LONDON — The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.
The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues were renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.
A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.
The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield's paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children's parents.
Follow us on Twitter
Find the latest updates on this story and more from @msnbc_health.
- Follow us on Twitter
Called 'an elaborate fraud'
Wakefield defended his research in a statement released after the report. "There was absolutely no fraud," Wakefield, who is attending an international conference of doctors and scientists in Jamaica, said in the statement. "In the absence of adequate data on vaccine safety they continue to go after the man...What government and pharma fear in the UK is the exposure...of the fact that the UK government indemnified the manufacturer...They don't understand why I won't just go away. There is just too much at stake."
Wakefield now lives in the U.S. where he enjoys a vocal following including celebrity supporters like Jenny McCarthy.
Deer's article was paid for by the Sunday Times of London and Britain's Channel 4 television network. It was published online Thursday in the medical journal, BMJ.
In an accompanying editorial, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee and colleagues called Wakefield's study "an elaborate fraud." They said Wakefield's work in other journals should be examined to see if it should be retracted.
Last May, Wakefield was stripped of his right to practice medicine in Britain. Many other published studies have shown no connection between the MMR vaccination and autism.
But measles has surged since Wakefield's paper was published and there are sporadic outbreaks in Europe and the U.S. In 2008, measles was deemed endemic in England and Wales.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.