Saturday, May 22, 2010

Censured doctor, whose discredited autism research fed vaccine scare, says he will continue work in Austin

From the Austin American Statesman in Texas:

Andrew Wakefield (pictured), the British doctor who came to Austin after fueling a worldwide scare over vaccines and autism, said Wednesday that he expects to have his British medical license yanked next week in a final effort by the mainstream medical establishment to silence him and stop his research.

It won't work, said Wakefield, who insisted he is more convinced than ever that he was right 12 years ago when he suggested a link between vaccines, gastrointestinal illness and autism, despite scientific studies contradicting such a link. He said he will get back to his research in Austin soon, working with Dr. Arthur Krigsman, who was with him at the Thoughtful House Center for Children, where Wakefield was executive director before resigning in February.

In January, the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the United Kingdom, found Wakefield, 53, guilty of acting dishonestly and irresponsibly in researching children with autism in England. That work culminated in a 1998 paper in the prestigious Lancet journal that was retracted in February. The council also said Wakefield showed a "callous disregard" for children at his son's birthday party in 1999 when he had blood taken from them, paying them about $10 each and later joking about it at a conference.

In his first in-depth interview since the council's findings, Wakefield — hailed as a hero by some parents and a false prophet by many doctors — said the charges were unfair, false and pre-determined from the outset because he dared to take on the vaccine industry. He said he does not intend to fade away.

"Now that they have come to their determination, I will make absolutely sure the truth comes out," Wakefield said. "I think I am in a position to encourage people to take a more serious look at the kinds of projects I am considering," such as researching the long-term health of children who have been vaccinated and those who have not been vaccinated.

Wakefield said he resigned from Thoughtful House so he wouldn't be a distraction from its work. He said Thoughtful House was getting away from a focus on gastrointestinal issues and autism. Krigsman posted a message to former Thoughtful House patients saying their records would be forwarded to him, and they could see him at a "new, independent" office in Austin where Wakefield said he would do research similar to what he did at Thoughtful House.

Thoughtful House official Anissa Ryland said the center has not changed focus, and "we do not foresee there being any competing interests" with Wakefield and Krigsman.

Its staff will refer patients to doctors when needing gastrointestinal assessments, Ryland said in an e-mail.

Wakefield's new book, "Callous Disregard," will be out Monday, the same day the General Medical Council is scheduled to decide whether to invalidate his license. The book gives Wakefield's side of the story and lays out what he thinks was behind his prosecution: an effort by the vaccine industry to stop him from probing into vaccines that could be causing harm.

Wakefield contends that he learned from a whistle-blower that Britain had told the medical schools to stop investigating unsafe vaccines and any potential link to autism for fear the government might be sued. The government, in turn, manipulated the media and furthered his prosecution, Wakefield said. The bias, he said, continues with the media giving credence to studies that dispute links between vaccines and autism and discrediting any that suggest an association.

"Vaccine safety is built upon the confidence of the public \u2026 and I'm not prepared to (compromise) that," he said Wednesday, adding that he hopes people will read the book and "make up their own minds about what is real and what isn't real."

The book has a small publisher, Skyhorse, with a foreword by actress Jenny McCarthy, who claims vaccines made her son autistic but that he has recovered.