Who is the UK's Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick?
Covert Strategy in British Science Policy by Martin J. Walker. You can read the full chapter HERE and you can download the full e-book at Slingshot Publications.
By Martin J. Walker
Michael Fitzpatrick has played a leading role in expressing the views of the ex RCP Network in the area of science and health. He touches many of the organisations that the group has set up, such as Sense About Science, the Science Media Centre, spiked, and the Institute of Ideas (IOI), which is funded by chemical giant Pfizer.
A look at at Mike Fitzpatrick and some of his ideas gives us a virtual tour of the New RCP Network’s mindset in the area of health. Other members of the group and their affiliations mentioned in this essay are listed in the footnote below. (The pdf at the end of this post has the full, footnoted chapter.)
Dr Michael Fitzpatrick was in the Revolutionary Communist Group for most of his adult life. Like his comrades, until the mid-Nineties, he was seriously intent upon the working class turning Britain into a communist state based on the ideas of Leon Trotsky.
Dr Fitzpatrick is a General Practitioner in Hackney, London. He is a Trustee of Sense About Science, which is funded by a number of the major pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Sense About Science has shared its telephone number with Global Futures, of which Fitzpatrick has been a Trustee, and in which Sense about Science workers Tracey Brown and Ellen Raphael have also played a part. Global Futures is supported by, among other groups, the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries (ABPI), Amersham Biosciences plc, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca plc and Pfizer plc. In the past, Fitzpatrick frequently contributed to Living Marxism and had a regular column in LM. Sometimes, as was the custom with the RCP cadre, his writing appeared under an alias.
As a physician, Fitzpatrick has been outspoken in two medical matters in recent years, both of which involve the interests of pharmaceutical companies as well as those of the public. These are the campaign supporting ME as a psychiatric illness, and the campaign in support of the government-backed MMR vaccine. Despite having a much thicker veneer of intellectual plausibility than his predecessors in HealthWatch, Fitzpatricks’s writing is a boilerplate version of most Quackbusters material. The pharmaceutical companies have now had 20 years, since the setting up of the American National Council Against Health Fraud in 1985, to ‘refine’ their ‘philosophy’ and arguments about prescription drugs, undiagnosed illnesses and alternative medicine.
Dr Fitzpatrick And MMR
The issues involved in MMR are relatively straightforward. Increasingly, the government has been working with vaccine manufacturers to plan and produce vaccines. The New Labour government has agreed the premise that an increased number of combined and genetically modified (GM) vaccines will be produced in the coming years. These combined vaccines, the pharmaceutical companies argue will rid society of most known diseases. They will, as well create a bridge between the old and ailing chemical drugs industry, and the future, expanding, biotech, person-altering products industry.
There is a well recorded history of adverse reactions to many different kinds of vaccination. There is, too, a deep-seated moral and political argument, which has ranged back and forth through society over the past century-and-a-half, about the right of the State to enforce medication on citizens.
MMR was introduced in 1988; it replaced single vaccines for these illnesses. Andrew Wakefield, a research gastroenterologist, had been throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties a ‘golden boy’ of medical research. The pharmaceutical companies showered funding on him as he gradually uncovered a new and fundamental mechanism of Crohn’s disease, of Crohn’s disease, one that was strongly suggestive of an infectious cause. In 1995 Wakefield and his colleagues, published the first of a series of papers relating Inflammatory Bowel Disoders (IBD) to an infectious cause – measles virus. This culminated in 2002 with the molecular identification of measles virus in the bowels of children with a novel form of inflammatory bowel disease and a regressive autism. In a published presentation by colleagues at Trinity College Dublin this was subsequently identified as being of vaccine strain.
The possible causative effect of measles virus in IBD was also researched in Japan, where peer reviewed papers were published, that potential linked measles virus to IBD. During the same period, the Japanese Government withdrew MMR after a significant number of adverse reactions. and paid out compensation to damaged children. In Sweden, researchers at the Karolinska Instutute had also observed a connection between the virus and Crohn’s diseas
These observations, and where they led Wakefield’s scientific investigations were to prove highly unpopular with his funders, and with some of the academic medical hierarchy at the Royal Free Medical School, where he did his research. In 1992 Wakefield wrote to the Department of Health, giving his findings with respect to a potential link between IBD, including Crohn’s disease, and the measles virus. He asked for a meeting and argued his case for further research. In 1993, when Wakefield heard that there was to be a renewed re-vaccination programme in 1994, he again wrote to Dr. David Salisbury Principal medical Officer for communicable diseases and immunisation, and other concerned individuals at the DoH. Again he drew the Department’s attention, especially to the work of Dr Anders Ekbom in Sweden.
Although his letters to the DoH were met with bland reassurances, and the re-vaccination programme went ahead, the then chief medical officer, Dr Kenneth Calman (See Part Five), did grant Wakefield a meeting in 1995, three years after he had first asked. At the meeting, Wakefield made a case for government-funded research, and for a proper review by a meeting of the Medical Research Committee (MRC) of his and the other scientific research. It would be another three years before the MRC meeting was organised, and then it did not conduct an independent review. As for the research funding, this was never considered.
A second meeting took place in September
1997, between the research team and the
solicitor acting for the 12 children among
others, Tessa Jowell and Kenneth Calman. The
discussion focused on the developmental
pattern of 1,200 children whose parents the
solicitor represented, and another 500
cases, which the vaccine concern group JABS
brought to the meeting. An agreement was
reached, that Calman and Wakefield would
co-operatively draw up the names for an
international forum, which would review the
papers on MMR, IBD and autism.
‘Co-operation’ was not, however, to be the
name of the game.
In February 1998, The Lancet published a study authored by Dr Wakefield and 12 other researchers, which looked at 12 children who had attended the Royal Free Hospital during 1996-1997, with digestive problems and degrees of autism. After a series of clinical tests and observations in 1997, the research team had concluded that all of the children had developed normally, then had lost acquired skills and had developed severe stomach pains and diarrhoea. But perhaps the most serious finding was that 11 of the 12 had inflammation of the colon, while seven of them had swollen lymph glands in the intestine. The researchers had also found virus protein from measles. Again, concerned by what they had found, the team had asked to meet with Tessa Jowell, then New Labour’s Junior Health Minister.
When the Lancet piece appeared, it put forward the suggestion that what the researchers had found was a new disease process, which they named ‘autistic enterocolitis’. The paper considered the onset of the illness in the children and, noting its proximity to MMR vaccination, called for further research into the new syndrome and the vaccine.
At a press conference called to coincide with publication of the paper, Wakefield was asked what he would do about the MMR vaccination. He suggested that it might be better to offer three seperate single vaccines until further research had been carried out.
In March 1998, apparently spurred on by Wakefield’s Lancet cases, the MRC finally organised the review meeting for which Wakefield had asked three years previously. It took the form of a one-day seminar, and involved 37 experts, all chosen by the government. After a nine-hour discussion – with Wakefield and an epidemiologist colleague, Dr Scott Montgomery, being the only ones present to report favourably on their research – the meeting dismissed out of hand the suggestion that MMR might be related to autism or that any further research was needed.
Dr Wakefield’s work at the Royal Free Medical School, threw into a panic, the government and the vaccine manufacturers together with those pressing for the uninterrupted progress of genetically modified vaccines and other GM pharmaceuticals. Their crisis management of Wakefield’s research had been devastatingly bad, organised to engender hysteria about falling immunisation, rather than demonstrate a confident conclusion about the science while backing an honest need for further research.
Martin J Walker is an investigative writer who has written four books about aspects of the medical industrial complex. He started focusing on conflict of interest, intervention by pharmaceutical companies in government and patient groups in 1993. Over the last three years he has been a campaign writer for the parents of MMR vaccine damaged children covering every day of the now two year hearing of the General Medical Council that is trying Dr Wakefield and two other doctors. His GMC accounts can be found at www.cryshame.com, and his own website is, www.slingshotpublications.com.