The venerable British medical journal The Lancet has
retracted a 1998 study suggesting a link between autism and childhood
vaccination with the measles -mumps-rubella MMR vaccine .
The Lancet tells WebMD that it has retracted "10 or 15" studies in
its 186-year history. The retraction follows the finding of the U.K.
General Medical Council (GMC) that says study leader Andrew Wakefield, MD, and
two colleagues acted "dishonestly" and "irresponsibly" in conducting their
The Lancet specifically refers to claims made in the paper that the
12 children in the study were consecutive patients that appeared for treatment,
when the GMC found that several had been selected especially for the
study. The paper also claimed that the study was approved by the
appropriate ethics committee, when the GMC found it had not been.
"We fully retract this paper from the published record," The Lancet
editors say in a news release.
The retraction means the study will no longer be considered an official part
of the scientific literature.
BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, has
competed with The Lancet since 1840. BMJ editor Fiona Godlee says
she welcomes the Lancet retraction.
"This will help to restore faith in this globally important vaccine and in
the integrity of the scientific literature," Godlee says in a news release.
In 2004, 10 of Wakefield's 13 co-authors disavowed the findings of the 1998
study. Although the study never claimed to have definitively proven a
link between the MMR vaccine and autism, sensational media reports ignited a
public panic . MMR vaccinations fell
More rigorous studies have found
no link between autism and the MMR vaccine . Last year, the U.S.
"vaccine court" rejected U.S. lawsuits claiming that there was a plausible
link between the vaccine and autism.
Wakefield continues to proclaim his innocence and defends his earlier work.
He now resides in Texas, where he is executive director of an alternative
medicine center for autism treatment and
By Daniel DeNoon
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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