Doctor backs parents over autism link to triple jab 

By Jenny Hope

Medical Correspondent (Daily Mail Feb 6, 2001

PARENTS taking legal action because they believe MMR jabs triggered autism in their children are being backed by the eminent doctor whose research was at the centre of the 1995 Pill scare.

Public health expert Professor Walter Spitzer, who has studied the complete medical records of 505 children, says the ‘odds favour a link’ between the triple measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the development of autism.

The emeritus professor of epidemiology at McGill University, Montreal, will be supporting the parents’ case due to begin at the High Court in spring. His involvement is highly embarrassing for Government health officials who last encountered Professor Spitzer when he attacked them for triggering a panic over the contraceptive Pill.

Professor Spitzer said they misused unpublished research to warn women that certain brands of Pill were more likely to trigger blood clots. Within hours he flew from Canada to England to defend his work.

Four years later the Government’s medical advisers did a U-turn on the controversial advice — after it had led to an estimated 29,000 extra abortions.

Professor Spitzer has now agreed to give evidence on behalf of parents suing MMR manufacturers over adverse reactions such as bowel disease or autism which were never officially reported by doctors, it is claimed.

An estimated 850 families have been granted legal help to take action under the Consumer Protection Act against the drug companies Aventis Pasteur, Merck and Co. SmithKllne Beecham and SmithKline and French Laboratories.

Research by the professor, who specialises in the statistical analysis of public health issues, suggests UK safety data on MMR is unreliable because many doctors failed to make reports on side effects using the ‘yellow card’ system to flag up

‘There are a lot of reports that did not go into the Medicines Control Agency either because the attending physician did not recognise the diagnosis of autism or did not think It warranted a yellow card,’ he told the doctors’ magazine Pulse.

Professor Spitzer said: ‘I’m not 100 per cent convinced there is a causal link between MMR and autism but I think the odds favour a link, sometimes strongly.’

The professor said three factors supported a link including a ‘very steep’ rise in autism which coincided with the launch of MMR ‘practically drowning’ the market for single vaccines in several countries.

Further research was emerging to provide a. plausible biological and clinic link between the combined vaccine and the disorder, he said.

Finally, the vaccine manufacturers and regulatory authorities had failed to conduct properly designed post-marketing safety studies.

Professor Spitzer is an eminent if occasionally controversial figure in the world of medicine.

One person who trained with him said: ‘He is very aggressive and he does not stand for fools -but the key thing is that he has a brilliant mind. What he says counts. People sit up and listen to him.’

The Department of Health is launching a 3million advertising campaign. It aims to reassure parents, doctors and other health professionals about the safety of the vaccine.

A spokesman said: ‘Repeated studies have given MMR a clean bill of health — it is the safest way of protecting children against these potentially life-threatening diseases.’