. A randomised­, controlled study of dietary interventi­on in autistic syndromes. Nutr Neurosci. 2002;5:251­–61.

    Krigsman A, Boris M, Goldblatt A et al. Clinical Presentati­on and Histologic Findings at
    Ileocolono­scopy in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Chronic Gastrointe­stinal Symptoms. Autism Insights 2010;2:1-1­1 (US replicatio­n)

    • Sullivan September 21, 2011 at 23:10 #

      Mary,

      I guess you don’t want to address the issue of whether Mr. Wakefield failed in his duty when he focused all attention on his own, failed, theory rather than the mumps/urabe/encephalitis theory.

      Nice list. Anything substantive that wasn’t available to the attorney’s for the Omnibus Autism Proceeding? You recall, the court hearings which came to the conclusion that the MMR theory wasn’t even close to showing causality?

      Autism doesn’t prevent anyone from having GI problems. Nor any other condition, as far as I can tell. Even Mr. Wakefield admits people discussed GI issues in autitics before him. A list of papers on GI diseases in autistic kids doesn’t exonerate Mr. Wakefield.

      His claim wasn’t that that there were GI problems in autistics. His claim was that there was a “new syndrome” of regression and GI complaints. He coined the term, “autistic enterocolitis”. 13 years later, and still there is no proof such a thing exists. One of the papers you left off your list makes that statement very clearly. It’s the paper by Buie, et al., that appeared in Pediatrics a few years ago.

      That would be the same Buie who appears as an author on one of your papers. Clearly, that paper doesn’t demonstrate Mr. Wakefield was correct if Dr. Buie, one of the authors, wasn’t convinced.

      The last paper: Krigsman, autism insights. Krigsman being, at that time, Mr. Wakefield’s partner at Thoughtful House. Autism Insights, at the time, had Andrew Wakefield as one of the editors. This paper was, what, the 3rd? 4th? 5th? ever to appear in that journal. In other words, it’s hardly even a journal.

      I see you left the Hornig paper off your list. You know the one–where they concluded “This study provides strong evidence against association of autism with persistent MV RNA in the GI tract or MMR exposure. ” (has Buie as a co-author as well)

      Secretin? Seriously, you want to bring up a paper on secretin.

      One last thought: I don’t mind pseudonyms. It does bother me when people change them for no good reason.

      • Sullivan September 21, 2011 at 23:22 #

        Perhaps Mary could enlighten us as to why, with years of opportunity at Thoughtful House, Wakefield & Krigsman didn’t replicate the result of persistent measles virus in the intestines of autistic children.

    • Smut Clyde October 25, 2013 at 21:09 #

      Thanks Chris. Here’s a little reading for you. I have about a 100 more.

      But have you *read* any of them, as well as cut-&-pasting lists?

  8. Chris September 21, 2011 at 22:54 #

    Mary, gastrointestinal disorders are not synonymous with brain damage. I see nothing that shows that that any version of the MMR vaccine is more dangerous than measles, mumps and rubella. And absolutely none of those are actual independent replications, as some of us have noted:
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/2011/05/still-no-independent-confirmation-of.html

    Please answer the question that you were asked. What actual evidence shows the MMR vaccine (let’s say the one with the Jeryl Lynn mumps strain, which has been used in the USA since 1971) causes more harm than measles, mumps and rubella?

    Remember measles causes harm at least one out of a thousand cases (encephalitis, meningitis, deafness, blindness and even death), rubella actually causes autism to unborn children, and as you can see from the Japanese papers, mumps causes deafness and meningitis at a greater rate than even the Urabe mumps vaccine strain.

    Please get the information without copying and pasting a list of papers that have no relevance to the question from Mr. Wakefield’s webpage touting his book. It may require that you actually read the question, and learn about the issues in the real literature rather than various dubious websites.

  9. brian September 22, 2011 at 05:14 #

    Perhaps Mary could enlighten us as to why, with years of opportunity at Thoughtful House, Wakefield & Krigsman didn’t replicate the result of persistent measles virus in the intestines of autistic children.

    Two words: academic freedom.

    The hospital that employed Wakefield as a researcher offered Wakefield salary, staff, and research support to perform a study involving 150 children in an attempt to replicate his controversial preliminary results. To any researcher in an academic setting, where the struggle for funding is a daily reality, that should have been a godsend.

    However, although Wakefield was content to accept direct payment from lawyers and legal aid money to support the litigation-driven preliminary work that (before he had enrolled any patients in his study) he assured the lawyers would show that MMR caused autism, after initially accepting the hospital’s offer and then doing essentially nothing for months, Wakefield huffed that being asked to perform an essential study to replicate his preliminary findings impinged on his academic freedom, and he never lifted a finger in an attempt to replicate his preliminary study.

    Fortunately, one of Wakefield’s colleagues and former business partners co-authored a study that actually was the only rigorous and explicit attempt to replicate Wakefield’s findings; the authors concluded: “The work reported here eliminates the remaining support for the hypothesis that ASD with GI complaints is related to MMR exposure. We found no relationship between the timing of MMR and the onset of either GI complaints or autism.” [Hornig M, et al. Lack of association between measles virus vaccine and autism with enteropathy: a case-control study. PLoS One. 2008 Sep 4;3(9):e3140]

  10. OSG September 22, 2011 at 07:38 #

    Science Mom can you please provide sources for your assertion that the parents referred to in the article “went along with the original suit and claimed their children had persistent measles virus, not mumps meningo-encephalitis”.

  11. Science Mom September 22, 2011 at 12:09 #

    @ OSG, you can peruse http://briandeer.com and the BMJ series on Wakefield. The “case” was built upon Wakefield’s fraudulent findings and insistence that it was persistent measles vaccine virus that lead to intestinal inflammation and then autism, hence his bogus term “autistic enterocolitis”.

  12. OSG September 22, 2011 at 14:07 #

    Science Mom I think we’re all very, very aware of the basis upon which the “case” you have referred me to was brought, but that does not support your earlier assertion that the families referred to in this article ever claimed that their children had persistent measles virus or “went along with the original suit”.

    The Huffington Post article details how children with 11 different alleged conditions were included in the MMR litigation and how the lead cases were “focused” on the autism claims. In other words, at least nine other conditions were included in the litigation but were not progressed in a case which had all the lead cases suffering from autism. How could they since the arguments to support a claim that the MMR vaccine had caused autism would not be relevant to other conditions?. The claimants suffering from other conditions would have had their own arguments to support a causal link between condition and vaccine but never saw them aired. It is entirely wrong to assume, just because all the claims in the case were lumped together in one class action, that each and every claimant in that MMR litigation claimed their children has persistent measles virus. Judging from the contents of this article, it seems likely that some families at least, from the outset, argued that their children had suffered meningo-encephalitis and neurological damage linked to the mumps component of the vaccine with no involvement of the measles component whatsoever.

  13. Science Mom September 22, 2011 at 14:58 #

    @ OSG, Here is the quote from Huffpo:

    Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, Luke Patel, a partner at Blacks, the law firm representing the three families, said:

    “Within the initial MMR litigation there were three vaccines and at least 11 alleged conditions. The lead cases in the MMR vaccine litigation were focused on those claimants suffering from autism … based on hypothetical persistence of measles virus.”

    So your assertion of:

    The claimants suffering from other conditions would have had their own arguments to support a causal link between condition and vaccine but never saw them aired. It is entirely wrong to assume, just because all the claims in the case were lumped together in one class action, that each and every claimant in that MMR litigation claimed their children has persistent measles virus.

    It isn’t much of an assumption since the litigants hitched their wagons to the MMR-autism (specifically measles) claim set forth by Barr and Wakefield. If they had medical documentation to support an alternate claim, then why not go that route? And that is what I suspect will be a very difficult argument for them to make.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine Case – Left Brain/Right Brain | Injury Lawyer News - September 21, 2011

    [...] Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine CaseLeft Brain/Right BrainThe article, Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine Case, brings the question of MMR litigation back up, but in a different way. First, the families are claiming that encephalitis, not autism, was the claimed injury. …Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine CaseHuffington Post UKall 2 news articles » [...]

  2. Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine Case – Huffington Post UK | Injury Lawyer News - September 21, 2011

    [...] now discredited case over a link between the jab and autism. A case was brought against the …Law Firm Faces Legal Action Over Handling Of MMR Vaccine CaseLeft Brain/Right Brainall 2 news [...]

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