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Wakefield’s Lancet Paper – Lancet published vs NHS records

8 Jan

One of the key things that Brian Deer’s reporting has done is thrown doubt on the oft-repeated claims that

a) The papers subjects nearly all suffered from some form of colitis
b) The papers subjects nearly all suffered from regressive autism
c) The papers subjects nearly all regressed in the days following their MMR jab.

Nowhere is the more apparent than in the data tables supplied by Brian Deer in his report for the BMJ. They are replicated below:

In this first table above, the data shows that contrary to Wakefield’s Lancet data which shows 9 out of 12 having regressive autism, the kids NHS records are either inconclusive or negative, giving a _maximum possible_ amount of kids with regressive autism as 6 out of 12. Wakefield et al were ‘wrong’ about at least 3 kids.

In this second table above, the data shows that Wakefield et al Lancet data shows 11 out of 12 kids having non specific colitis. By comparison their NHS records show that 3 out of 12 have non specific colitis. Wakefield et al were ‘wrong’ about 9 out of 12 kids.

In this last table above, we can see that Wakefield reported in the Lancet that 8 out of 12 kids showed symptoms days after MMR. However, according to these same kids NHS records, a _maximum_ of 2 out of 12 showed symptoms days after receiving their MMR. Wakefield was ‘wrong’ about 6 children.

There is supplementary data on

The BMJ claim fraud. It is very difficult to disagree with them.

Urine test for autism? Hmmm

4 Jun

Following on from Lisa Jo’s well placed concerns about this study,I also have a few. Namely the references. Not being scientifically qualified to tackle the meat of the paper I look straight at what the researcher uses to support his ideas. So far I’ve found these references the authors base their paper on:

1) Kidd, P. M. Autism, an extreme challenge to integrative medicine. Part: 1: The knowledge base. Altern. Med. Rev. 2002, 7 (4), 292–316.

2) Ashwood, P.; Anthony, A.; Pellicer, A. A.; Torrente, F.; Walker-Smith, J. A.; Wakefield, A. J. Intestinal lymphocyte populations in children with regressive autism: evidence for extensive mucosal immunopathology. J. Clin. Immunol. 2003, 23 (6), 504–17.

3) Bolte, E. R. Autism and Clostridium tetani. Med. Hypotheses 1998, 51 (2), 133–44

4) James, S. J.; Cutler, P.; Melnyk, S.; Jernigan, S.; Janak, L.; Gaylor, D. W.; Neubrander, J. A. Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2004, 80 (6), 1611–7

At the very least, relying on studies from Alternative Medical Review, studies co-authored by Andrew Wakefield, studies from Medical Hypothesis and studies co-authored by Jim Neubrander should give rise to questions over the credibility of this paper. Is it enough to scupper it? Of course not. But when we take Lisa Jo’s questions into the bargain – that autism does not always, if ever, have a distinct GI component, I have to wonder about this paper.

GFCF of no benefit

19 May

This post is from Eureka Alert

A popular belief that specific dietary changes can improve the symptoms of children with autism was not supported by a tightly controlled University of Rochester study, which found that eliminating gluten and casein from the diets of children with autism had no impact on their behavior, sleep or bowel patterns.

The study is the most controlled diet research in autism to date. The researchers took on the difficult yet crucial task of ensuring participants received needed nutrients, as children on gluten-free, casein-free diets may eat inadequate amounts of vitamin D, calcium, iron and high quality protein. Unlike previous studies, they also controlled for other interventions, such as what type of behavioral treatments children received, to ensure all observed changes were due to dietary alterations. Past studies did not control for such factors. And although no improvements were demonstrated, the researchers acknowledged that some subgroups of children, particularly those with significant gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, might receive some benefit from dietary changes.

“It would have been wonderful for children with autism and their families if we found that the GFCF diet could really help, but this small study didn’t show significant benefits,” said Susan Hyman, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and principal investigator of the study which will be presented Saturday (May 22) at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia. “However, the study didn’t include children with significant gastrointestinal disease. It’s possible those children and other specific groups might see a benefit.”

In response to widespread parent-reported benefits, URMC initiated the trial in 2003 to scientifically evaluate the effects of the gluten-free and casein-free diet, which eliminates wheat, rye, barley and milk proteins. Parent observation has played an important role in earlier treatment discoveries in children with autism, such as melatonin’s benefits for sleep.

Hyman’s study enrolled 22 children between 2 ½- and 5 ½-years-old. Fourteen children completed the intervention, which was planned for 18 weeks for each family. The families had to strictly adhere to a gluten-free and casein-free diet and participate in early intensive behavioral intervention throughout the study. Children were screened for iron and vitamin D deficiency, milk and wheat allergies and celiac disease. One child was excluded because of a positive test for celiac disease and one was excluded for iron deficiency. Other volunteers who were excluded were unable to adhere to the study requirements. The children’s diets were carefully monitored throughout the study to make sure they were getting enough vitamin D, iron, calcium, protein and other nutrients.

After at least four weeks on the strict diet, the children were challenged with either gluten, casein, both or placebo in randomized order. They were given a snack once weekly with either 20 grams of wheat flour, 23 grams of non fat dried milk, both, or neither until every child received each snack three times. The type of snack was given in randomized order and presented so that no one observing – including the family, child, research staff and therapy team – knew what it contained. The snacks were carefully engineered to look, taste and feel the same, which was an exercise in innovative cooking. In addition, the nutrition staff worked closely with the families to make a snack that met their child’s preferences. Casein was disguised in pudding, yogurt or smoothies and gluten in banana bread, brownies, or cookies depending on the child’s food preferences.

Parents, teachers and a research assistant filled out standardized surveys about the child’s behavior the day before they received the snack, at two and 24 hours after the snack. (If the child’s behavior wasn’t usual at the scheduled snack time, the snack would be postponed until the child was back to baseline.) In addition, the parents kept a standard diary of food intake, sleep and bowel habits. Social interaction and language were evaluated through videotaped scoring of a standardized play session with a research assistant.

Following the gluten and casein snacks, study participants had no change in attention, activity, sleep or frequency or quality of bowel habits. Children demonstrated a small increase in social language and interest in interaction after the challenges with gluten or casein on the Ritvo Freeman Real Life Rating Scale; however, it did not reach statistical significance. That means because of the small difference and the small number of participants in the study, the finding may be due to chance alone.

The investigators note that this study was not designed to look at more restrictive diets or the effect of nutritional supplements on behavior. This study was designed to look at the effects of the removal of gluten and casein from the diet of children with autism (without celiac disease) and subsequent effect of challenges with these substances in a group of children getting early intensive behavioral intervention.

Hyman said, “This is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are many possible effects of diet including over- and under-nutrition, on behavior in children with ASD that need to be scientifically investigated so families can make informed decisions about the therapies they choose for their children.”

Does autistic enterocolitis exist?

20 Apr

The piece below is from the blog justthevax, where it ran as “Independent” the Wakefield way (really something for the fail blog). I like this piece because, frankly, I wish I had done it. Catherina takes a look at the exact claims made by Dr. Wakefield’s supporters and shows that they are clearly false.

“Independent” the Wakefield way (really something for the fail blog).

One of the claims that keeps reappearing in the comments sections under articles covering the GMC ruling on Andrew Wakefield and colleagues is that

The key finding (chronic colitis found in ASD children) of Dr. Wakefield’s early case report published in The Lancet in 1998 HAS been independently confirmed by medical researchers in five different countries.

That is a very significant claim. After all, independent confirmation of a recent finding, would make the validity of a finding more likely, and if 6 independent laboratories found the same gut changes in autistic children, then then likelihood that this was a) a fluke or b) made up by Andrew Wakefield would be drastically reduced.

Finally, one of those commenters has posted those ‘independent confirmations’ – so I thought it might be worth having a look at them.

Krigsman, A. (Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine Director of Gastroenterology Services), et al.,Ileocolonoscopy in Children with Autistic spectrum Disorder and Chronic Gastrointestinal symptoms. Autism Insights 2010:2 1-11.

Gonzalez, L., et al., Endoscopic and Histological Characteristics of the Digestive Mucosa in Autistic Children with gastro-Intestinal Symptoms. Arch Venez Pueric Pediatr, 2005;69:19-25.

Balzola, F., et al., Panenteric IBD-like disease in a patient with regressive autism shown for the first time by wireless capsule enteroscopy: Another piece in the jig-saw of the gut-brain syndrome? American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005. 100(4): p. 979-981.

Balzola, F., et al., Autistic enterocolitis: Confirmation of a new infammatory bowel disease in an Italian cohort of patients. Gastroenterology 2005;128(Suppl. 2);A-303.

Galiatsatos, P., et al., Autistic enterocolitis: Fact or fiction. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2009;23:95-98.

Let’s look at number 1, Krigsman et al. The name sounds vaguely familiar. In fact, anyone who has read a little about the MMR-autism affair will know Arthur Krigsman as the clinical director of Thoughtful House, which happens to be the same Texas Clinic out of which Andrew Wakefield practises. One editor of “Autism Insight”, the journal in which this “independent confirmation” was published, is Andrew Wakefield (another one the senior author of the study, Carol Stott). Gosh, I bet peer review was harsh for this one.

Gonzales et al, number 2, has been published in “Arch Venez Pueric Pediatr” which stands for Archivos Venezolanos de Puericultura y Pediatría. It was a bit tricky to get my hands on the paper, especially since the citation was not quite right, but I did manage and was not surprised to find that indeed the authors cannot replicate Wakefield’s 1998 “findings” of a distinct autistic enterocolitis, although they do report a higher incidence of gastrointestinal problems in their autistic group.

Balzola et al, number 3, is a case report of one adult autistic patient with inflammed bowel.

Similarly, Balzola et al, number 4, is a meeting abstract (if anyone has access, could they email me that abstract, please) that never saw the light of day as a peer reviewed study.

Finally, number 5, Galiatsatos et al., is a case report, featuring two adult patients with gastrointestinal problems and an ASD diagnosis. The authors call for “more investigations” in their discussion.

So what do we have here? Three (3) genuinely published cases of autistic adults who had consulted a doctor for gastrointestinal problems and were found to have gastrointestinal problems. One conference report from April 2005 that has not gone through peer review and has not appeared in a real journal in the 5 years since the conference. One real study looking at over 50 autistic children which does not confirm Wakefield’s findings. And finally, one study by Wakefield’s buddies in a freshly founded journal run by Andrew Wakefield and his buddies, to say that their buddy Andy was really right all along – how is that for “independent” confirmation?!

Brian Deer discusses Andrew Wakefield’s “autistic enterocolitis” in the BMJ

15 Apr

Before the General Medical Council reached a verdict on Dr. Wakefield, Brian Deer was promising that he was going to report on the data Dr. Wakefield used for his now retracted Lancet paper. We were told that he would give a first time ever view of a journalist allowed to check the facts on a scientific research paper.

After the GMC verdict was handed down, I watched the Sunday Times for such an article. I waited. Well, the wait is over. And it isn’t in the Times. Mr. Deer reports his findings in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Although much of the attention on Dr. Wakefield’s work has centered on the possible MMR connection, the topic of a “new syndrome” called “autistic enterocolitis” was proposed in that paper. In Wakefield’s “autistic enterocolitis” under the microscope, Mr. Deer takes a closer look at that claim. He does what is very rarely done: he obtained original data used for the study and obtains expert opinions on that data.

In his introduction, he notes the “new syndrome” and the MMR angles of the Lancet paper. Citing the press release from the Lancet paper:

“Researchers at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine may have discovered a new syndrome in children involving a new inflammatory bowel disease and autism,” the institution announced in a press release in February 1998. “Their paper . . . also suggests that in a number of cases the onset of behavioural symptoms was associated with MMR vaccination.”

Mr. Deer notes that before any patients were investigated, Dr. Wakefield was already proposing in a submission to the Legal Aid Board that such a new syndrome exists and it is linked to regression in children.

“In contrast to the IBD cases, which have a prima face [sic] gastrointestinal pathology, children with enteritis/disintegrative disorder form part of a new syndrome,” said Wakefield and the lawyer in a confidential submission for legal aid funding for the project in June 1996, before any of the 12 children in the paper had been investigated. “Nonetheless, the evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology.”

For emphasis:

The evidence was “undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology”.

Before children were investigated.

That on its own is huge. And, from what I can tell, not consistent with the image Dr. Wakefield is portraying in the alternative media.

That said, was there evidence of this “new syndrome”?

But when the children were brought in to the Royal Free for ileocolonoscopy, between July 1996 and February 1997, a snag in Wakefield’s project emerged. The hospital’s pathology service repeatedly judged colonic biopsy samples to be unexceptional, and thought bowel disease was a possibility in only one child.

The Royal Free’s own pathology service thought that the biopsy samples were unexceptional.

How can Mr. Deer make such a claim? He obtained data from the children’s records from their investigations at the Royal Free. Unfortunately, the actual samples are no longer available, but the reports are, and Mr. Deer submitted these to experts to review:

The biopsy slides are no longer available, according to one of the paper’s authors, Professor Amar Dhillon, but the GMC obtained all but one of the hospital pathology reports, and for the missing case I obtained the discharge summary. I passed the summary and reports to specialists for their reaction. They concluded that most of the 11 children reported as having non-specific colitis in the Lancet paper had been reported by the Royal Free as having normal pathology.

One expert reviewer stated:

“In the present reports and patients, overall, it is my impression that 8 of the 11 [for whom pathology reports were available] were normal,” Karel Geboes, a professor in the gastrointestinal pathology unit of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, told me.

How does this compare to what was reported in the Lancet?

Eleven of the 12 children were said to have “non-specific colitis”: a clinically significant inflammation of the large bowel. In all 11, it was said to be “chronic,” while in four it was reported as both “acute and chronic.”

In other words, the report in the Lancet is not consistent with how experts interpret the pathology reports.

Mr. Deer further notes:

In fact the [Royal Free’s pathology] service identified findings suggestive of possible inflammatory bowel disease in only one of the 12 children. “The mild patchy generalised increase in inflammatory cells with lymphoid aggregates and follicles is not very specific but could be in keeping with low grade quiescent inflammatory bowel disease,” it reported for child 2. But this inflammation resolved after two months’ enteral feeding with a product now marketed as Modulen. A repeat ileocolonoscopy found no abnormality, and a food intolerance was diagnosed.

Yes, it appears that the pathology service, at Dr. Wakefield’s own hospital, at the time of the investigation, didn’t find evidence of abnormalities reported by Dr. Wakefied’s team.

In the GMC hearing, one of the co-authors on the Lancet paper, Dr. Susan Davies, discussed her concerns about the changes in the findings from normal to abnormal at the time of the investigation.

These changes—from normal to abnormal, or from healthy to diseased—had also raised concern in the mind of at least one of the paper’s authors. In September 2007, Davies, the lead histopathologist for the Wakefield project, was examined at length before the panel. “When you were given a draft of the Lancet paper, did you read it?” she was asked by Sally Smith QC, for the doctors’ regulator.
“Yes,” Davies replied.
“What was your overall view of the terminology used in relation to the histology findings in the Lancet paper, just when you read the paper?”
“I was somewhat concerned with the use of the word colitis.”
“First of all, what did you understand that word to mean?”
“I personally use that terminology, ‘colitis,’ when I see active inflammation, or a pattern of changes which suggest a specific diagnosis, and it was not my impression that the children coming through in the spasmodic way that they had, I [sic] had formulated some distinct pattern warranting that terminology.”

If even a co-author was concerned, and the hospital’s pathology reports don’t support the diagnosis of colitis, the obvious question would be: how did the paper reach it’s conclusions?

The answer appears to be that the results underwent a second review. This second review is discussed in the Lancet paper, but there is no mention of the review changing the interpretation of the data,

Mr. Deer poses an important question:

[H]ow many peer reviewers would have felt comfortable approving the paper if they had known that the hospital pathology service reported biopsy specimens as largely normal, but they were then subjected to an unplanned second look and reinterpreted?

Which we are fortunate enough to have answered. Mr. Deer was able to obtain an answer from one of the peer reviewers:

“I’m surprised the GMC didn’t make more of this,” said David Candy, paediatric gastroenterologist at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, who reviewed the paper in 1997. “That’s an example of really naughty doing—to exclude the original pathology findings.”

“Really naughty doing”. Not very clinical but I think it tells the story well.

Is it possible that the hospital’s pathology service missed the condition? Apparently at least one author (Dr. Walker-Smith, a co-defendant with Dr. Wakefield in the GMC hearings) noted this in his GMC testimony:

And how bad was this “colitis,” such that the hospital’s pathology service didn’t spot it as the children came through? Walker-Smith told the GMC panel that he had “concerns” about the service and its ability to detect inflammation.

In his report, Mr. Deer counters with:

Yet inflammatory indices that were not reported in the Lancet paper, including serum C reactive protein concentrations and other blood tests, were almost all within normal ranges for the 12 children.6 And as an alternative explanation for any inflammation that was present, nearly all of the children had constipation with megarectum16 (unreported in the paper), which specialists say can cause cellular changes.

Mr. Deer attempted to speak with Dr. Dillhon, a co-author on the Lancet paper. Dr. Dillhon viewed the slides made from the samples taken from the children, and he graded them with Roman numerals to rank the degree of inflammation. At some point, those Roman numerals were translated into “non-specific colitis”.

So who translated these scores on the grading sheet into findings of “non-specific colitis” in the paper? Dhillon says it wasn’t him. He says he would like to see the slides again, but they are missing from the Royal Free laboratory. “He [Dhillon], Andrew Anthony, and Wakefield all looked at them,” I was told, on Dhillon’s behalf, by a senior member of staff at the Royal Free. “Andy [Wakefield] then synthesised their results into what appeared in the paper.”

But still, according to Mr. Deer, “…how the Roman numerical scores, histopathological gradings for a variety of sites in the colon, became the “colitis” findings might, under such circumstances, be anybody’s guess.”

Mr. Deer posits a possible scenario, based on Dr. Wakefield’s complaint to the press complaints commission:

Wakefield wrote: “When the biopsies were reviewed and scored by experts in bowel pathology—namely, Drs Dhillon and Anthony—these doctors determined that there was mild inflammation in the caecum, ascending colon, and rectum,” he said. “This was correctly reported as non-specific colitis in the Lancet.” In other words, it looks like it was Wakefield who translated the scores.

A companion editorial was published in the BMJ by Prof. Sir Nicholas Wright, warden, of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London. He lists in his conflict of interest statement: “He has provided expert opinion in the case of Wakefield v GMC and acted as a character witness for Professor John Walker-Smith.”

His editorial:

Does autistic enterocolitis exist?
Despite the retracted Wakefield study, questions remain

His conclusion:

Is autistic enterocolitis a histopathological entity or even an entity at all? In view of the lack of data and the entrenched position of many of the protagonists and antagonists, any firm conclusion would be inadvisable. The expert review, referenced by Deer, concludes that key areas such as the prevalence and best treatment of gastrointestinal disorders in people with autistic spectrum disorders are incompletely understood, and that evidence based recommendations are not yet available. We should remember, as recent experience in several fields has shown, that although science has its defects, it is a self correcting process. Time is, perhaps, the wisest counsellor of all. In the meantime, this case offers a salutary reminder for researchers and journal editors alike that coauthorship means bearing responsibility for what is written.

First, I would submit that Dr. Wright is not being clear on the subject. It is not whether autistics have a greater prevalence of GI issues, or whether there is a difference in the treatment for autistics. The question is whether there is a specific entity which is unique to autistics: autistic enterocolitis. Further, it is also a primary question whether “autistic enterocolitis” is causal in autism. While one can hide behind the “you can’t prove a negative” shield, the answers at present appear to be no to both questions.

Second, the idea that science is a self correcting process is often times true. In this case, it clearly is not. The science, the Lancet paper, was not corrected through science but through investigative journalism. Without the stories in The Sunday Times, Dr. Wakefield’s “science” would likely still be in the official record of The Lancet. Much more, the Lancet study and the presumed expertise of Dr. Wakefield would have likely been key in litigation in the UK and the US. Without Mr. Deer’s continued scrutiny, the facts behind the research into the Lancet paper, specifically that the pathology reports on those children were not consistent with the findings of the paper, would almost certainly not have come to light.

Returning to Mr. Deer’s article, he concludes:

So what should we make of all this? Now the Lancet paper is retracted, its findings don’t officially exist. And, if Dhillon is right in saying the slides can’t be found, the ultimate proof is missing. All we have are the pathology reports, which independent specialists seem to agree are largely unremarkable. “They wanted this bad,” commented Tom MacDonald, dean of research at Barts and the London School of Medicine and coauthor of Immunology and Diseases of the Gut. “If I was the referee and the routine pathologists reported that 8/11 were within normal limits, or had trivial changes, but this was then revised by other people to 11/12 having non-specific colitis, then I would just tell the editor to reject the paper.”

Clearly the Lancet paper should have been rejected. But this isn’t just a scientific paper that made a bad conclusion. This paper impacted multiple families inside the autism communities to believe that their child’s autism was caused by MMR. This paper led many families in the autism communities to apply poorly researched “therapies” to their disabled children. This paper led many families to stop vaccinating their children, leading to outbreaks of measles in the UK and elsewhere.

It is easy to go through Mr. Deer’s paper in the BMJ point by point in a clinical fashion, noting how the research went awry, showing that “autistic enterocolitis” has what appears to be no founding in science. But how does one express the reaction to so much damage caused by Dr. Wakefield’s investigation?

Of course, a further question I have and I bet I share with Dr. Wakefield’s supporters is this: is Brian Deer finished or is there even more yet to be unearthed in this sad tale of research gone awry?

With the facts against them Dr. Wakefield’s supporters appeal to emotion

3 Feb

I should stop being shocked and amazed at how little groups like the Age of Autism blog think of their readership. Sorry to put it so bluntly, but it is pretty clear that they expect us all to just read what they have to say and never go to the original sources and think for ourselves.

Case in point, the GMC hearing on Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Dr. Wakefield was guilty of ethical violations in the treatment of his disabled patients. Not once, not twice but many many times. But you wouldn’t know that to read some of the reports on the blogs and even a couple in newspapers.

We have the NAA SafeMinds and TACA telling us all about how bad this ruling is. We have been told that there was “false testimony”.

OK, take a look at the actual charges. Just for a moment. Here are a few examples

1) Dr. Wakefield took money from the Legal Aid Board (LAB) for procedures paid by the NHS. He then diverted some of the LAB money to other projects.

2) Dr. Wakefield got ethical permission to do his study in December 1996, only on patients enrolled after that date. However, he had already started research on children. Here are two examples:

Child 2 had an MRI, colonoscopy and lumbar puncture in September of 1996.

Child 1 was also a research subject without ethical approval. Tests were performed which were not in the clinical interests of the child.

3) For people who promote the myth that “the only thing he did was start early”, note that Dr. Wakefield’s team did invasive tests that were not called for. For example:

Child 3 was also a research subject without ethical approval, having started before the approval. He underwent a lumbar puncture even though: “The Panel has taken into account the fact that there is no evidence in Child 3’s clinical notes to indicate that a lumbar puncture was required.”

Was this the result of some “false testimony? According to the GMC ruling, experts on both sides stated that the lumbar puncture was not clinically indicated.

Experts on both sides, Professor Rutter and Dr Thomas both considered that such a test was not clinically indicated.

Dr. Thomas is not accused by the defenders of Wakefield as “giving false testimony”.

The above are only a few of the examples of clear misconduct on the part of Dr. Wakefield.

How many times must a man be found guilty of not doing what was in his patients’ clinical interests before we are allowed to consider him as, well, someone who doesn’t always put his patient’s clinical interests first?

Kim Stagliano has taken to the Huffington Post with “The Censorship of Autism Treatment“. No mention of the actual charges. No mention of the fact that Andrew Wakefield was guilty. No mention of the fact that Andrew Wakefield’s research efforts for the past 12 years have centered on repairing his own damaged reputation, not on autism treatment.

Can you find a single mention of the word “ethics” in her post? How about any comment about the actual charges levied against Dr. Wakefield?

You know you are in trouble just with the title from this story: MMR doc’s just guilty of caring . At least that article makes one clear statement:

It [the GMC ruling] focused on the methods of research used, some of which were undoubtedly questionable, but which were performed in the name of finding solace for desperate parents convinced their children had changed for ever following their one-size-fits-all MMR injection.

Yes, you can be unethical if you are “finding solace for desperate parents”.

A blog post by the National Autism Association stated:

“Many parents of children with autism view the GMC investigation as little more than character assassination of a physician brave enough to investigate controversial issues”

Well, not this parent. Anyone who paints the GMC investigation as “character assassination” didn’t read the ruling. Seriously, trying to dismiss this fact-filled ruling as “character assassination” is just plain bizarre.

another post comments, discussing the work Dr. Wakefield’s team performed on his study subjects:

the procedures involved were routine


No children were harmed and no parent or guardian has complained about the care these three men provided.

Lumbar punctures are hardly “routine”. Further, there is no reason to do them if not clinically indicated. Colonoscopies are not routine, especially in patients whose symptoms don’t warrant them. Say, as in Child 1.

One child suffered a perforated bowel (in 12 places!). His family won a lawsuit against the Royal Free hospital.

High Court papers alleged that the colonoscopy procedure performed on Jack in 1998 was ‘not clinically indicated or justified’. They also claimed the ‘principal reason’ for the surgery was to further research into links between autism and bowel conditions rather than Jack’s clinical needs.

How does that not count as not “harmed”? Is it because he wasn’t one of the original 12 from the study in The Lancet?

The behavior of the Wakefield supporters is totally predictable. They have no science. They have no first (or second) tier researchers. They rely heavily on Dr. Wakefield. Who else has the perceived stature of Dr. Wakefield for them? When Brian Deer broke the story that Dr. Wakefield may have “fixed” data in his study last year, there was an immediate reaction from the Wakefield supporters: give him faux awards! Make him the keynote speaker at their conventions!

For the past year the message has been “Dr. Wakefield has not been discredited”. They’ve lost that now.

We’ve been warned that they are bringing out their big guns. Yes, David Kirby will blog about this on the Huffington Post. With apologies to Mr. Kirby, but when he’s their “ace in the hole”, you know they don’t have much.

As I finished this, David Kirby came up with his post: “The Lancet Retraction Changes Nothing”. Joining in the style of the times, Mr. Kirby also ignores the actual GMC ruling. Nothing that actually defends Dr. Wakefield against the real charges.

Seriously, go read for yourself. It’s David Kirby with his usual talking points and straw men.

I hope David Kirby is wrong. I hope that things have changed. I hope that the future is a world where the loudest voices in the autism communities fight for a better life for autistics, rather than for a political goal of recognition for bad science, badly done.

I hope.

How Anti-Vaccine ‘Science’ Holds Back Credible Research

4 Jan

An expert panel says there’s no rigorous evidence that digestive problems are more common in children with autism compared to other children, or that special diets work, contrary to claims by celebrities and vaccine naysayers.

This is a totally non contentious piece of work. The panel examined all _credible_ research into the subject and decided there simply wasn’t anything available to support the idea of a things such as autistic entercolitis – a faux syndrome pushed by the section of autism anti vaxxers who believe Andrew Wakefields fake science.

Take careful note though of what they are saying:

1) That there’s no credible evidence. Parental anecdote is not credible evidence.
2) Thats autistic children may well have gut issues and that if they do they should be treated medically.
3) That special diets show no eficacy in _treating autism_ .

The issue for me therefore is that when autistic kids have gut issues they need to be treated properly by medical staff. This means making appointments that allow for the special needs of autistic people (either first in the day or last in the day to avoid waits, quiet waiting rooms with appropriate distractions and most of all well trained staff who won’t say caustic things to parents).

A TACA representative is quoted as saying:

“I’m filled with hope after reading this report,” said Estepp of the support group Talk About Curing Autism. “I wish this report would have come out 10 years ago when my son was diagnosed.”

Ironically, TACA who support the work of Andrew Wakefield probably _could_ have had a report like this ten years ago if the work of Andrew Wakeild hadn’t been so heavily promoted by groups like TACA.

The new report says the existence of autistic enterocolitis “has not been established.” Buie said researchers and doctors have avoided digestive issues in autism because of their connection with Wakefield’s disputed research, which set off a backlash against vaccines that continues to this day.

Quite understandably, researchers didn’t want to get involved in a field tainted by a person like Wakefield and his demonstrably false and disproven idea that MMR causes or contributes to autism. If they did, when they came out with science that contradicted Wakefield they would be subject to the same sort of hate crimes currently perpetrated against numerous other scientists such as Paul Offit who has recieved death threats. Who would want that?

Quite simply – if people like Wakefield admit their error and then shut up, more science will be done that will reveal more results groups like TACA may well support.