Andrew Wakefield, the doctor responsible for the small-scale study in 1998 published in medical journal The Lancet linking vaccines with a spike in autism rates has been accused of deliberately manufacturing misleading data in his research.
The study has been retracted by The Lancet, but the BMJrecently condemned the research:
The editor in chief of the BMJ, Fiona Godlee, M.D., says “the MMR scare was based not on bad science but on a deliberate fraud” and that such “clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare.”
The study is widely cited as the impetus behind the current anti-vaccine backlash and has been blamed for outbreaks of illness in children of parents reluctant to vaccinate them following the scare. The BMJ alleges that aside from drawing spurious conclusions, the data was deliberately manipulated and falsely presented:
Dr. Godlee said the BMJ and investigator Brian Deer uncovered “clear evidence of falsification” of Wakefield’s data. Godlee’s editorial states that “Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome; how his institution, the Royal Free Hospital and Medical School in London, supported him as he sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain; and how key players failed to investigate thoroughly in the public interest when Deer first raised his concerns.”
You can read the BMJ‘s article in its entirety here.