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 Investigations Reveal an Unreported Conflict of Interest and Problems With  Reporting in Wakefield's 1998 Autism-MMR Study 

Articles in The Lancet

A Statement by the Editors of The Lancet, including statements by Dr. Simon Murch, Professor John Walker-Smith, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the Royal Free and University College Medical School and the Royal Free Hamstead NHS Trust. [
published online February 23, 2004 by The Lancet] Lancet 2004;363(9411):750.

A J Wakefield, S H Murch, A Anthony, J Linnell, D M Casson, M Malik, M Berelowitz, A P Dhillon, M A Thomson, P Harvey, A Valentine, S E Davies, J A Walker-Smith. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children.  Lancet 1998 Feb 28;351(9103):637. abstract

The Lancet has investigated allegations made by an investigative reporter for the London Times against Andrew Wakefield and research published by The Lancet in February 1998. Articles in the Sunday, February 22, 2004 edition of the London Times make 6 specific claims against Dr. Wakefield and the research alleging that MMR vaccines may cause autism and an inflammatory bowel condition.

In a statement published online on February 23, 2004, The Lancet concluded that 3 of the allegations regarding the ethical conduct of the study were not supported by the available evidence.  However, allegations about important unreported conflicts of interest that would likely have influenced the review and acceptability of the publication were validated. Dr. Wakefield received funds from attorneys through the Legal Aid Board to help support patient claims about MMR and autism; information that was not disclosed to the editors of The Lancet, the reviewers or his co-investigators. Five of the original 8 parents who recalled a temporal association between the receipt of MMR and the onset of autism symptoms were involved in legal proceedings through the Legal Aid Board. This information was also not reported in the manuscript.

The Lancet also published statements by Dr. Wakefield, 2 of his coauthors who have stood by the methods and ethical review of the research, and Professor Humphrey Hodgson, Vice-Dean of the Royal Free and University College Medical School.

The editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, concluded that the conflict of interest and the overlap in children who were included in the original (1998) Lancet paper and the Legal Aid Board funded project "would have been material to our decision-making about the paper's suitability, credibility, and validity for publication. In separate statements to the press, Dr. Horton has stated that the information obtained revealed a "fatal conflict of interest", and "in my judgment, it would have been rejected. Additional information and a commentary about this issue will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Lancet.

The (U.K.) Health Secretary, John Reid, has called for an independent inquiry of the research by the General Medical Council

This additional information helps shed light on the events that led to the publication of this article. In depth investigations by the Academy of Pediatrics and The Institute of Medicine have concluded that the evidence does not support the alleged association between MMR and autism.


see also: MMR/Measles Vaccine

This page was last updated on August 08, 2012

Institute for Vaccine Safety