Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Becoming Ben

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 01 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1856

Rapid Response:

Re: Financial conflicts - shock horror

I note Malcolm Kendrick's interesting letter. However, I would also
point out that Andrew Wakefield presented evidence earlier this year to
the GMC that the Lancet and its editor, Richard Horton, were aware of his
involvement in the MMR litigation at the time of the publication of the
controversial article, whether or not it constituted a competing interest
(which is debatable [1] - unlike the cases that Kendrick refers to). Some
of this was reported in BMJ [2] although not in the media at large.
Richard Horton disputed the detail of the claim to BMJ [2] but the matter
is at the very least unresolved, and it would be unwise to jump to any

A more troubling conflict might be that of Dr Surendra Kumar, who
chairs the present fitness to practice hearing into the three Royal Free
doctors [3]. Kumar sits on two committees of the medicine licensing
authority (MHRA), the Independent Review Panel for Advertising and the
Independent Review Panel for Borderline Products [4] and in the latest
declarations of competing interests available ( both unsatisfactorily
dating from 2004) Kumar discloses a shareholding in MMR defendents
GlaxoSmithKline [5,6].

Given Kendrick's sympathetic view of this issue, I would also finally
like to remark on the huge disproportion in the coverage of the 'MMR
affair' between the reporting of the allegations against the doctors and
the reporting of the defence.

[1] John Stone, '"MMR Science and Fiction" - the Richard Horton
story, BMJ Rapid Responses 25 September 2004,

[2] Owen Dyer, 'Wakefield admits fabricating events when he took
children's blood samples' 19 April 2008,

[3] Andrew Jack, 'MMR doctor denies abuse of trust' Financial Times,
16 July 2007,

[4] Medicine Act 1968, Advisory Body Report 2007, p.84 and 89,



Competing interests:
Autistic son

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 October 2008
John Stone
London N22