Godlee, Dr Fiona FRCP
Subject: Re: Response from Fiona Godlee re: MMR
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2011 09:45:27 +0000
Dear James Blanco
Thank you for your enquiry.
In answer to the questions you raise, the BMJ stands by its 5 January article
and editorial on MMR and Andrew Wakefield.
The article, which was subjected to peer
review and editorial checking, was based on enquiries carried out over some
seven years, involving, among other things, interviews with parents of children
enrolled in Andrew Wakefield's research. Four such parents are quoted in the
article. As made clear in the article, the core data on which the findings were
based were evidenced, except in the case of one child, by the transcript of a
General Medical Council fitness to practise hearing which sat between July 2007
and May 2010.
Your email suggests that Andrew Wakefield
did not have access to GP records and therefore could not be responsible for
discrepancies between those records and what was published in the Lancet in
February 1998. The case we presented against Andrew Wakefield that the 1998
Lancet paper was intended to mislead is not critically reliant on GP records.
It is primarily based on Royal Free hospital records, including histories taken
by clinicians, and letters and other documents received at the Royal Free from
GPs and consultants.
We draw attention to the finding of the fitness to practise panel, on which we
are entitled to rely, that "the project reported in the Lancet paper was
established with the purpose to investigate a postulated new syndrome and yet
the Lancet paper did not describe this fact at all. Because you [Wakefield]
drafted and wrote the final version of the paper, and omitted correct
information about the purpose of the study or the patient population, the panel
is satisfied that your conduct was irresponsible and dishonest."
Contrary to other suggestions received in your email, we made no allegation of
dishonesty against Andrew Wakefield's co-authors, or indeed against anybody
else. As the GMC panel heard, it was Andrew Wakefield who wrote the Lancet
paper, using data which he anonymised, with little oversight by other authors.
We confirm that under the uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to
biomedical journals all authors should be in a position to speak to data, but
the evidence is that in this case they were not.
We are aware of recent claims made by Andrew Wakefield that "new documents have
come to light" purportedly confirming his claims in the Lancet. The material he
cites was presented to the GMC panel two and a half years ago. Andrew Wakefield
was last year erased from the medical register and he has chosen not to appeal
that decision. As indicated, the very many charges proven against him include
dishonesty in his research.
We are unaware of any peer reviewed paper replicating Wakefield's research or
confirming his claims to have identified a new syndrome of regressive autism and
inflammatory bowel disease associated with MMR vaccination. With respect to
gastrointestinal issues, we draw attention to an authoritative consensus
statement published last year by experienced specialists in this field  and
particularly to statement 4: "The existence of a gastrointestinal disturbance
specific to persons with ASDs (eg “autistic enterocolitis”) has not been
Thank you for your interest in the BMJ.
Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief, BMJ
1. Deer B. How the case against the MMR
vaccine was fixed. BMJ 2011; 342:c5347 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5347
2. Godlee F, Smith J, Marcovitch H.
Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent. BMJ
3. Buie P, Campbell DB, Fuchs GJ, et al. Evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of
gastrointestinal disorders in individuals with ASDs: a consensus statement.
Dr Fiona Godlee FRCP
Editor in chief, BMJ
London WC1H 9JR
Tel: +44 (0)207 383 6002/+44 (0)1223 872084
Fax: +44 (0)207 383 6418
BMJ Group: http://group.bmj.com
Personal Assistant, Julia Burrell
Tel: +44 (0)207 383 6102
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