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Medicine The Almighty Buck

Autism-Vax Doc Scandal Was Pharma Business Scam 541

Sockatume writes "In his second report, Brian Deer exposes how MMR-autism prophet Andrew Wakefield aimed to profit from the vaccine scare. Two years before the research that 'discovered' the MMR-autism link, Wakefield began courting interest in a hundred-million-dollar diagnostics firm. The doctor hoped to seed the company with government legal aid money and profit by charging 'premium prices' for new diagnostic tests to be used in vaccine injury lawsuits. By the time Wakefield published, the proposals had expanded into producing new 'safe' vaccines, two businesses to gather legal aid funding, and interest from partners including Wakefield's own hospital. The scheme ultimately disintegrated with the arrival of new leadership at Wakefield's hospital and ongoing scrutiny into his research."
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Autism-Vax Doc Scandal Was Pharma Business Scam

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  • Heh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:47AM (#34847352) Homepage

    I know it's not the same thing, but this sorta reminds me of that TNG episode where two planets were suffering from a plague, and the cure was on one planet...but the cure was also a narcotic. One planet cured themselves of the addiction, but kept selling it to the other planet under the false pretense they would die if they didn't continue consuming it (their symptoms were withdrawal, not plague death.) I love how at the end of it, Piccard is like "Let's get as far away from this system as we can. Screw these loonies, let them duke it out." Can't remember the name of the episode, but I know it was in the first season.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:58AM (#34847482)

    Hi, speaking on behalf of the medical field, we've known a bunch of this for years. Which is why the accusations from the Anti-Vax mob about "Pushing Poison" on behalf of "Big Pharma" was so infuriating. This asshole lied about MMR and other vaccines because he was pushing his own vaccine. He's done incalculable harm, for his OWN profit, and his supporters accused *us* of being immoral profit slaves.

    And this includes all you soft-spined assholes who would take the stance of "Well, I'm not saying they're right, but maybe they have something, there are a lot of concerns right? What harm [] is there to letting the parents decide [] if they're uncomfortable?"

    Hope the truth burns, folks.

  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @10:17AM (#34847640)

    The thrust of arguments seems to be that he intended fraud and a quick buck right from the start, or that he has been slandered and all will come out as he claimed once the dust settles.

    But a more likely scenario is that he was convinced of the link between MMR and autism from the very early preliminary studies, so much so that he reached out for financial support and to the lawyers, expecting to not only prevent autism cases, but secondarily to make a buck from the evil pharma in the course of making them pay for their dastardly greedy mistakes. Revenge is all the sweeter when the revengee has to pay you for their mistake.

    And in the end, so addicted was he to that end and his premature conclusion, that he deluded himself past the point where he could ever admit he had been wrong. When his data came out incompatible with his preconceived notion, he did not take a deep breath, count to ten, and reconsider his original position. He fudged the data to match his "reality" and passed the point of no return.

    Yes, he deserves to be slapped around, but to say he planned this fraud right from the beginning is too facile an argument.

  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @10:20AM (#34847680)

    I like the media. Everything is simple in the media. They can side with a certain viewpoint for a few years, implicitly calling everyone who doesn't agree, an idiot, selecting their guests and questions to only maintain the illusion of being neutral, while having a clear bias.

    Then suddenly, something happens, new information becomes apparent and an endless stream of "it turns out that..." articles flood the public. Everything we proclaimed bad is now good, everything good, is now bad. Panic, people, for you were caught off guard again. The savior was the devil himself.

    Media can repeatedly turn 180 on themselves and sell panic non-stop. They can even fabricate an issue where none exists, then as we recover, claim the opposite so we panic again. Really nice for ratings, and really suitable for pushing hidden agendas. Here's my world view: People's motives are complex. People's moral compass has more than two poles. Sometimes, good people becomes self deluded. Sometimes, bad people get things right. Sometimes, good studies fudge data, and sometimes, there is commercial interests behind a genuinely good cause.

    Am I saying Andrew Wakefield was "right" and vaccines are "bad"? No. Am I saying get yourself all the vaccine shots, and all the seasonal flu ones, always because they are "good"? No. Because the world is just more complex than that. Some vaccines have helped us rid of serious conditions, and ultimately made and keep making the world a better place, while other are just peddled for profit with little or no scientific support behind them. I'm not going into details, because I'm not trying to sell you a certain viewpoint on this "scandal" as correct.

    I'm only trying to bring recognition that in the media cycle we're in now, Wakefield is an evil incarnate who never even believed his own studies, who never ever had a honest thought in his life, and vaccines are as harmless as drinking purified water. You'll see one-sided "fact checks". You'll see journalist display clear dislike of Wakefield while pretending to interview him. You'll see them reiterate how wrong everyone always was.

    Until the next cycle.

  • by glueball ( 232492 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @10:22AM (#34847694)

    The fascinating part to me is people *knew* there was a link. It was in the literature. People with PhD's and MD's were trotted out saying to the masses "You don't have my education, my experience. This Autism link is real. Big Pharma is poisoning you"

    I see a lot of similarities to Global warming ^C^C^C^C Climate Change arguments.

  • Re:Heh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @10:30AM (#34847766)
    I have worked in the med-device industry since 1990, the whole time doing cutting edge research while anticipating the probable outcome of that research so the company can patent solutions to the problems that people don't know they need to solve yet.

    Ultimate goal: profit. Scheming to make millions? Yes, we all did it. I have been under the impression we are acting like good capitalists following the American dream, taking risks to have a chance of reaping great rewards. Falsifying research, suppressing unwanted results? Not in my jobs, but rumors of bigger companies (especially pharma), doing it abound.

    The whole vax/anti-vax thing has evolved into a sad prejudiced polarization of opinion, worse than religion and politics for most people I hear debating it.

    You could show me a video of Jenny McCarthy giving Dr. Wakefield a blow job before he published his "research" and even if I believed the video was authentic, it isn't going to sway my opinion on whether or not following the current U.S. recommended vaccine schedule is in the best interests of my children. Wakefield's study is just one data point among millions, and it never was the fundamental basis for my opinions. I had already discounted his findings it when I learned that he had funding to do a study on 150 children, but declined to do so, staying pat with his results from 12.
  • Re:Heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wilf_Brim ( 919371 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @11:26AM (#34848524)
    Actually, a bit worse. The MMR vaccine (measles component notably) does not have a 100% response. Since in my facility we began testing for immunity I've come to agree with the ~90% response rate, at best. So, even with 100% coverage, only 90% (give or take) are going to be immune. If you take away allergies, and immunocomprimise, it doesn't take huge numbers of vaccine resfusers to drop below the 80% required for herd immunity. Thus, the outbreaks of measles in the UK, Canada, US and (ongoing) in Australia and NZ.
  • by outsider007 ( 115534 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @11:35AM (#34848654)

    Still, if you could do it all over, wouldn't you skip the vaccines?

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @11:40AM (#34848744)

    That's the problem with corporations, right there, in a nutshell.

    They favour the concentration of a large amount of power in the hands a few people. The larger the corporation (and thus the more power it wields), the more likely the CEO is to be a sociopathic bastard, because this is what it takes to compete with all the other sociopathic bastards to get to the top of that massive pyramid.

    So the most effective means of consolidating power is also the most likely to place that power in the hands of someone who'll misuse it. And they get to command the actions of otherwise OK guys who have become the equivalent of the henchmen of Dr Evil just because they have this overpowering urge not to be street people.

  • by ceiling9 ( 1241316 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @11:52AM (#34848922)
    It's kind of an interesting game theory problem - from the perspective of an individual parent, the risk of not vaccinating only their child is relatively low, given that they are assuming everyone else will be vaccinated. if there is even a tiny perceived danger in getting the vaccine (real or not), than the rational choice may really be to not be vaccinated. Unfortunately, this can lead to a Nash equilibrium, in that the outcome for the entire population is worse if everyone were to make this choice, similar to the prisoner's dilemma problem. From the perspective of the entire population, for example a public health official, it obviously makes sense to vaccinate everyone, even if there is some very small risk from the vaccine, as long as that risk is smaller than the risk of getting a disease without the vaccine.
  • by Revek ( 133289 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @12:08PM (#34849164) Homepage

    My free association of this statement reminds me of this joke.

    Cal was out driving in the country, seeing how his new car handled the curvy roads at high speeds. As he rounded a corner, one of his tires blew.

    When he got out of the car to change the tire, he noticed that he had stopped in front of the state mental asylum. There was also a man sitting on the brick wall in front of the facility.

    The driver went about his business, not paying any attention to the guy on the fence. He first took his tire iron and jack out of the car, and got the car jacked up. Then, he removed the hubcap. Next, he removed the six lug nuts, and placed them in the hubcap for safekeeping.

    About this time, the guy on the fence decided to start a conversation. This startled the driver, and he reeled around quickly, knocking over the hubcap, and the lug nuts fell into the sewer drain.

    The driver gets angry with the guy on the fence, shouting, "Now look what you made me do. Now I'm going to have to walk to town to buy some new lug nuts. Just go back inside and leave me be."

    The guy on the fence says, "Why don't you just take one lug nut from each of your other three wheels, and use them on this one. That should hold it steady enough for you to drive the car to the auto parts store."

    The driver asks, "That's a brilliant idea...then why are you here?"

    The guy on the fence replies, "I'm just crazy, not stupid."

  • by Chibi Merrow ( 226057 ) <mrmerrow&monkeyinfinity,net> on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @12:11PM (#34849216) Homepage Journal

    What if a parent used the vaccine schedule of Denmark, Norway, Japan or Finland -- countries that give one-third the shots we do (12 shots vs. 36 in the U.S.)?

    That's funny because EXACTLY DUE TO THIS TYPE OF STUPID REASONING, Japan split up the MMR vaccine into three separate vaccines given over a period of three years, and their autism rates just keep going up regardless. There's not even correlation between vaccination rates and autism, much less causation.

  • by superflippy ( 442879 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @12:30PM (#34849520) Homepage Journal

    My husband's cousin had a bad reaction to the polio vaccine and is in a wheelchair because of it. But I still vaccinated my children.

    If you actually read the info sheet the nurse gives you with each vaccine, you'll see there are risks. Some small percentage of the population has a bad reaction to some vaccines, and the info sheets describe what they are and what symptoms to watch for. I weighed the risks and decided in favor of vaccination.

  • Re:Heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @01:42PM (#34850602)
    Like I said about the polarized, prejudiced positions everyone has on the subject. It sounds to me like no amount of links or evidence I compile will change your mind.

    No they won't because they have been discredited over and over. As for your own circumstances, as unfortunate as they may be, you confuse cause and effect.

    My kids are coeliac. One was diagnosed in hospital, the other retrospectively (due to other issues and the positive diagnosis on his sister). I could as easily blame their condition on vaccines as you could for yours. After all, their problems started around the time they had vaccines right? But I don't. Their condition was always there and was exposed during their development because they started eating solids containing gluten.

    The antivax movement has tried for a long time to claim that vaccines are harmful (autism being just one example of alleged harm) and has utterly failed to prove any link. That's even after Wakefield stirred up a hornet's nest that saw multiple attempts to reproduce his results. If there was evidence it would stand up to peer review and medical scrutiny. Anecdotes & personal testimonies don't count. Discredited studies don't count. The word of various quack doctors and institutes don't count.

    Blogs such as Respectful Insolence spend a great deal of time picking through anti-vax claims and methodically squashing them. You would do well to read some of them. It's not a case of some massive big pharma conspiracy. It's a case of good evidence based medicine versus quackery and anecdotes.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @02:29PM (#34851336) Homepage

    It's actually worse than them hurting their own kids. They are potentially hurting other people's kids who can't get the vaccine because they are too young, have immune system problems, allergies, etc. If you can't get the vaccine, you usually rely on herd immunity to protect you. But thanks to Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield and the like herd immunity is breaking down in places. Parents who would vaccinate their children are having their babies die before they reach vaccination age.

    Example: Dana McCaffery, a 4 week old baby, died of Whooping Cough in 2009. She was too young for the vaccine. Herd immunity should have protected her but anti-vaccination groups lobbied for parents to stop vaccinating and suddenly whooping cough rates rose. The head of one of these groups (the Australian Vaccination Network), Meryl Dorey, said "You didn't die from it (whooping cough) 30 years ago and you're not going to die from it today." This was *IN RESPONSE TO* Dana's death. Not just in response to it, but with Dana's parents in the room! She had the gall to question the diagnosis having never seen any of the medical information, merely because it went against what she believed to be true about Whooping Cough and vaccines. Luckily, Australia has taken action against the AVN, but this won't bring back Dana or any of the other babies who die of Whooping Cough, measles or any of the other diseases that shouldn't be making comebacks because we have perfectly good vaccines for them.

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