How lawyers paid for start of MMR scare
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- How lawyers paid for start of MMR scare
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|How lawyers paid for start of MMR scare; letters refute Andrew Wakefield's story|
This page is research from an investigation by Brian Deer for the UK's Channel 4 Television and The Sunday Times of London into a campaign linking the MMR children's vaccine with autism. | Go to part I: The Lancet scandal | Go to part II: The Wakefield factor
Among Brian Deer's key discoveries was that Wakefield research had been funded through lawyers suing drug firms over MMR. But in February 2004, Andrew Wakefield and his former Royal Free colleague Dr Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, made formal public statements claiming that the legal work was "scientific" and "quite separate" from the Lancet clinical study. This was false, as the letters and audio clips below reveal. A scheme had been worked-out that laundered the legal money through a hospital account
(1) 23.05.97: Wakefield asks hospital to bank money
In June 1996, Andrew Wakefield and lawyer Richard Barr asked what was then the UK's Legal Aid Board (now the Legal Services Commission) for money to fund "clinical and scientific" tests on 10 autistic children involved in a lawsuit being prepared against MMR manufacturers. [Extracts from conflicting statements on the sequence of events are reproduced at this website]
After a contract with Wakefield was awarded by the board in August 1996, the money came through as a disbursement from Barr's law firm, Dawbarns, to the Royal Free's medical school - part of University College London. But the school's dean, Professor Arie Zuckerman, says he questioned the arrangement on ethical grounds. This posed Wakefield, who was already working with the lawyer in a joint attack on MMR, a problem. As the first letter below reveals, he then asked the hospital's management, which didn't employ him, to bank it for his use.
ECRs, mentioned above in paragraph 2, are "extra-contractual referrals" - now disbanded "internal market" arrangements under which GP and medical centre budgets paid for patient admissions to hospitals (often very profitably for the hospital). In short, ECRs meant money.
Wakefield refers to an account already being used by the NHS hospital, and already holding hospital money "to fund Ms Rosalind Sim". In the light of its ECR income, the hospital had already agreed to pay Sim's salary from its own funds more than seven months before Wakefield's request to bank his legal money. The account was Special Trustees Account 106, established in January 1994, which received cheques from drug companies and other Wakefield sponsors.
Wakefield makes damningly explicit in his letter that the legal money was provided "for the express purpose of performing the study outlined in the enclosed protocol". This protocol describes the clinical work published in the Lancet in February 1998. Claims in 2004 by Wakefield and Richard Horton of the Lancet that the contract was for a separate "scientific" study are thus proven to be false. The MMR findings in the Lancet were simply paid for by a law firm - a position confirmed by Richard Barr in interviews with Brian Deer
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