Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Old News is New News, or a Tale of the Tail Wagging the Dog

I promise today that my article will be short. I’ve been swamped at work and working a ton of overtime, so I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to read up on things and comment in my usual sarcastic style.

Brian Deer has just released the 2nd part to his expose on Andrew Wakefield. In it, he discusses how Dr. Wakefield filed for a patent for a Transfer Factor that he (Deer) alleges could be used as an alternative vaccine, and that this is the basis for the 1998 Lancet article. Deer contends that Dr. Wakefield wanted to use his report to discredit faith in the combined MMR vaccine, splitting them up into separate vaccines, so that he could get his own TF on the market and make money off of the royalties.

Also, this just in: The Earth circles the sun; the Earth is not flat; water is wet.

In other words, ladies and gents…nothing new, nothing new to see here, move along.

When first I read the headline, I asked myself “Maybe this will convince me that what everyone is saying about Dr. Wakefield is true.”

Instead I came away decidedly underwhelmed and wondering why, suddenly, this is such a big deal, particularly when this same story has been repeated ad nauseum since Deer stuck his ratty little nose in the dumpster and started crying about the sky falling?

So, I started doing a little reading about this Transfer Factor. From what I can gather, this really started up in February of 1996 at the Royal Free hospital. In June of 1997, Dr. Wakefield filed a patent on behalf of the Royal Free (who was the patent holder)for a transfer factor that would treat the measles illness. What this tells me is that it was to alleviate already existing symptoms. He theorized that it could potentially act as a prophylactic (i.e. preventative measure), but when given leave to test the TF on one of the Lancet children, the treatment was ineffective. So, he stopped pursuing the TF as a viable treatment for Measles. This was before his Lancet study was released in 1998.

Ok, under normal circumstances, anyone reading this would think that this evidence is pretty damning. Until they read the details. The devil is always in the details.

You see, if Dr. Wakefield was going to use his TF as an alternative vaccine and instigated the MMR scare after his Lancet article, then why would he have stopped testing on the TF BEFORE the release of his Article in February 1998. If his TF was viable, he would have continued to test and market it. But it wasn’t. And he knew this before releasing his article.

Perspective time. If his only goal was to make money, and he was formulating an alternative vaccine, and he manufactured a report that said that MMR could cause bowel problems so maybe they should split up the vaccines, then why release the article and have a press conference after he knew that his TF didn’t work?
Again, I cannot say with absolute certainty that Dr. Wakefield is innocent or guilty. I cannot do so without reading all of the evidence. But seeing this calls some of the accusations being hurled at him into serious question.

People new to this discussion are probably thinking the same thing once they start reading the details. Why now? Why is this man being so doggedly attacked? No other medical scandal in history has gotten this type of publicity, not even the Vioxx scandal. So, what is different about this one? Are the medical establishment at pharmaceutical companies really this afraid of one man? And we already know that Brian Deer has a serious vendetta against Dr. Wakefield for some unknown reason. Can we trust that his information is objective and unbiased?

Please don’t take it that I am defending Dr. Wakefield. I’m not. All I am doing is commenting at the oddities in what I have read so far. I am forming MY OWN judgment on what I have read.

I encourage everyone reading this to read the reports. Read Deer’s story. Read Wakefield’s story. Read the GMC hearings. And MAKE A JUDGEMENT FOR YOURSELF! Do NOT let people tell you what you should believe. 

Update: I am currently reading the GMC hearings, and someting jumped out at me. Here it is:

"f. A proposal, dated 4 March 1998 and drafted by Mr 10, was submitted to the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in relation to the proposed company,

Admitted and found proved"

So, in simple language, this was submited after the Lancet article submitted on February 28, 1998. My earlier post was in error, and for that I apologize. I shall continue to read the hearings and give my final judgement when I'm done.

Additional update:
According to the patent, the TF was being applied for as an alternative to MMR in (wait for it)

IMMUNO-COMPROMISED PATIENTS!!! Also, it is to be used in those with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and Crohn's disease. (Page 1 of the patent at 30-35, and page 2 at 5-10)

"Unfortunately, as I have shown previously in the above mentioned patent application the use of theis vaccine has been shown to be instrumental in development of Crohn's disease and other forms of IBD over the ensuing 30 to 40 years and particularly has been instrumental in a substantial increase of Crohn's disease in children since vaccination was started in 1968.

The Physician is therefore confronted with a difficulty at the individual level in that whereas as a public health measure measles vaccination is called for, it can have unwanted effects in those subjects who are unable to immunological eliminate the virus so introduced.

This is particularly so when there is at present no cure for IBD; sufferers can expect relapses of their disease requiring potent immunosuppresant therapy or removal of the affected bowel and may be condemned to the use of a osteomomy bag.

What is needed therefore is a safer vaccine which does not give rise to these problems, and a treatment for those with existing IBD."

Emphasis mine.

Further reading of the patent clearly states that the TF could, in no way, compete with the MMR vaccine. It was simply a proposed alternative protective agent for Measles in those who through whatever reason were not able to get the MMR vaccine. Interesting that all of that information wasn't even touched upon by Brian Deer and his defenders.

So, again I ask; if the TF wasn't a viable protective agent, and it was mainly for treatment and as a potential protective agent in immuno-compromised individuals, then who could it compete with MMR?


  1. I don't think it's even slightly mysterious as to why people are upset at Wakefield. His study lead to a the significant growth of a movement that resulted in a documented fall in vaccination rates, and resulted in deaths. How is that not motivation enough?

    It's also a part of (the better side of) human nature, that we seek out the truth. When something (Wakefield's study) is constantly introduced as a reason and origin for a belief in a link between MMR and autism, why should it be ignored?

    I'll also point out that though a lot of this may be old news to you, to many concerned parents, it is very new, and now coming from a reputable medical journal which makes it hard for mainstream news organisation to ignore.

    I don't think Wakefield's monetary interests undercut any genuine findings he may have made; science and fact are repeatable, testable, universal. But neither do I think defending his monetary interests (or lack there of) save him from science and the facts, which do not support him.

  2. Well, the problem is that Wakefield had nothing to do with the start of vaccine concern; this was an issue that had been around for a long, long time. The DTP problems that formed the NVICP happened in the 80's.

    Additionally, very few people had even heard of Wakefield in the US until 2004, when Deer released his allegations. So, again, I fail to see how Wakefield started concerns about vaccinations.

    Finally, laying all of these strawmen at his feet is a bit of a stetch. The RID movement labels him as antivaccine, but if you were to accept what Deer is saying as true, then you'd clearly see that he is not.

    Additionally, his study never really linked MMR to autism. I'm sure you've read the study? So laying that at his feet is disingenuous.

    I'm currently in the process of brushing up on everything Wakefield, so to speak. I'm reading both sides of the issue and will make my judgement from weighing these issues. I will agree that what I have read so far raises serious questions about Wakefield's motives, but I am not yet convinced he is the whipping boy that the RID movement makes him out to be.

    The TF really caught my attention, though. It's curious that the RID movement completely glosses over the claims that this is mainly for immuno-compromised individuals and those already suffering from IBD. They are all up in arms because he was trying to make money from his invention. Oh, teh eebil!

  3. Wakefield caused the anti-vaccine movement? Sorry, but there was a well-established anti-vaccine movement in Victorian England. Read up about Leicester, which rejected the smallpox vaccination and found a successful method of controlling outbreaks (worked better than the vaccine actually) and managing the occasional smallpox case which did occur. They got the mortality from actual smallpox cases down to 5% which was truly amazing for the time.

    My grandfather turned against vaccines and refrained from vaxing his children starting in 1915. My father carried on the tradition and the five of us, born between 1943 and 1957 were left unvaxed.

    I skipped most vaccines for my daughter, born in 1967.

    She has skipped most vaccines for her children born in 1999 and 2003. Wakefield was barely on the horizon.

    Vaccine concerns have been around for a very long time.

    People want to pile it all on Wakefield. Lazy.