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.

22 Responses to “Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker complain. Not honestly, but they complain”

  1. Craig Payne October 23, 2014 at 21:47 #

    The irony of these two complaining about research fraud. One of the complainer’s own fraud was so great he lost his license to practice medicine and was named by Time magazine as one of the greatest medical fraudsters and the other had his own most recent publication withdrawn by the journal that published it! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 23, 2014 at 22:36 #

      Add to that the irony of manipulating the story in one’s complaint about research misconduct. The irony is thick.

  2. reissd October 24, 2014 at 03:43 #

    But they said the complaint was in good faith! They said it!

  3. Brian Deer October 24, 2014 at 07:58 #

    Having studied god knows how many documents where Wakefield has taken information from a report of some kind, it is surprisingly common for him to read something on a page and write it differently, as a quote, onto another page. His original fraud with the 1998 paper is absolutely littered with such conduct. In litigation with me, we had to constantly go back to documents to see how he had misreported evidence.

    Then he will sometimes develop complete memes for the anti-vaxxers by misrepresenting what words on a page mean. The classic example is where they started saying that the UK government had given a legal “indemnity” to vaccine manufacturers. Wakefield was lying because he was intimately involved in the relevant litigation. But the key document they kept brandishing was nothing more than a routine health service document accepting liability for losses or damage to vaccine supplies in transit. Anybody of modest intelligence reading the document would see this.

    But yes, it appears that he has done both again. What a surprise.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 24, 2014 at 18:28 #

      It seems to be endemic with this team. Consider Brian Hooker’s statement about the birth certificate sample. He claimed it was a restriction and that it was only applied to African Americans. All this when it was clear from the DeStefano paper that this was not and could not be the case.

  4. Science Mom October 24, 2014 at 13:31 #

    This doesn’t even seem to be a case where it’s a win-win for Wakefield as his failed suit against Brian Deer was. If Wakefield won, he’s exonerated and if he lost, it’s part of the conspiracy against him. I think he over-played his hand here and makes Thompson look less than reliable as a “whistleblower”.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 24, 2014 at 18:22 #

      Another possibility is that “Thompson the whistleblower” wasn’t getting them what they wanted. No hearing. No documents from Posey. So in order to keep this alive, and get some fodder for their “documentary”, they submitted a complaint.

      Overplayed his hand? Ya think?🙂 That first video was so over the top that many people downloaded it thinking that there was no way Mr. Wakefield would keep it up once his own team saw it. Sure, it got him a lot of play in the conspiracy theory world and the “you won’t believe how over the top this video is” world. But I saw twitter conversations from “leaders” in his movement exclaiming at how they couldn’t understand what Mr. Wakefield was trying to do.

      He showed hundreds of thousands of people that his videography is amateurish. Hell, he couldn’t even get a consistent mic quality on his narration. As an advertisement for “Andrew Wakefield, Director”, it flopped. Taking old photos and panning across them while one narrates doesn’t make one Ken Burns.

      He blew his cover as the supposedly front line researcher who is “just asking questions” and “never said vaccines cause autism”. He demonstrated to the world that he’s as extreme as they come.

      He tried to tightly control the message. Ironic from someone complaining of a lack of transparency from the CDC. He still is. And now we know why. He doesn’t have the facts to back up his story. Instead he is presenting a story even when the facts oppose it.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 24, 2014 at 18:31 #

      And while we are talking about Mr. Wakefield’s break with his past image, let’s not forget the “not anti-vaccine” image.

      How exactly is this a “pro safe vaccine” message?

      Photo of pregnant woman holding syringe.  Her stomach has the CDC logo out of which flames are eminating

      • reissd October 24, 2014 at 18:32 #

        He only wants safer vaccines?

  5. Kevin October 28, 2014 at 15:01 #

    Wakefield’s paper was verified by 28 other scientific papers. Some were published before his in 1998. His career was then destroyed by the medical mafia. Doctor Thompson’s admissions also verify Wakefield’s conclusions. Vaccines do cause brain damage

    • Chris October 28, 2014 at 16:34 #

      Wrong, on both counts:
      http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2013/12/a-list-of-28-studies-from-around-the-world-that-support-dr-wakefields-research.html

      Again, Thompson is a psychologist not an epidemiologist.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 28, 2014 at 17:59 #

      “Wakefield’s paper was verified by 28 other scientific papers”

      These sorts of comments are common on the internet. But they are meaningless.

      What result(s) of what paper was verified? And what are the 28 papers? Funny how people never fill in the details. If you want to say, “autistic children have digestive systems”, sure, you can find papers. If you want to say, “developmentally disabled children (not limited to autism by the way) may have higher incidence of GI complaints”, well that’s true as well. If you want to say that Wakefield discovered a new type of GI problem specific to autism, No. If you want to say that Wakefield’s claims that the MMR is associated with autism, No.

      Mr. Thompson’s statement doesn’t do a thing to verify Wakefield’s conclusions. Again, you leave “Wakefield’s conclusions” as a vague topic. Mr. Thompson doesn’t seem to have given Mr Wakefield anything to substantiate the claim of any wrongdoing at the CDC. Perhaps they are holding that back? (seems unlikely doesn’t it?)

      Anyway, I expect Kevin is a hit-and-run commenter. He has the standard Wakefield reply of a few years ago.

      • Chris October 28, 2014 at 18:09 #

        I suspect it is the same silly list that includes citing an entire year of a journal. They are in the link I provided, it is the one where we went through each one and found that the claim was baseless.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 29, 2014 at 02:07 #

        Probably. I wonder if Kevin knows what the 28 articles supposedly are, much less has checked them.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Maine Coalition for Vaccine Choice legislation–bad premises, bad law - January 14, 2015

    […] There is no such Congressional investigation going on; and outside the small anti-vaccine groups, no one sees this as a scandal. In fact, there is no credible evidence that anything in the article attacked actually supported a link between vaccines and autism, and there is no real evidence of wrongdoing by the CDC researchers. […]

  3. Italian MMR-Autism Decision Overturned - March 4, 2015

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  4. Did a high ranking whistleblower really reveal that the CDC covered up proof that vaccines cause autism in African-American boys? « Science-Based Medicine - April 3, 2015

    […] the complaint, Wakefield and Hooker even misquoted the analysis plan, as Carey also points out. The plan states, “The only variable available to be assessed as a potential confounder using the […]

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  6. The William Thompson Documents. There’s no whistle to blow. | Left Brain Right Brain - January 4, 2016

    […] no. I’ve covered (2) already based on information Wakefield and Hooker made available. The final analysis plan was dated Sept.5, the first race analysis wasn’t until late October or… And we see the same in these […]

  7. The CDC whistleblower documents: A whole lot of nothing and no conspiracy to hide an MMR-autism link – Respectful Insolence - January 5, 2016

    […] that Hooker and Wakefield claim was changed after the first analysis of race data. They confirm what we already know, namely that the final analysis plan was dated September 5, 2001 and the first race analysis […]

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