Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Observations GMC Wakefield Verdict

Why did the Lancet take so long?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 02 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c644

Rapid Response:

Trisha Greenhalgh: competing interests

Prof Greenhalgh [1] does not disclose any competing interests. She
has, however, contributed a controversial article [2,3] attacking the 1998
paper [4] to journalist Brian Deer's website. Although not disclosed here
by Greenhalgh or in the accompanying article by Deer [5], Deer was named
as a complainant against Andrew Wakefield in the High Court by Mr Justice
Eady, who stated [6]:

"Well before the programme was broadcast [Mr Deer] had made a
complaint to the GMC about the Claimant. His communications were made on
25 February, 12 March and 1 July 2004. In due course, on 27 August of the
same year, the GMC sent the Claimant a letter notifying him of the
information against him."

Since 2003 Greenhalgh has benefitted from more than £1.4m in research
grants from the Department of Health [7]. When Deer's original allegations
were published in the Sunday Times in February 2004 he was supported by
the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who told ITV [8]:

"There is absolutely no evidence to support this link between MMR and
autism. If there was, I can assure you that any government would be
looking at it and trying to act on it. I hope, now that people see that
the situation is somewhat different to what they were led to believe, they
will have the triple jab because it is important to do it."

and by Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, who told the BBC

"I don't think that spin and science mix. If they are mixed, it is a
very unfavourable position for children's health. Now a darker side of
this work has shown through, with the ethical conduct of the research and
this is something that has to be looked at."

and Jeremy Laurance reported in the Independent [9]:

"At the Department of Health, which has striven for the past six
years to bolster public confidence in the vaccine, joy is unconfined at
the discrediting of Andrew Wakefield, as the researcher responsible for
the scare."

Meanwhile, Health Secretary John Reid asked the GMC to investigate

I express concern that conflicts that go up to the highest ranks of
government are still conflicts, that the government itself is not a
disinterested player, and has not behaved like one. At the same time Prof
Greenhalgh's research has benefitted hansomely from its largesse. I
believe there should be an inquiry.

[1] Trisha Greenhalgh, Why did the Lancet take so long?
BMJ 2010; 340: c644

[2] Professor Trisha Greenhalgh. Analysis of Wakefield MMR study asks
why flaws weren't spotted by Lancet editors. April 2004.

[3] Mark Struthers, 'Unfonded and Unjust' BMJ Rapid Responses 8
February 2010

[4] Wakefield et al, 'Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-
specific colitis, and pervasive development disorder in children, THE
LANCET, Vol 351, p.637-41, February 28, 1998 637

[5] Brian Deer,'Reflections on Investigating Wakefield' Published 2
February 2010, doi:10.1136/bmj.c672

[6] Melanie Phillips, 'A deer in the headlights', The Spectator 16
February 2009,

[7] Profile: Prof Trisha Greenhalgh: Funding Received:

[8] James Meikle, 'Claim that MMR work mixed science and spin',
Guardian 24 February 2004,

[9] Jeremy Laurance, 'Ministers temper their triumphalism but delight
spreads at Whitehall', 24 February 2004,

[10] BBC NEWS, Top doctor wades into MMR debate',

Competing interests:
Autistic Son

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 February 2010
John Stone
Contributing editor: Age of Autism
London N22