Brian Deer’s original 2004 Channel 4 report on Andrew Wakefield: MMR: What they didn’t tell you

5 Oct

When Andrew Wakefield presented his hypothesis linking autism to the MMR vaccine in 2014 1998, he fueled a vaccine scare that is still alive today. It wasn’t until 6 years later that specifics about Mr. Wakefield’s actions were to surface. First in a newspaper story by Brian Deer (Revealed: MMR research scandal). Later that year in a BBC Channel 4 investigation: “MMR What they didn’t tell you.” I’ve never seen that Channel 4 program. Until today. Mr. Deer has placed it on YouTube. In three parts.

Part 1 introduces the topic. The MMR scare, the Wakefield 1998 Lancet paper and the press conference and the Royal Free’s video given out to the press. A discussion with an epidemiologist about the fact that there was nothing in Mr. Wakefield’s own work to support the triple MMR vaccine. Which leads us to the Wakefield patent for a substance that could be used as a vaccine–a vaccine which could only reasonably be expected to make a profit if the existing measles vaccine were considered unsafe–and as an autism “cure”.

Mr. Deer speaks with Ian Bruce, a researcher who worked with Andrew Wakefield on the patent. “The interpretation of that is quite clear to me..and that is that they have a vaccine for measles. Which presumably is an alternative to the existing vaccine.”

The thing is, the public was not told that Mr. Wakefield and the Royal Free had these commercial interests prior to Mr. Deer’s show.

Part 2 discusses the patent–the cure and vaccine aspects. The idea was that measles virus would be injected into a mouse. Those would be extracted, frozen, thawed, mixed with human cells, and injected into pregnant goats. The colostrum (part of the goat’s milk) would then form the basis of this vaccine/cure substance.

Sound like a strange idea to you? Well, Mr. Deer interviews medical experts who also think so. “the whole technique doesn’t make sense”. “It’s not credible”. “It’s strange”.

Mr. Deer tries to interview Dr. Roy Pounder, Mr. Wakefield’s former supervisor at the Royal Free. Mr. Pounder at first agrees then refuses to be interviewed.

Mr. Deer then goes to American and interviews Hugh Fudenberg, collaborator with Mr. Wakefield and co-inventor on the patent. Mr. Fudenberg at the time was charging up to $750 an hour to see and treat autistic children. He too considers Mr. Wakefield’s treatment to be unfounded. However, Mr. Fudenberg had a cure of his own, made from his own bone marrow.

Mr. Deer discusses some of the criticism of Mr. Wakefield’s work, including a statement from someone who worked in the Royal Free Hospital, including a comment that the work amounted to abuse.

Part 3 includes a discussion with Nick Chadwick, a student in Mr. Wakefield’s laboratory during the MMR/Autism research. Mr. Chadwick tested the tissues for measles virus, and found there was none in the autistic children being seen by Mr. Wakefield’s team. Also interviewed was Ian Bruce, a colleague of Mr. Wakefield’s, and also a supervisor for Nick Chadwick. Both Chadwick and Bruce are highly confident that if there were measles virus in the tissues, they would have detected it.

Mr. Deer discusses the 2000 measles outbreak in Ireland. He interviews the parents of one of the children who died in that outbreak. For those who keep saying that measles is mild, that in first world countries no one dies or is injured, here’s what a child dying of measles looks like in the first world. She took 11 months to die.

Result_of_Wakefields_Scare

Mr. Deer then goes to America to find and try to speak with Mr. Wakefield. Mr. Wakefield was listed as “research director” for Jeff Bradstreet’s clinic in Florida, but wasn’t there. The Bradstreet clinic had a host of supplements that one could purchase to “treat” autism. Mr. Deer eventually finds Mr. Wakefield at an Autism Society of America convention. Whereupon Mr. Wakefield runs away.

By the way–Thank you ASA for no longer inviting Andrew Wakefield to speak.

This investigative report together with the Sunday Times articles earlier in 2004 made a huge impact at the time. I know as I lived through it. The retraction of interpretation published by most of Mr. Wakefield’s co-authors on the 1998 Lancet paper (since fully retracted by the journal), was a big statement that this work was not solid. Of course, Brian Deer would eventually go on to win a U.K. Press Award for his MMR journalism and Mr. Wakefield would eventually be found to have been unethical in his research and struck off the register (lose his medical license).

The embedded version below should go through all three parts in sequence.

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25 Responses to “Brian Deer’s original 2004 Channel 4 report on Andrew Wakefield: MMR: What they didn’t tell you”

  1. Broken Link October 5, 2014 at 01:40 #

    Thanks for letting people know about this. It’s a compelling piece. I particularly enjoyed the interviews with Chadwick, they are pretty damning.

    I think progress is being made though. Wakefield is not invited to speak at anything but fringe conferences these days.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 5, 2014 at 03:58 #

      yeah, I’ve read the pages on Chadwick at Brian Deer’s website and I recall Chadwick’s testimony for the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, but this interview was really clear and, as you say, damning.

  2. Brian Deer October 5, 2014 at 08:31 #

    It’s interesting that you pick up on Dr Chadwick. When I made that film, I was very new to it all (so I mention a “disorder” called autism, which I would handle better to day). And I really wasn’t hugely on top of PCR.

    Later, when I found myself doing lectures, I would sometimes find myself talking to biology students. If I explained that Wakefield claimed to find MV RNA with immunohistochemistry, but then when PCR was applied the lack of any MV finding was explained by him as being due to lack of sensitivity of the assay, the students laughed.

    I had always thought my best joke was to put up a copy of the cheque I received from Wakefield’s lawyers with the amount, up to the millions, painted out, and to ask: “How can you tell I didn’t get a million pounds from Andrew Wakefield? (Answer: because I wouldn’t be here).

    In fact, near the heart of the whole fraud that took place all those years ago in London, was what I came to realize was this utterly, utterly ludicrous claim from Wakefield that something allegedly found with a microscopic technique could then be invisible to a molecular technology.

    • Lawrence October 5, 2014 at 13:40 #

      You would also think, that based on Wakefield’s “research” that if he found what he found in just 12 children, that it would be extremely easy & self-evident in much larger populations……

      My BS radar goes off as soon as someone tries to claim a significant result in a small population – which isn’t supported by even simple facts when you look at a much larger population (of the same types of people – like African American boys, for instance).

      • Brian Deer October 5, 2014 at 14:43 #

        You’re right. At face value, however, that was exactly his argument. He was essentially claiming the first fortuitous snapshot of a hidden epidemic.

        Cheats are greedy people, however. It’s part of the same package. So, when it came to the measles virology, they couldn’t stop with even a vaguely believable number of ADS kids supposedly with MV in their guts. They had to go for 75 of 91 in the 2002 paper on that.

        But then this is the Andrew Wakefield who in the 1998 paper reported “gaze avoidance” in children, (a) 24 hours and (b) 1 week after MMR, as the “apparent inciting event” for their ASDs.

        Trouble is (and the medical establishment doesn’t want to hear this), if he could publish these Tom and Jerry cartoon papers in The Lancet (and also a BMJ group journal in 2002) – which ought properly to have had readers rolling on the floor with laughter – why was he not caught quicker?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 5, 2014 at 17:54 #

      Chadwick shows that this was no mistake on Mr. Wakefield’s part. Early on he was ignoring data that showed that his hypothesis was wrong.

      When Chadwick spoke at the Omnibus Autism Proceeding, it became more clear that not only had he shown that there was no measles virus in the intestinal tissues of the autistic children, but that the Kawashima results were false.

      Which brings up the question of Mr. Wakefield’s congressional testimony.

      We had failed completely to identify this virus by molecular amplification technology. In my laboratory, we had a reaction that was sensitive to about 10,000 copies. Anythingless, we could not find it.
      The Japanese had succeeded, so we sent nine blood samples from our children to the Japanese laboratory, and we also sent 21 other patients. We mixed them up. We did not tell them what they were getting. They just had a control label. And they identified measles virus in three of those nine children in the peripheral blood. That is an intriguing finding. This is consistent with; but not definitely, vaccine strain. One can only say that this is consistent with, but there it is, and this was a blinded control study.

      1) He presents Chadwick’s results as a “failure”. Not a demonstration that there is no virus present.

      2) he presents the Kawashima results as valid, even though Chadwick had shown that Kawashima was not accurately detecting control samples.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 5, 2014 at 18:15 #

        link to the quote above
        http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-106hhrg69622/html/CHRG-106hhrg69622.htm

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 5, 2014 at 18:22 #

        It is worth noting–that hearing is the same one where Mr. Wakefield was asked about the funding for his research

        Mr. Burton. Who funded your study, Dr. Wakefield?
        Dr. Wakefield. We did. We have a small charitable
        contribution, but—-
        Mr. Burton. A charitable organization did; I see.
        Dr. Wakefield. We found it a little difficult to get
        funding—-

        I guess it depends on your definition of “we”, doesn’t it? I don’t know what that’s called in the U.K., but having been sworn in before a Congressional hearing, that strikes this observer as perjury.

      • Brian Deer October 5, 2014 at 18:39 #

        Dr Kawashima told me himself that his results were not reliable, and that the apparent MV sequences he detected did not correspond with any vaccine.

  3. Brian Deer October 5, 2014 at 14:46 #

    Error: “apparent inciting event” should read “apparent precipitating event”

  4. lilady October 6, 2014 at 19:49 #

    Nice, exceptionally nice, presentation of the facts surrounding Wakefield’s “study”.

    I knew that Wakefield left the U.K. for Florida (or somewhere), at the end of the GMC Fitness-Practice-Hearing, but I was unaware of his affiliation with the Bradstreet Clinic and their bogus treatments for autism. What a sleezebag he is, as he preys on gullible parents to extract every last cent from them.

  5. Narad October 7, 2014 at 09:08 #

    Sound like a strange idea to you?

    This thread is a keeper.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 7, 2014 at 18:51 #

      Yeah, that whole “transfer factor” thing is just bizarre. It’s good to see it being discussed by people who really know how bad this is.

      • Chris October 7, 2014 at 19:12 #

        I think of that whenever someone pulls out an old VK Singh paper as “proof.” It turns out that Singh worked with Fudenberg. After he left the Univ. of Utah he was for a while trying to push from transfactor product. I find bits and pieces on Google like this:
        http://www.transferfactorresearch.com/autism1.html

      • Brian Deer October 7, 2014 at 19:25 #

        My learning curve was very steep back in the day, so perhaps I didn’t fully have a grasp on what was going on with the transfer factor, the alternatives to live attenuated vaccines, the diagnostic kits and autism cures.

        It wasn’t so much that anybody particularly thought any of these would actually work. The immediate task at hand was to launch a venture capital company, named after Wakefield’s wife.

        Think about it: a company offering early investors an opportunity to be in the front seat of history, with that doctor you’ve seen on TV. Of course, the “medical establishment” would have said (and did): “This stuff is junk.” But they would, wouldn’t they? Just like they said that MMR was safe.

        So, roll up folks, invest in Carmel Ltd. The mug punters – particularly the litigant parents and the anti-vax loons – would have flocked to it.

        I saw Paul Offit quoted the other day saying that no scientist is thinking about the money when they make a novel finding. But Dr Offit is wrong. Andrew Wakefield wrote a business plan, based on (mistaken and abandoned) findings of Crohn’s in ONE child, while that child WAS STILL ON THE WARD. Apart from where he could borrow a white coat to appear in television reports, he thought of little else but making money.

        Neither he, nor his wife (put through medical school at colossal cost to the UK taxpayer) ever showed much career interest in patients, but did get into the property business.

        That’s the solution to the riddle of the pregnant goats (I met the guy who paid for them), The technology didn’t need to work in order to make him a fortune. But then his medical school stepped in and stopped him.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 7, 2014 at 23:26 #

        “I saw Paul Offit quoted the other day saying that no scientist is thinking about the money when they make a novel finding.”

        OK, but a few observations must be made here.

        1) Andrew Wakefield is no scientist.
        2) Andrew Wakefield didn’t have a novel finding.
        But, you’ve got him on:
        3) Andrew Wakefield was thinking about money before doing the investigation.

      • Brian Deer October 7, 2014 at 19:28 #

        My learning curve was very steep back in the day, so perhaps I didn’t fully have a grasp on what was going on with the transfer factor, the alternatives to live attenuated vaccines, the diagnostic kits and autism cures.

        It wasn’t so much that anybody particularly thought any of these would actually work. The immediate task at hand was to launch a venture capital company, named after Wakefield’s wife.

        Think about it: a company offering early investors an opportunity to be in the front seat of history, with that doctor you’ve seen on TV. Of course, the “medical establishment” would have said (and did): “This stuff is junk.” But they would, wouldn’t they? Just like they said that MMR was safe.

        So, roll up folks, invest in Carmel Ltd. The mug punters – particularly the litigant parents and the anti-vax loons – would have flocked to it.

        I saw Paul Offit quoted the other day saying that no scientist is thinking about the money when they make a novel finding. But Dr Offit is wrong. Andrew Wakefield wrote a business plan, based on (mistaken and abandoned) findings of Crohn’s in ONE child, while that child WAS STILL ON THE WARD. Apart from where he could borrow a white coat to appear in television reports, he thought of little else but making money.

        Neither he, nor his wife (put through medical school at colossal cost to the UK taxpayer) ever showed much career interest in patients, but did get into the property business.

        That’s the solution to the riddle of the pregnant goats (I met the guy who paid for them), The technology didn’t need to work in order to make him a fortune. But then his medical school stepped in and stopped him.

      • Chris October 7, 2014 at 20:01 #

        “I saw Paul Offit quoted the other day saying that no scientist is thinking about the money when they make a novel finding. But Dr Offit is wrong.”

        The difference is he is a real scientist, unlike Wakefield.

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