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Andrew Wakefield’s CDC Whistleblower documentary trailer. Words can not do this justice.

20 Nov feast-riot gear

Andrew Wakefield, the British former academic surgeon who fueled the MMR scare, has turned to film making as his career.  Someone chose Mr. Wakefield to manage the publicity for what they termed the “CDC Whistleblower” incident. to recap that: a William Thompson from the CDC had the extreme bad judgment to approach Brian Hooker with concerns about an old MMR/autism study.  Mr. Hooker is well known for his antagonistic stance on vaccines and his bad science attempting to link vaccines and autism.  Mr. Hooker published a (now retracted) study based on the information given to him by Mr. Thompson at CDC.  To publicize this “CDC Whistleblower” incident, Mr. Wakefield came out with probably the most over-the-top bad video I’ve ever seen.   It’s basically the Plan 9 From Outer Space of mini documentaries, complete with Mr. Wakefield’s voice over claiming that the CDC are worse that Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin.  Those dictators, you see, were at least sincere in Mr. Wakefield’s view.

Well it seems Mr. Wakefield wants to expand the “CDC Whistleblower” story to a full documentary.  He has an indigogo campaign to raise funds. As of now, it has collected $2,213 of his $230,000 goal.

And now he has a trailer.  It is seriously worth a look.  And before you read my own commentary on this one.  Here, go ahead:

Thankfully it is not as long at the Hitler/Pol Pot/Stalin video so I could manage to watch it again.  Because on one view I just had to say–really? Is this for real?

We start out with a shadowy figure. Presumably an actor playing the role of the whistleblower (although, physically he looks more like Poul Thorsen than Mr. Thompson).

Feast-shadow figure

Interspersed with video of autistic kids in severe distress, we get images of police in riot gear.  Because, that’s what one does in a documentary, splice in footage that has nothing to do with the story, right?feast-riot gear

And, lest we forget, a helicopter.  Black.  Has to be black.  OK, it looks like only the bottom is black, but as that quick clip went by all I could think was “really?  A black helicopter? “

feast black helicopter

And in case we had any remaining thoughts that this was a documentary, enter the image of a house as seen through a sniper scope.  As the sniper scope zooms in we see that the target is an African American in a wheel chair.

feast sniper

Perhaps this is some sort of allusion to Mr. Wakefield’s first video, the Hitler/Pol Pot/Stalin video where he claimed that the CDC was engaging in a new Tuskegee experiment.   If so, why is the image of an African American female? I ask because the alleged controversy Mr. Wakefield is trying to highlight was about African American males.

The video ends with footage of parents telling us that vaccines cause autism and an actor (presumably representing the “whistleblower”) walking up some stairs.  Finally, Congressman Darrell Issa is shown banging a gavel at a congressional hearing.  From the start of these events, Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker and their team have been calling for a congressional hearing.  I do hope they sent this video (and the Hitler/Pol Pot/Stalin video) to Mr. Issa’s office.  I have a feeling that since the time that Mr. Issa accepted $40,000 in donations from people seeking a congressional hearing, he’s learned a great deal and this video will further his education.

The sad part of this is the exploitative use of autistic children seen under severe distress.  This exploitation does nothing to serve the very real needs of our community.  Also seen towards the end are images of Avonte Oquendo, who went missing from his school and was found dead months later.  Again, exploitation which does nothing to serve our communities.  Mr. Wakefield is grabbing whatever film clips he can whether they are related or not to his purported story.  This is the same trick he used with a previous trailer he produced, where he spliced video from the Judge Rotenberg Center into a completely different story.

If Mr. Wakefield weren’t doing so much damage to my community, his videos would be laughably bad.  I’m not laughing.

By Matt Carey

Andrew Wakefield wants another appeal

20 Nov

Andrew Wakefield, the ex academic gastroenterologist who as much as anyone has promoted the failed autism/MMR link, has asked for an extension to file a petition for review.

To briefly summarize the events:
1) the BMJ and Brian Deer wrote a series of articles on Mr. Wakefield’s research.
2) Mr. Wakefield took issue with being called a fraud.
3) Mr. Wakefield filed suit in Texas claiming defamation
4) Mr. Wakefield was found to not have the standing to bring his case in Texas.
5) Mr. Wakefield appealed (4) and lost

Apparently, Mr. Wakefield needs to find yet another attorney to help with continuing his case.

As for my view:

What a pathetic waste of time. Mr. Wakefield has more gifts that my kid will likely ever understand and he’s thrown it all down the tubes. It’s difficult to not scream–just do something with your remaining years. You, Mr. Wakefield, are the reason why your accomplishments to date amount to nothing. Rather than throw your (or whoever’s) money down this rat hole of litigation, why not apply yourself to anything that will actually affect change in this world. You don’t have to change the whole world, just do something, anything, to justify all the skills you have and the resources that have been spent on you.

Clearly you didn’t excel at research. Nor writing. Nor film making. Nor autism advocacy. Perhaps a new career? It may not be as lucrative as getting my community to support you, but perhaps you could regain your self respect.

By Matt Carey

Andrew Wakefield: paid $316k to administer $80k in grants by the Strategic Autism Inititiative

7 Nov Salary Fraction

When Andrew Wakefield left Thoughtful House (which has since changed it’s name and removed all mention of him from their website), he announced a new effort: the Strategic Autism Initiative. He was going to manage research into the causes of autism. That was in 2010. Now he bills himself as a video director of the Autism Media Channel. Makes one wonder how well that Strategic Autism Initiative thing worked out.

Well, we can’t tell for sure as tax forms are only available through 2012. But the trends tell us that perhaps, just perhaps, the Strategic Autism Initiative lost steam in their fundraising.  Donations are way down.  And a lot of money has gone into salaries and very little into actual programs.

Strategic Autism Initiative 2010 tax form
Strategic Autism Initiative 2011 tax form
Strategic Autism Initiative 2012 tax form

Let’s do a little summarizing. Let’s look at trends for the money they take in (contributions) and the money that they’ve put out in salaries. The Strategic Autism Initiative pays Andrew Wakefield and Terry Arranga.

SAI contributions and salaries

OK, you gotta hand it to Andrew Wakefield–he pulled in $623k in 3 years, basically on his name and reputation. And, he took $316k of that money, about 50%. In total, salaries accounted for 58% of what the SAI took in. The first year of the SAI (2010) was a short year, hence the low salary. Mr. Wakefield’s salary appears to be based on $270,000/year full time. Officially he was working 30hours/week in 2010 and 2011. 15 hours/week in 2012.

Notice that the contributions were way down in 2012. Still a sizable $113k, but down from the previous years.

How does the salary outlay compare to the intake over the years? Well, it was relatively low the first year (the short year) and climbed to 80% in 2011 and 100% in 2012.

Salary Fraction

Not what one would call sustainable. Well, I guess if all one does is put money into salaries, that’s sustainable. Not exactly what a charity is supposed to be, though. Which begs the question, how much money did they have on hand at the end of each year?


Yep, pay out most of your money in salary and watch your assets go down. Also gives a partial explanation for why Mr. Wakefield is only listed as working 15 hours a week in 2012–there wasn’t the money to pay him more. The SAI would be about $70k in debt had they paid him for 30 hours/week.

In 2010, they paid out $20,260 in a grant to perform a UK Somali study.

SAI 2010 grants

In 2011 they paid out a $25k grant to Generation Rescue for a “vax/unvax study”

SAI 2011 grants

In 2012 they paid out $35k in grants. One to Mr. Wakefield’s former Thoughtful House colleague Arthur Krigsman and another to the Geiers for a study using the Florida medical database.

SAI 2012 grants

So, let’s consider this. In three years, Mr. Wakefield managed to give out 4 grants. Total of about $80k in grants. And for that effort he was paid $316k. What’s the supposed goal of the Strategic Autism Initiative?

SAI mission

“…to promote research in areas of autism and neurological disorders…”

Right. Promote research. About 13% of their budget went to promoting research. And that’s before we even consider the quality of that research.

Some bright people believe Andrew Wakefield. Some wealthy people believe Andrew Wakefield. Why, I don’t know. But even those who believe in what he says may someday question whether getting $0.13 on the dollar to the cause is worth keeping Andrew Wakefield employed.

By Matt Carey

Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker complain. Not honestly, but they complain

23 Oct

Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker have lately been trying to manage a “cdc whistleblower” story. The idea has been covered a lot recently, here and elsewhere. So, rather than go into more introduction, let’s take a look at the complaint they recently filed with the CDC office of research integrity. It’s long, so I’ll bring up a few glaring problems with the complaint letter. These problems have for the most part already been discussed here at Left Brain/Right Brain.

The basis of their arguments has been that allegedly the CDC found a statistically significant result suggesting that the MMR was associated with a higher odds ratio for autism in African American boys. They argue that the CDC then changed their protocol (analysis plan) to avoid reporting on this result. Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker have since added a similar argument for “isolated autism”–autism without comorbid conditions like intellectual disability. They claim the CDC hid those results as well.

So, what does the complaint say in specific? It’s long, but here’s an interesting and key part and a good place to start. Under the section titled “The Georgia Birth Certificate Cohort (GBCC): what was its stated purpose?“, Hooker and Wakefield quote the

[Exhibit 2, page 7, emphasis added] The Analysis Plan, “Statistical Analyses” states that “race” data were available for the entire sample:

The only variable that will be assessed as a potential confounder using the entire sample will be the child’s race.

[Exhibit 2, page 8, emphasis added]. Thus, “race” data came explicitly from the “school record” and not from the Georgia birth certificate/Georgia birth
records and was available for the “entire sample”.

The funny thing is that quote, “The only variable that will be assessed as a potential confounder using the entire sample will be the child’s race” doesn’t match what’s in the screenshot of the analysis plan that Wakefield included in his recent YouTube video (click to enlarge).

Draft Plan 2

The plan actually states:

The only variable available to be assessed as a potential confounder using the entire sample is child’s race.

emphasis added.

See how “available to be assessed” in the actual plan has been changed into “that will be assessed” by Mr. Wakefield? Mr. Wakefield would like us to believe that the analysis plan called for a study to be reported broken down by race using all the kids in the study. He’s been arguing that since his first ugly “It’s like the Tuskegee experiment!” video. The thing is that the plan didn’t call for that. As I recently discussed, the sentence Mr. Wakefield misquotes was a statement of the limitations of the dataset they had (MADDSP) and explains why the CDC needed to get the birth certificate data to do a more thorough analysis.

As I also noted, the full paragraph references table included in the analysis plan made it clear that race was to be analyzed for the birth certificate sample, not the total sample as Mr. Wakefield is leading us to believe.  The title of the table shows us that they were planning to report detailed data on the birth certificate group, not the entire sample.

What I find interesting is that Wakefield and Hooker are not just misinterpreting the statement as I originally thought. In the complaint they clearly changed what the statement said. Besides being wrong all on it’s own, this change tells me they know that phrase they latched on to ( “The only variable that will be assessed as a potential confounder using the entire sample will be the child’s race”) doesn’t come close to fitting in with his story. I don’t see this as an honest mistake.

The complaint also includes the “isolated autism” argument Mr. Wakefield recently put into another YouTube video. In this, Mr. Wakefield claims that all sorts of methods were used to hide an association observed for MMR and autism without other conditions like intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, etc.. In his complaint and video, Mr. Wakefield claims one of the methods used to hide this association was by limiting “other conditions” to only “MR” (mental retardation/intellectual disability). In the video Mr Wakefield gives us a fragment of an audio attributed to Mr. Thompson of the CDC saying, “the effect is where you would think it would happen. It is with the kids without other conditions, without the comorbid conditions.”

Mr. Wakefield even went on to say

But that didn’t seem to happen. They deviated further from the analysis plan by limiting the isolated group to only those with no mental retardation. Even changing the age categories and composition of the isolated subgroup may not have achieved the desired effect. Since, in the end, they simply omitted the relevant findings from the paper altogether

Emphasis added.

As I said before, I found this odd in that the CDC did report an apparent association in the raw data. The total sample/unadjusted data. To repeat a quote by Mr. Thompson, “It’s all there!”

Destefano_table_4 highlighted

It’s numerically almost the exact same result as Mr. Wakefield says was concealed. So, if it’s the same, how is it concealed? How is it omitted? Answer: it isn’t.

Remember that quote attributed to William Thompson from the video? Here’s a more full quote that’s from the complaint:

You see that the strongest association is with those [autistic cases] without mental retardation. The non-isolated [sic], the non-MR [mental retardation]…the effect is where you would think it would happen. It is with the kids without other conditions, without the comorbid conditions.

Mr. Wakefield wanted us to believe that by switching to autism without MR instead of autism without MR and/or other disabilities, the CDC were covering up the result.  Not only did the CDC report on the result, this isn’t what Mr. Thompson was saying.  Thompson is not saying, “hey look, we only used MR as a way to conceal the result.” He’s saying, in effect: when we looked at autism without MR, we saw this effect. It looks to me like Thompson is drawing Mr. Hooker’s attention to a result in the paper. Not describing an omitted result hidden from the public.

So, what is it? Did the CDC “simply omit the relevant findings altogether” as Mr. Wakefield stated in his video? No, they didn’t. Don’t take my word for it, take the word of Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker. In their complaint they state

2.7. The Group further deviated from the Analysis Plan by limiting the “isolated” group to only those without mental retardation, as published in The Paper.

Emphasis added.

So, we in the autism communities get one story in the video (the result was omitted), but in a legal document he puts the truth (the result was published in the paper).

And, how did the CDC accomplish all this alleged cover up in the story told by Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker? Well, in part the CDC supposedly did this by creating a “revised analysis plan”. From the complaint:

Over the ensuing months and in contravention of the CDC’s own policies,10 they deviated from the Analysis Plan and introduced a “revised analysis plan”11

Wakefield and Hooker can’t provide us with that revised analysis plan. Here is reference 11 noted in the quote above:

11 See original notes of Dr. William Thompson of 9.6.2001: “Get revised analysis plan from Tanya.” Tanya Bashin – a relatively junior member of The Group – was the second author named on the DeStefano 2004 paper. [Exhibit 8] The revised analysis plan itself is not available

I discussed this recently as well. It’s not after “ensuing months” that Mr. Thompson wrote about the “revised” plan. It’s not after the data were analyzed (which the earliest dates given by the complaint are in November).  The comment attributed to Mr. Thompson is dated September 6, 2001, the day after the plan was finalized.

Or, to put it another way: Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker–the revised analysis plan is indeed available. It’s the one you are working from, dated Sept. 5, 2001.

In their complaint, Mr. Hooker and Mr. Wakefield disclose private details about Mr. Thompson which frankly have no real bearing on the complaint and should not have been disclosed.

The complaint is long, but it all hinges on the three major claims: (1) The CDC was supposed to do an analysis of the total group (not just the birth certificate group) by race, (2) that the CDC hid results on “isolated” autism and (3) that they deviated from their analysis plan, introducing a revised plan, to do this.

All three claims are false. And not false as in “I interpret them differently” but false as in “the very data Wakefield and Hooker depend on show them to be fabricated claims”.

By Matt Carey

note– I made significant changes for clarity after this was first put online.

A new Autism Media Channel video. A chance to watch some sleight of hand

17 Oct

Andrew Wakefield has a new video with stunning new revelations of malfeasance by the CDC. Well, that’s what he wants you to think. Let’s take a look and see how well his story stands up to scrutiny, shall we? To do this I’ll highlight two of the problems with the video.  The first I’ve already discussed some: Mr. Wakefield claims the CDC hid a result but the CDC actually published it. For the second problem, let’s follow Mr. Wakefield as he creates a timeline showing us how the CDC’s research plan was supposedly revised in response to some analysis results.  Then let’s piece together the real timeline.

We will start with problem one. The basic idea of Mr. Wakefields argument in his new video is that the CDC hid an association in a group of kids allegedly susceptible to becoming autistic due to the MMR. This group are those with “isolated autism”: autism without intellectual disability, birth defects or other possible cause.

There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in the video, but here’s the main result.  An increased odd ratio for “isolated autism” for kids vaccinated before 36 months.  Calculated odds ratio is 2.48.  With a confidence interval that doesn’t span 1 (1.16 to 5.31).

Wakefield smoke and mirrors

There’s much drama in the video about this.  For example, here’s what Brian Hooker had to say (about 3:25 into the video).

What CDC employees do, when they see an effect, then they will get in a room together and they will work until that association goes away

Followed by Mr Wakefield:

But that didn’t seem to happen. They deviated further from the analysis plan by limiting the isolated group to only those with no mental retardation. Even changing the age categories and composition of the isolated subgroup may not have achieved the desired effect. Since, in the end, the simply omitted the relevant findings from the paper altogether.

That’s an amazing claim, isn’t it? The CDC allegedly just buried the result.  “Omitted the findings altogether.”

Except that the CDC didn’t hide the result. They reported on autism without MR. Here’s table 4 from the paper in Pediatrics.

Destefano_table_4 highlighted

If you want to say, “well autism without MR isn’t the same thing as ‘isolated autism’, consider this: the answer is basically unchanged from what Mr. Wakefield claims was “omitted”.   Take a look at the table: in the total sample, the group without MR has basically the same result as was supposedly hidden.   Odds ratio 2.45 (compared to 2.48), with confidence interval from 1.20 to 5.00 (compared to 1.16 to 5.31).  Which is to say: the CDC published the result that Mr. Wakefield claims was hidden.

Smoke.  Mirrors.  Wakefield.  Hooker.

This result is 10 years old.  And no one, not Wakefield, Not Hooker, not anyone in the real advocacy community has made a big deal out of it until now. I do not profess to understand how Mr. Wakefield nor Mr. Hooker think, but here’s one reason why most people haven’t considered this “autism without MR” result a big deal:  this is a raw data result.  A result unadjusted for any possible confounders.  The adjusted result, also highlighted in the figure above, shows a confidence interval that spans 1.  In other words, there’s no suggestion of a real effect when one does a full analysis.

Which of course shows us why people do full analyses.  Sometimes associations change when one controls for other factors.  Sometimes associations get stronger.  Sometimes they go away.  Sometimes things that appear to not be associations are shown to be associations.

Now that we’ve seen that the conclusion from Mr. Wakefield’s video is wrong, let’s consider a second problem with this new video: the way in which Mr. Wakefield manipulates his audience.  He creates a timeline for the CDC’s actions that allows Mr. Wakefield to use his new favorite “f” word.  Fraud.  Let’s go through the timeline.

At about 2:20 in the video, Mr. Wakefield shows us a fraction of a page of the analysis plan. The protocol. Dated September 5, 2001.

draft analysis plan screenshot

We then get this ominous voiceover. Complete with the analysis plan page going up in flames. Very dramatic:

“Over the ensuing months, after the data after the data had been collected and analyzed, and strictly forbidden in the proper conduct of science, the group abandoned the approved analysis plan, introducing a revised analysis plan to help them deal with their problem.”

And to “prove” that months later the CDC introduced a new analysis plan we are shown notes supposedly documenting that the CDC team were creating that revised plan:

Scary Revised Analysis Plan Screenshot

You are supposed to say, “they revised the analysis plan!  That’s bad!” But do you see what I see? That these are notes from September 6, 2001 2011?  Not after the “ensuing months” but one day later after the plan was finalized. I guess we weren’t supposed to look at the date, just the scary words “revised analysis plan”.

From these notes it appears to say that there will be a records review on September 12th and that in advance of that, whoever wrote these notes needs to get the revised analysis plan. Not, “hey, let’s fabricate a new analysis plan” but, “Hey, the plan was revised yesterday and I should get a copy”. Or, to put it another way: how sinister does the note read sound when the plan was just finalized the day before?

So, when did the CDC do the analysis that Mr. Wakefield shows in his video?  You know, the analysis that the “revised” plan was supposed to avoid?  November, 2001.  Two months later after the plan was finalized and, importantly, two months after those notes were taken. Here’s a screenshot from a talk Mr. Hooker recently gave about his work and the DeStefano paper.  He showed one of the same tables that Mr. Wakefield uses in his video (29:11 into the video).  Notice the date? November 7. In the audio he says “they did see a statistically significant result as early as November 7th, 2001″.  Mr. Wakefield’s first video (the ugly, race-baiting one) also references the November 7th meeting.  So it looks like this is the earliest evidence Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker have  of the CDC obtaining results for this study.


Now, let’s compare how Mr. Wakefield presented a chain of events and what actually happened.

The impression Mr. Wakefield gives in his video is that:

(a) first the plan for the research was finalized by the CDC team,

(b) then they found data which showed an effect they didn’t like and

(c) after “ensuing months” the CDC team then held a meeting in which notes were taken that they had to revise the plan.

Here’s what the actual events appear to be

(a) the research plan was finalized on Sept. 5,

(b) on Sept. 6, someone (likely Mr. Thompson) took notes that he had to get the revised plan and

(c) on November 7, what appears to be the first pass at data analysis were presented presented in an internal CDC meeting.

No evidence of revising the plan after the analysis.  The image of the meeting notes are being used as props to craft a story. Andrew Wakefield apparently doesn’t understand the first rule of documentaries.  And apparently whatever ability he had for reporting factually has long since faded since he left grad school.

And, Brian Hooker?  He’s not just a prop in these videos.  He’s an active participant.  His organization has paid Mr. Wakefield for at least the first video.  The race-baiting video.

The autism communities deserve better. Better than Andrew Wakefield.  Better than Brian Hooker.

By Matt Carey

A look at the analysis plan for DeStefano’s MMR study: no evidence of fraud

16 Oct

Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker have been making claims that the CDC are involved in misconduct in autism research. In case you haven’t followed the story, it basically goes like this:

1) the CDC planned on a study of MMR and autism using the MADDSP data.

2) That the CDC created a research plan.

3) That the CDC found results they didn’t want to report: an calculated odds ratio for African American boys. So the CDC team allegedly deviated from that plan and didn’t report that result.

4) That the CDC introduced a new analysis after the plan: that they would include birth certificate data.  While the CDC rationale for this new analysis was to provide more data (confounding variables) for the analysis, the allegedly real reason was to dilute the sample set and make statistically significant results disappear.

Here’s a paragraph from one of the press releases about the Hooker study:

According to Dr. Thompson’s statement, “Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data was collected.” Thompson’s conversations with Hooker confirmed that it was only after the CDC study coauthors observed results indicating a statistical association between MMR timing and autism among African-Americans boys, that they introduced the Georgia birth certificate criterion as a requirement for participation in the study. This had the effect of reducing the sample size by 41% and eliminating the statistical significance of the finding, which Hooker calls “a direct deviation from the agreed upon final study protocol – a serious violation.”

Or so goes the story. But as is often the case with Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker, the facts don’t match the claims.

In a recent video, Mr. Wakefield shows us the research plan the CDC had drafted.  One red flag with Mr. Wakefield’s approach so far has been how he tries to tightly manage the flow of information.  He has not shared the analysis plan in total and only now has he provided us with a couple screenshots.  Begs the question: what are they hiding?

Here’s one screenshot from that video. This one is where he gets the idea that the plan was to report race for the entire sample.

draft analysis plan screenshot 2

Here’s the full text, in case that’s difficult to read:

Statistical Analysis

We will use conditional logistic regression stratified by matched sets to estimate the odds ratios for association between age at MMR vaccination and autism. In the main analyses, we will include all autism cases.

Potential confounding variables will be evaluated individually for their association with the autism case definition. Those with an odds ratio p-value < 0.20 will be included as covariates in a conditional logistic regression model to estimate adjusted odds ratios for the association between age at vaccination and autism. The only variable available to be assessed as a potential confounder using the entire sample is child’s race. For the children born in Georgia for whom we have birth certificate data, several sub-analyses will be carried out similar to the main analyses to assess the effect of several other potential confounding variables. A recent case control study (CDC, 2001) carried out with a subset of the autism cases from this study found that age matched cases and controls differed on several important background factors including maternal age, maternal education, birth type, and parity. The variables that will be assessed as potential confounders in this study will be birth weight, APGAR scores, gestational age, birth type, parity, maternal age, maternal race/ethnicity, and maternal education. (See Table 2 for how variables will be categorized.)

There are two interesting points in the above.  First, the sentence Mr. Wakefield highlights doesn’t say what he claims.  The only variable available to be assessed as a potential confounder using the entire sample is child’s race. The plan doesn’t say that they will test and report race.  Consider the context: this is a section of the plan called “statistical analysis”. Put in context with the entire paragraph, this sentence is clear: the full dataset is limited because it only has one variable available.

The CDC didn’t deviate from the plan when they didn’t report on race for the total sample because that was never in the plan.  If you want more evidence of this, the end of the paragraph says “See Table 2 for how variables will be categorized”.  Table 2 is titled “Descriptive Statistics for Children Born in Georgia with Birth Certificate Records”.  The variables will be categorized in the birth certificate sample.

The second interesting point from the paragraph Mr. Wakefield has shown us is this: the CDC plan included a birth certificate sample.

Here’s a screenshot of the analysis plan from that new video, showing the front page of the analysis plan:

draft analysis plan screenshot

Shown with this voice over by Mr. Wakefield (while the screenshot above is shown going up in flames…very dramatic)

“Over the ensuing months, after the data after the data had been collected and analyzed, and strictly forbidden in the proper conduct of science, the group abandoned the approved analysis plan, introducing a revised analysis plan to help them deal with their problem.”

So, in case you were thinking, “that’s an analysis plan, how do we know it’s the analysis plan”, well, you have Mr. Wakefield’s word on it.  This is the “approved analysis plan” that the CDC allegedly had to revise.

What interests me about this as that’s the same plan that I have and was preparing to write about.  It’s nice now to be able to be able to say that this is, indeed, the same document that Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker are working with.

We’ve already seen two big mistakes by the Wakefield/Hooker team: first that the analysis plan doesn’t include a call to report on race separately in the total sample (the group without the birth certificates), second that the CDC “approved analysis plan” included analysis of a subset with birth certificate data.

So, what were the objectives of the study as in the plan?

We did not have information regarding onset of symptoms for most cases in this study and this limited our ability to do certain types of analyses such as case series analyses. In addition, a totally unexposed group (i.e., never received the MMR vaccine or other measles containing vaccine) was not available since measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination are required for school attendance in Georgia. The following objectives are considered the primary objectives for this study.
1) To determine if case children were more likely than their matched controls to have been vaccinated with MMR before 36 months of age. DSM-IV criteria for autism require that onset of symptoms occur before 36 months of age. Therefore, the 36-month cut-off is one that by definition can be used to classify a definitely “unexposed” group.
2) To determine whether there was a difference between cases and controls in the proportion of children exposed to their first dose of MMR vaccine before 18 months of age. This objective is based on the research that suggests the timing of first parental concern for the development of autism appears around 18 months of age (Taylor et al, 1999). In addition, Cathy Lord has reported that the range of first parental concern for regression was between 12 and 23 months of age with a mode of 19-21 months.
3) To determine whether the age distribution for receipt of the MMR vaccine differs between cases and controls.

They showed the data for the 36 and 18 month cutoffs.  Age distribution was covered in Table 2.

Analysis of Autism subgroups

The IOM (2001) specifically recommended additional research regarding autism subgroups and MMR. We will examine several subtypes of autism in this study. Data from the Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program will be included in the sub-analyses to identify particular sub-groups. The following sub-group analyses will be conducted:

1) Analyses excluding cases with an established cause for autism or a co-occurring condition suggesting an early prenatal etiology (e.g., tuberous sclerosis, fragile X, or other congenital/chromosomal anomalies.)

We propose to conduct a case-control sub-analysis looking at cases without an established or presumptive cause for autism, such as tuberous sclerosis, fragile X, and other congenital/chromosomal anomalies. The purpose of doing this analysis is to create a more homogeneous case group that may be more likely to be impacted by the timing of the MMR vaccine. The objectives from the primary analyses will be replicated in this sub-analysis.

2) Analyses of Isolated versus Non-isolated Autism.

Isolated autism cases are cases with no other co-morbid developmental disability while non-isolated cases do have a co-morbid developmental disability. Previous research suggests that the majority of non-isolated cases have a co-existing developmental disability of mental retardation (CDC, 2001). Both isolated and non-isolated cases will be compared separately to controls. The objectives from the primary analyses will be replicated in this sub-analysis.

3) Analyses examining Gender Effects

Males are at substantially higher risk for autism and may be more vulnerable to the exposure associated with the MMR vaccine. We will analyze males and females separately and replicate the main objectives of the primary analyses as well as examine the potential confounders available from Georgia birth certificates.

4) Analyses excluding autism cases with known onset prior to 1 year of age.

For a subset of autism cases, we were able to identify the timing of parental concern. This sub-analysis will exclude all cases excluded with an established or presumptive cause for autism (e.g., tuberous sclerosis, fragile X, and other congenital/chromosomal anomalies.) and children for whom we have been able to identify first parental concern prior to 12 months of age.

Just in case anyone reading this is one of the few that has been following Mr. Wakefield’s video releases: in a new video Mr. Wakefield is trying to claim that the isolated autism subanalysis was not done.  Except that it was.  They made a minor change to autism without MR, which gave essentially the same result that Mr. Wakefield claims was hidden.

Destefano_table_4 highlighted

Autism without MR has an odds ratio of 2.45 with a 95% confidence interval of 1.20 to 5.00.  I’ll write about this new video soon as there’s much sleight of hand going on, but Mr. Wakefield is claiming that a result of odd ratio = 2.48 with confidence interval of 1.16 to 5.31 was not reported.  Besides ignoring the fact that the data were reported by the CDC, Mr. Wakefield ignores the fact that these are raw-data results.  Total sample, unadjusted analysis.  In the adjusted analysis the result does not suggest an association.

But, getting back to the main point: the claims of fraud are just not founded on fact.  The two main claims of “fraud” are just wrong.  The analysis plan did not state that they would do a subanalysis by race for the total sample.  The addition of the birth certificate data is in the plan, not in some sort of revision.  And Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Hooker knew this.

I am reminded of a quote from an ABC News article recently

“There are always going to be those people at the edges of science who want to shout because they don’t want to believe what the data are showing,” said Dr. Margaret Moon, a pediatrician and bioethicist at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. She said she thought the study author “manipulated the data and manipulated the media in a very savvy and sophisticated way.”

“It’s not good. It’s not fair. It’s not honest. But it’s savvy,” Moon said.

By Matt Carey

The Quacks behind the Warrior Moms

13 Oct

I accept Dr Carpenter’s opinion that there is no evidence that any of these treatments were individually beneficial for M and that collectively they were intrusive and contrary to his best interests.  M’s life was increasingly dominated by the programme of treatment to the exclusion of other activities.  I find that E has implemented a programme of diet, supplements and treatments and therapies indiscriminately, with no analysis as to whether they are for M’s benefit, and on a scale that has been oppressive and contrary to his interests.  She has exercised total control of this aspect of M’s life.’

Mr Honourable Justice Baker, In the Court of Protection, Judgment, In the matter of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and in the matter of M, 11 August 2014

Brian Deer has once again done a service to the autism community, by putting in the public domain the judgment of Mr Justice Baker in the case arising from a dispute between a local authority and the mother (E) and father (A) of a young man (M) with autism.

Deer’s report, published in the Sunday Times on 12 October, focuses on the judge’s scathing judgment on E, a prominent supporter of the claim by the discredited Royal Free researcher Andrew Wakefield of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Mr Justice Baker concluded that E had fabricated evidence of an adverse reaction to MMR in her son, invented a range of associated diagnoses, subjected her son to unnecessary tests and treatments, neglected a dental abscess and indulged in fantasy conspiracy theories.

This Court of Protection case offered a rare opportunity to ventilate in public some of the controversies that have raged in the world of autism over the past decade. In the USA, the Omnibus Autism proceedings in 2008-9 provided a public forum in which claims regarding vaccine-autism links and associated alternative treatments were exposed as scientifically baseless and clinically irresponsible.

Though Mr Justice Baker did not address the MMR link or alternative treatments in general, his 92 page report provides a devastating indictment of the role of a range of therapists in relation to M, some of whom appeared as witnesses. In addition to exclusion diets and supplements, M received homeopathy, cranial osteopathy, reflexology, naturopathy, light and sound therapy, auditory integration training and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It is clear that E’s descent into irrationality and paranoia was supported and encouraged by a number of dubious authorities and therapists, with damaging consequences for her son and her family.

Three therapists gave evidence in support of E’s treatment of her son. Shelley Birkett-Eyles, an occupational therapist working in a private clinic, was accepted by Mr Justice Baker as a ‘responsible practitioner’, though he noted that her reliability was challenged by Dr Peter Carpenter, a consultant psychiatrist with a special interest in learning disability, the expert witness called by the local authority.

Dr Peter Julu describes himself as ‘autonomic neurophysiologist’ (based at the private Breakspear Clinic), though Mr Justice Baker questioned whether this was a legitimate speciality and noted that his diagnosis of ‘neurodevelopmental dysautonomia’ was disputed by Dr Carpenter, who also challenged the reliability of his assessments and treatments, particularly his recommendation of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Ms Juliet Hayward, a nutritional therapist, was censured for giving ‘advice well beyond her expertise’, in endorsing a diagnosis of Lyme Disease and in prescribing a dietary protocol without taking an adequate medical history. Mr Justice Baker concluded that he ‘was left with a profound anxiety about Ms Haywood’s influence on E and her role in the treatment that M has received.’

Mr Justice Baker was particularly concerned that none of these three had received training in issues of ‘mental capacity’ as codified in the 2005 Mental Capacity Act. He observed that ‘it was clear from their evidence that none of them had given proper consideration to the question whether M had capacity to consent to their assessments or the treatment they were prescribing’.

In addition to these therapists, E called as expert witnesses two veterans of the Wakefield anti-MMR campaign: Dr Ken Aitken, a clinical psychologist formerly associated with the (now defunct) Autism Treatment Trust providing alternative treatments in Edinburgh; and Mr Paul Shattock, a retired pharmacy lecturer from Sunderland, a long-standing promoter of exclusion diets and unorthodox biomedical therapies.

By contrast with other expert witnesses (including Dr Peter Carpenter, Dr Alison Beck, Professor Robin Williamson, Dr Gwyn Adshead, Mr Keith McKinstrie), whom Mr Justice  Baker found to be ‘wholly reliable and professional’, he expressed considerable reservations about Aitken and Shattock:

‘I was concerned at times as to their qualifications to opine on some of the matters about which they gave evidence.’

In his conclusion, Mr Justice Baker categorically rejected the approach advocated by Aitken and Shattock in relation to M:

‘I stress, again, that I am not making any definitive findings on the efficacy of alternative treatments generally.  That is not the subject of these proceedings, which are about M.  I do, however, find that: (1) there is no reliable evidence that the alternative treatments given to M have had any positive impact on people with autism generally or M in particular and (2) the approach to prescribing alternative treatments to and assessing the impact of such treatments on people with autism in general and M in particular has lacked the rigor and responsibility usually associated with conventional medicine.’

Mr Justice Baker repudiated ‘the fallacy’ of E’s belief that there are two parallel approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of autism, each of which is equally valid:

‘The evidence in this hearing has demonstrated clearly that there is one approach – the clinical approach advocated by Dr Carpenter – that is methodical, rigorous and valid, and other approaches advocated by a number of other practitioners, for which there is no evidence of any positive impact and which (in this case at least) have been followed with insufficient rigor.  Whilst each treatment may be harmless, they may, if imposed collectively and indiscriminately, be unduly restrictive and contrary to the patient’s interests.  These disadvantages are compounded when, as in several instances in this case, insufficient consideration is given by the practitioners to the question of whether a mentally-incapacitated patient has consented to or wishes to have the treatment.’

Given his characterisation of E’s performance in court as controlling, manipulative, duplicitous and obstructive it was perhaps not surprising that Mr Justice Baker expressed some sympathy for the long-suffering family GP, Dr W. This ‘older-style family GP’ had been ‘tolerant and sympathetic’ and had maintained a good relationship with the family ‘until he went into the witness box’, when it became clear to E and her husband that, though Dr W had been attentive to the family needs and had responded to her requests to arrange investigations that he did not consider clinically indicated, he did not endorse her wilder theories and diagnoses. Though the parents later expressed ‘disillusionment’ with Dr W, Mr Justice Baker found his evidence ‘responsible, truthful and humane’.

Michael Fitzpatrick

13 October 2014

Michael Fitzpatrick has an autistic son close in age to M; he is a doctor, former GP and the author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know (2004) and Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion (2009)


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