Thursday, January 06, 2011

Clinic Notes: Wakefield Redux

No one knows why Autism is epidemic. In my clinic 75 to 80% of the children I see each week have an autism diagnosis. From the studies we have published, the literature we have reviewed, and the histories we have taken of our patients I believe autism will be like cancer and have multiple causes. Like cancer, we have good treatment protocols for autism without knowing the cause, but it would be nice to know the cause--just one simple cause. It was reported to day that Andrew Wakefield, who published a study in a British medical journal linking autism to the MMR vaccine altered the medical histories of his patients. This was not a case of careless research, but an "elaborate fraud" as quoted by the British medical journal. Since Wakefield's article vaccination rates have gone down and predictably cases of measles and other diseases have gone up. Wakefield has lost his medical license, no one can reproduce his results, his co-authors have removed their names from the article, and the journal Lancet retracted the article. But all this will do little to dissuade Wakefield's supporters. Usually, autism is diagnosed between the second and third year of life. And the only thing that happened that year according to the parent's recollections was the vaccinations. It is very hard for parents to let go of that.