Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Bad science, risky medicine

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 22 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2537
  1. David A C Elliman, consultant in community child health, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London,
  2. Helen E Bedford, senior lecturer in children’s health, Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London
  1. ellimd{at}, h.bedford{at}

Spurious treatments for autism and the discredited link with vaccines are covered in an enjoyable and useful new book, David Elliman and Helen Bedford find

Autism is a distressing condition affecting an estimated one in 100 children in the United Kingdom. Although it is clear that it has a genetic component, its causes are poorly understand, and many environmental stimuli have been suggested. Some, such as phenylketonuria and congenital rubella syndrome, are accepted, whereas a causal link with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine or with the vaccine preservative thiomersal, which contains mercury and which used to be a component of many other childhood vaccines, has not been substantiated. Treatment options are equally diverse and controversial, with a range of pharmaceutical and behavioural interventions in popular use, but most having a poor evidence base.

Not only is Paul Offit chief of clinical paediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, but he has a long experience of research in vaccinology and is up front in declaring his interests, including being co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine. His extensive knowledge is reflected in Autism’s False Prophets, a review of spurious treatments and the discredited link with vaccines. In addition to reviewing the literature on …

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