Lancet retracts controversial MMR research

An eminent journal which published a controversial research paper sparking concerns over a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism retracted it from the public record yesterday.

The Lancet said following the judgment of the General Medical Council (GMC) Fitness to Practise panel last Thursday it had become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Dr Andrew Wakefield and others were incorrect.

The panel made a number of criticisms of Dr Wakefield, including that he was misleading and irresponsible in the way he described the study.

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The research sparked a massive drop in the number of children given the triple jab for measles, mumps and rubella.

The editors of The Lancet said it had become clear that several elements of the paper were incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation.

"In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were 'consecutively referred' and that investigations were 'approved' by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record."

The panel ruled last week that Dr Wakefield "showed a

callous disregard" for the suffering of children and subjected some youngsters to unnecessary tests.

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Dr Wakefield "abused his position of trust" as he researched the possible link, it said.

He also brought the medical profession "into disrepute" after he took blood samples from children at his son's birthday party in return for 5 payments.

He and two colleagues involved in the research, Professors John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, face being struck off if they are found guilty of serious professional misconduct at a later date.

It ruled that Dr Wakefield "failed in his duties as a responsible consultant" and went against the interests of children in his care in conducting research.

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