Overnight, Neurotoxicology withdrew Andrew Wakefield’s “other paper”, “Delayed acquisition of neonatal reflexes in newborn primates receiving a thimerosal-containing Hepatitis B vaccine: Influence of gestational age and birth weight.”

This paper was originally published in October 2009 to the acclaim of the anti-vaxers who commented;

“Neurotoxicology, a highly-respected medical journal, deserves great credit for courageously publishing the first phase of this vaccinated monkey study.”

The study, in macaques reported impaired neurological development in young monkeys following vaccination with a thimerosal containing vaccine.

I commented about this paper on Skeptically Speaking recently, citing, amongst other things, the conflicts of interest statement by the authors as a source of concern. It says;

Prior to 2005, CS and AJW acted as paid experts in MMR-related litigation on behalf of the court retained by plaintiff lawyers. LH has a child who is a petitioner in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. For this reason, LH was not involved in any data collection or statistical analyses to preclude the possibility of a perceived conflict of interest.

As a working scientist, I participate in the peer review process. To me, these conflicts of interests are serious enough to enquire of the editor if the paper should be rejected on these grounds alone. I also can’t help but wonder if the reviewers did any background searches for Wakefield. If they had, my suspicions are this paper would never have been published in the first place.

I certainly hope this means that the studies he is about to publish, as referred to by Generation Rescue below, never see the light of day in a peer reviewed, respectable journal.

withdrawn Wakefield

Whilst Neurotoxicology is indeed a respectable journal, it is albeit, small fry. With an impact factor of 2.409, it is certainly not a big hitter in the journal stakes. By comparison, The Lancet, which last week, retracted Wakefield’s notorious 1998 paper, has an impact factor of 28.

This Neurotoxicology paper is the one described by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey in a statement following the Lancet retraction. They said;

“There is no question that the publication of the monkey study will lend substantial credibility to the theory that over-vaccination of young children is leading to neurological damage, including autism.”

According to the statement,

Dr. Wakefield and his scientific colleagues are on the brink of publishing their entire study, which followed the monkeys through the U.S. childhood vaccine schedule over a multi-year period. It is our understanding that the difference in outcome for the vaccinated monkeys versus the unvaccinated controls is both stark and devastating.

And

The fallout from the study for vaccine makers and public health officials could be severe. Having denied the possibility of the vaccine-autism connection for so long while profiting immensely from a recent boom in vaccine sales around the world, it’s no surprise that they would seek to repress this important work.

Although the editors of Neurotoxicology do not explain why they withdrew the paper, it seems likely that the GMC findings describing Wakefield as not only being wrong about the science in the Lancet paper, but also acting unethically with respect to using unnecessary and invasive procedures on children, are likely to have influenced their decision. He was also described as “unethical”, “callous” and “dishonest”.

With this third blow to Wakefield’s reputation in a week, the anti-vaxers have finally conceded that he was wrong about vaccine safety, accepted that he had multiple conflicts of interest which he did not declare and disassociated themselves from him.

Just kidding!

Instead they made a BIG FLOW CHART detailing the conspiracy designed to quash “one of the world’s most respected and well-published gastroenterologists.” Click for a high resolution image.

flow chart

And they’ve also announced that they will republish the Lancet paper in the online quack-fest that is Medical Veritas. As yet, I have not seen any statements from Jen and Jim but, rest assured, it won’t be long before they start screaming conspiracy.

Sigh.


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  • http://seantheblogonaut.com Sean the Blogonaut

    John,

    I can testify to Maggie’s fairness in allowing comment. Often have I seen the variety of verbal diarrhea that you seem to be spouting here.

    Perhaps you need to step back and rethink the false dichotomy of alt med vs big pharma and realize they are both industries, made up of companies – some of whiich have a hand in each pie, and that it’s not skeptics vs nutbags, but rather the consumer vs the producer.

  • Myk

    @John: The difference is that the studies funded by pharmaceutical companies declare their bias/funding. Wakefield hid his bias. Major difference in ethics.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    @john, Who is “Mr Skeptic”?

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Hi John, I moderate comments for spam which can be a big problem, as I’m sure you understand. Moderation does not mean censorship!

    Interesting that you claim I am funded by pharmaceutical companies, prey tell, where is your evidence for such?

    Cheers

  • John

    Ha, just saw that your comments are moderated. People like you amaze me; you act like you’re some voice of unbiased reason but you ride the ‘party line’ of the academic science that is by-and-large funded by pharmaceutical companies and salesmen-like federal grants and ostracize your detractors.

  • John

    You’re full of shit. How many “legit” medicine studies have been published by pharmaceutical companies? And that’s less of a ‘conflict of interest’ than being part of some class-action lawsuit?

    You are not a skeptic, you’re simply adhering to your own pre-accepted notions. The vast majority of vaccine research has been funded by their manufacturers. Let’s call it like it actually is, Mr. Skeptic.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Hi David, I saw an exchange on your blog about that – was it with Orac? Would you mind putting a link here so we can all take a look?

    Good job BTW! You surely deserve some of the credit.

  • David N. Brown

    I wrote to Neurotoxicology telling them the needed to withdraw the paper last November, and saying if they didn’t I would advocate boycotting their journal out of existence. Three months later, they actually do it. Some conspiracy!

  • Pingback: » Wakefield resigns in disgrace as the AVN entices with booze

  • Chris
  • Chris

    There is news that Andrew Wakefield has resigned from the Thoughtful House clinic in Austin, TX in the USA.

  • Charlie Foxtrot

    I think that conspiracy graphic is missing links from the judge to Elvis, then to the Dept of Defence. My gut feeling tells me that would be accurate – and I trust my gut!

  • http://overscope.cynistar.net/ Bob

    Also, I love the AoA conspiracy graphic. I need to expand it to add the Freemasons, the Council for Foreign Relations, Halliburton, Fidel Castro, Xenu, Cthulhu, Jay Leno and Gollum.

  • http://overscope.cynistar.net/ Bob

    The unfortunate part about the paper withdrawals in The Lancet and Neurotoxicology coming so closely on the GMC’s verdict on Wakefield is that to an outside observer it could actually look like a vendetta. Yes, it’s long overdue and I admit to gleefully enjoying the schadenfreude of Wakefield’s plummet but explain this: why did the journals wait so long to withdraw the papers. I can almost understand The Lancet waiting since that paper weighed most heavily as evidence in the GMC hearing. But still, when ten of the original thirteen authors want nothing to do with it and the scientific community has shown the holes in it, the journal editors shouldn’t need to wait for the cover of a GMC decision to pull the paper. Neurotoxicology doesn’t have that excuse; if the paper was bad science it should have never been accepted, and if it was accepted it should have been retracted as soon as it was deemed invalid, again, not waiting for a GMC decision. Then again, it was recently published so they may have a timing defense – that not enough response from the scientific community was available to decide to review & withdraw the paper; the GMC decision provided sufficient impetus to review.
    .

    Regardless, withdrawal of a paper should not be punitive or even seem punitive, it should be corrective. Would Wakefield have changed his ways if The Lancet had pulled his paper years ago? Doubtful, but at least he’d have had an earlier opportunity to reflect on his professionalism and he’d wouldn’t look like such a martyr now (AoA would take any excuse to portray him as a “brave maverick” martyr no matter what happened; it’s a vital part of their narrative.)
    .

    Instead, The Lancet offered a craven defense of leaving the paper as it was as criticism mounted (years ago), and as soon as they knew their decision would be page 3 news instead of page 1, they pulled the paper. And so too Neurotoxicology.
    .

    As I see it, the journals are at least partly to blame for this whole fiasco. Rather than doing their job of filtering the wheat from the chaff, promoting the best new scientific findings, and – critically – reviewing and withdrawing bogus papers, they didn’t want to admit they had made a mistake, deferring the hard decisions we trust them to make to a third party.
    .

    Is the reputation that others make from being published in The Lancet preventing the journal from exercising its responsibility as a garbage filter?

  • ilijas

    Oh jesus christ, please tell me that that ridiculous flowchart is some sort of parody…. please Dr Rachie, please….
    .

    no, it’s not, is it….
    .

    That has to be one of the most inane delusion-driven products of an unhinged mind ever to be unleashed on the public.
    .

    It’s life affirming to see the bricks falling down like an avalanche on the good “Dr” Wakefield. I’m sure that there’d be at least a few kids out there on whom he had performed the spinal taps who won’t be disheartened to hear this.
    .

    I’d love to see an explanation from the Neurotoxicology journal as to “why” they have now decided to retract this paper, I think it’s the least they can do.
    .

    The tragic thing is for those under the hallucinatory influence of the anti-vax propagandists is that they will obviously see this as proof of the conspiracy.
    .

    I wonder if homeopathy ever retracted one of their magic-H20 products that’d be “proof of a conspiracy too”…

  • Jerome

    Ah, 2010: on so many fronts, you are looking quite lovely for science and reason.

  • reasonablehank

    heh. Just…heh.

  • http://twitter.com/dreadpiratemick dreadpiratemick

    Wow. Considering how much I’ve seen this paper bandied around by Wakefield’s followers recently (mostly in response to the Lancet retraction) this really is a huge blow.