Vaccine Advisers Linked to Drug Firms

      One-third of the members of a UK government committee that has advised
that the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella is safe have
financial interests in drug companies that make the treatment, writes Rosie
      Twelve of the 36 members of the Committee on Safety of Medicines have
financial links with the MMR manufacturers, whose products they have given
the all-clear on the basis of published research. Most members are academics
or medical experts who specialise in pharmacology.
      Five of them hold shares in the drug companies, or are paid
consultants, while another seven have received grants or sponsorship from
them to fund academic studies or clinical trials.
      All members declare their financial interests in a register and before
meetings. The chairman then decides whether they can participate in
      Campaigners against the MMR vaccine, who fear it causes autism or
bowel disease in children, claim the financial links between drug watchdogs
and the pharmaceutical industry could lead to a conflict of interest.
      One lobby group, Jabs, is to write to Alan Milburn, the health
secretary, asking for an investigation into the potential conflict of
interest.Last week Mary Robinson, from Hayle, Cornwall, said she would take
legal action after claiming that five of her six children had developed
autism after their MMR injections.
      While the government and most of the medical establishment argue that
the vaccine is safe, research by Dr Andrew Wakefield, of the Royal Free
hospital, London, claimed the trials leading to the MMR vaccine's adoption
in Britain were too brief to detect the feared complications.
      In an interview in The Sunday Times today, Liam Donaldson, the
government's chief medical officer, defends the government's refusal to
endorse separate injections in place of the MMR vaccine.