Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Japanese study is more evidence that MMR does not cause autism

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 10 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:558

Rapid Response:

Sir Michael Rutter interviewed in Private Eye: not a full explanation

"One of the co-authors of the Honda paper was Professor Sir Michael Rutter, of the Institute of Psychiatry, who had prepared a draft report for GlaxoSmithKline, one of the defendant drug companies in the UK litigation but who was not retained by them. He told the Eye that as he was not an immunlogist he could not comment on the suggestion that giving three separate vaccines a short time apart was the same as administerng the MMR triple vaccine. But he added that although it was unfortunate there was little relevant material published on any possible interference between vaccine components, immunologists whom he had consulted doubted that this was a significant issue" [1]

What might be considered odd in the circumstances is not what Sir Michael's immunologist associates thought but the fact that the paper never addressed Andrew Wakefield's hypothesis that it was not the triple vaccine but the simultaneity of the vaccines which posed a particular threat to the immune system. Everyone will in fact recall that it was Andrew Wakefield's suggestion back in 1998 that the vaccines be administered at year intervals. It was for this reason that Wakefield was able to look at the pattern reported in the Japan study and find strong support for his scientific view rather than the converse [2]. It would obviously be helpful, even at this late stage if Sir Michael and his co- authors could explain - if they were were attempting to refute Wakefield - as opposed to some other hypothesis, why this was not mentioned. Clearly this did not emerge in any of the media coverage, and might be thought highly misleading.

[1] Private Eye, No.1129, 1 April-15 April 2005, 'The link effect', p.27.

[2] Andrew Wakefield and Carol Stott, 'Japanese study is the strongest evidence yet for a link between MMR and autism',

Competing interests: Parent of an autistic child

Competing interests: No competing interests

31 March 2005
John Stone
London N22