After extraordinary new confessions, declaring Andrew Wakefield's work as "elaborate fraud", the British Medical Journal (BMJ), is requesting that MPs initiate a parliamentary investigation into the research that claimed autism and bowel disease is caused by the MMR vaccine.
BMJ editor-in-chief Dr Fiona Godlee explains in an article in the journal, that at least six additional research reports by Wakefield need independent investigation as well as at least six former senior individuals at the London medical school where the work was conducted might have a case to answer regarding their involvement.
Dr Godlee sent a letter to Andrew Miller MP, chair of the House of Commons committee on science and technology, explaining that parliament must intervene, if the University College London, where Wakefield worked, does not arrange an independent investigation into the Wakefield case immediately.
Godlee said: "Institutional misconduct is too important to be left to the institutions themselves."
Wakefield, who was formerly an investigator at the Royal Free medical school in Hampstead, north London, was taken off the medical register in May 2010 due to a range of charges, including dishonesty in studies published in the Lancet in 1998. In January 2011, the british medical journal concluded that Wakefield's claims that the MMR vaccine was associated with autism and bowel disease were "an elaborate fraud."
Now, the BMJ has published additional revelations regarding the investigation, eliminating any leftover credibility to Wakefield and his co-authors claim that they found a novel inflammatory bowel disease connected with the MMR vaccination. No evidence of such disease was provided in the research and nearly all normal discoveries were embellished in the Lancet paper, according to experts after examining unpublished raw data submitted to the British Medical Journal with the view to excuse Wakefield.
Wakefield's report (published in February 1998) indicated that out of 12 children with brain problems taken to the Royal Free hospital, 8 developed autism within a few days of receiving the MMR vaccination, and that 11 of the 12 children had colitis. Following the publication of the paper for 10 years public anxiety increased, levels for vaccination plummeted, and measles re-emerged as an endemic disease across Britain and other places.
According to Godlee, this new data does not reflect well on his 12 authors or clear Wakefield for fraud. "It is impossible to reconcile [the new data] with what was published in the Lancet. The paper talks of enterocolitis and a new bowel disease involving a putative "unique disease process." How could two consultant histopathologists have reported healthy biopsies and then put their names to such a text?" said Godlee.
The British Medical Journal has been at the center of investigation into the MMR scare. Earlier in 2011 Godlee wrote a letter to University College London reporting six additional reports involving Wakefield which have raised concerns. According to Godlee:
"Continuing failure to get to the bottom of the vaccine scandal raises serious questions about the prevailing culture of our academic institutions and attitudes to the integrity of their output. Given the extent of involvement of senior personnel at the highest level, only an independent inquiry will be credible.
This is not a call to debate whether MMR causes autism. Science has asked that question and answered it. We need to know what happened in this inglorious chapter in medicine. Who did what, and why?"
In an associated feature editorial published Wednesday 9th Nov. on bmj.com, Brian Deer, an investigative journalist explains what the most recent disclosures add to our knowledge of the Wakefield Case. According to Deer, UCL included Wakefield's claims - not once but twice - in its submission to the UK's investigation evaluation exercise as part of a way to get money.
"If UCL does not immediately initiate an externally-led review of its role in the vaccine scare, we believe that parliament should do it. After the effort and time it has taken to crack the secrets of the MMR scare, and the enormous harm it has caused to public health, it would compound the scandal not to heed the warnings from this catastrophic example of wrongdoing."
Written by Grace Rattue