Re: Restrictions on hospitality apply to journalists and doctors 21 September 2007
    John Stone,
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/335/7618/480#176662 London N22

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Re: Re: Restrictions on hospitality apply to journalists and doctors

I am grateful to Heather Simmons.

We can all benefit from Ben Goldacre's wisdom. For instance, in 2004 Goldacre received the Association of British Science Writer's (ABSW) award for "the best feature on a science subject in a national or regional newspaper (2003) [1] for an article on MMR: 'Never mind the facts' [2]. The major sponsor of the award of 2000 was MMR manufacturer and defendent Glaxo SmithKline [1]. This has not been disclosed in many Guardian articles mentioning MMR, nor was it recently Goldacre's BMJ piece 'MMR, the scare stories are back' [3].

I also wonder whether this one of the best examples of Goldacre's work. Goldacre cited four studies three of which were subsequently reviewed by Cochrane 2005 [4]. Of these Cochrane stated:

"The study demonstrates the difficulties of drawing inferences in the absence of a non-exposed population or a clearly defined causal hypothesis". (Re: Taylor 1999)

"The number and possible impact of biases in this study was so high that interpretation of the results is impossible". (Re: Fombonne 2001)

"The interpretation of the study by Madsen was made difficult by the unequal length of follow up for younger cohort members as well as the use of the date of diagnosis rather than onset of symptoms of autism". (Re: Madsen 2002)

The fourth study mentioned was the most remarkable of all, the Peltola letter to the Lancet of May 1998 which recorded no cases of autism or inflammatory bowel disease following 3 million applications of MMR in Finland simply because they were not in the follow up criteria of the larger study [5].

Moreover, there was a complex of funding issues unrelated by Goldacre. The Peltola study received funding from MMR defendent Merck [5]. The department of Elizabeth Miller who contributed to the Taylor study [6] benefited from funding by MMR defendents SmithKline Beecham and Aventis Pasteur [7]. At least one MMR study authored by her and Brent Taylor received funding from SmithKline Beecham [8]. The Fombonne study disclosed no interests [9] but according to a later study [10]:

"In the United Kingdom, Dr Fombonne has provided advice on the epidemiology and clinical aspects of autism to scientists advising parents, to vaccine manufacturers, and to several government committees between 1998 and 2001. Since June 2004, Dr Fombonne has been an expert witness for vaccine manufacturers in US thimerosal litigation. None of his research has ever been funded by the industry."

So you can't be too careful!

[1] ABSW Science Writers Award 2003: http://www.absw.org.uk/Awards/abswwinners2003.htm  

[2] Ben Goldacre, 'Never mind the facts', Guardian 11 December 2003: http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,,1103958,00.html  

[3] Ben Goldacre, 'MMR, the scare stories are back', BMJ 21 July 2007: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/335/7611/126  

[4] V Demicheli, T Jefferson, A Rivetti, D Price,[Review] 'Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children', Cochrane (Wiley 2005), http://mrw.interscience.wiley.com/cochrane/clsysrev/articles/CD004407/frame.html  

[5] Heikki Peltola, Annamari Patja, Pauli Leinikki, Martti Valle, Irja Davidkin, Mikho Paunio, 'No evidence for measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine-associated inflammatory bowel disease or autism in a 14-year prospective study', Lancet vol 351, May 1998, p. 1327-8: http://www.freenetpages.co.uk/hp/gingernut/lancet/Finland%20May%201998.pdf  

[6] Brent Taylor, Elizabeth Miller, C Paddy Farrington, Maria- Christina Petropoulos, Isabelle Favot-Mayaud, Jun Li, Pauline A Waight, 'Autism and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological evidence for a causal association, Lancet vol 135, 12 June 1999.

[7] According to Geier M and Geier D (P3R to PEDIATRICS,' Thimerosal does not belong in vaccines' 8 September 2004) this funding was disclosed by Elizabeth Miller to the Committee on Safety of Medicines in 2002, and this was not denied by Dr Miller in her response: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/eletters/114/3/584.  

[8] E Miller, P Waight, C P Farrington, N Andrews, J Stowe, B Taylor, 'Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and MMR vaccine'. vol. 84 p.227-9 March 2001, http://adc.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/84/3/227  

[9] Eric Fombonne, FRCPsych and Suniti Chakrabarti, FRCPCH, 'No Evidence for A New Variant of Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Induced Autism ',PEDIATRICS Vol. 108 No. 4 October 2001, p. e58 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/108/4/e58  

[10] Eric Fombonne, MD, Rita Zakarian, ME, Andrew Bennett, PhD, CPsych, Linyan Meng, MSc and Diane McLean-Heywood, MA, 'Pervasive Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links With Immunizations', Published online July 3, 2006 PEDIATRICS Vol. 118 No. 1 July 2006, pp. e139-e150 (doi:10.1542/peds.2005- 2993) , http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/118/1/e139  

Competing interests: Autistic son

It reminds that there was a follow submission which never got posted:

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"Re: Re: Restrictions on hospitality apply to journalists and doctors"
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Ben Goldacre won the same award again for 2005 for the article 'Don't
dumb me down', which also referred to his previous award winning article
on MMR [1,2]. On this occasion sponsorship of the award had passed to
agricultural bio-tech company Syngenta [1], which perhaps Goldacre ought
to disclose when engaging in polemics to do with food and nutritionists
such such as 'Tell us the truth about nutritionists'[3]. Also of interest
is that on the panel of judges for the award were not only two other
Guardian journalists Tim Radford and Michael White, but also Dr Evan
Harris MP [4], who accompanied Brian Deer to the Lancet offices to accuse
Andrew Wakefield of malpractice in February 2004, and subsequently led a
Commons debate on the topic.

On that occasion Harris acknowledged the patronage of MMR defendents
Aventis [5] and he had also been a Glaxo Wellcome Fellow (which by that
stage had been subsumed into MMR defendent Glaxo SmithKline) [6]. More
recently Dr Harris has acknowledged in the members register the assistance
of the organisation Sense about Science:

"I have been provided with the services of an intern to conduct
research work and co-ordinate a project by Sense About Science, an
independent charitable trust." (Registered 30 January 2007) [7]

Dr Harris describes Sense about Science as an independent trust but
it is in fact funded by industry including Glaxo SmithKline, the
Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), and Elsevier,
publishers of the Lancet . George Monbiot warned about the influence of
the organisation in December 2003 in an article: 'Invasion of the
Entryists: how did a cultish political network become the public face of
the scientific establishment?'[9]. Sense about Science credits itself and
the Science Media Centre with having turned the debate on MMR and
"Frankenstein foods" since 2001 [10]. I do not know whether the ABPI and
the others still fund Sense about Science but perhaps Heather Simmonds
ought to look at it.

[1]
http://www.sciencewritersawards.co.uk/science/past/2005/gallery.htm

[2] 8 September 2005,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/badscience/story/0,12980,1564369,00.html

[3] BMJ, 10 February 2007,
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/334/7588/292

[4]
http://www.sciencewritersawards.co.uk/science/past/2005/biography.htm

[5] http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2004-03-15.128.2

[6] http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/328/7442/726-a#56634

[7] http://www.theyworkforyou.com/regmem/?p=10261

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/other/130/

[9] 9 December 2003,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1102753,00.html

[10] http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/pdf/Healthwatch.pdf

Competing interests:
Autistic son