Fraud Unmasked in MMR/Autism Litigation


From the late 1990’s, a wave of litigation and controversy has washed over the public health debate concerning the alleged connection between the then widely-used childhood MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism. Beyond the scores of lawsuits, including class actions, the whirlwind drove down the vaccination rate (because concerned parents’ reservations about vaccine safety), which in turn increased the rate of disease and corresponding bumps in the morbidity and mortality tables.

The genesis of this maelstrom was a February, 1998 article in the prestigious medical journal Lancet, by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, M.D. Unknown to the journal’s editors, Dr. Wakefield had been on retainer for a British solicitor, Richard Barr, for two years prior to the article’s publication, and ultimately Mr. Barr paid Dr. Wakefield well over half a million dollars, plus expenses. Their apparent objective was to establish a temporal association between vaccination and the onset of autism, to foment litigation against the MMR industry. Beyond the public disgrace, this gambit cost Dr. Wakefield his medical license, forced the Lancet to withdraw and repudiate the article, and tarnished the reputations of other researchers associated with the article.

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