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John Stone Posted - 12/31/2006 : 02:45:39

Let's take Andy Wakefield out of this for a second and ask how you could have such a prosecution without expert fees? If you cannot prosecute large companies then they are in principal, as well as practice above the law. These are, I think, quite moderate professional fees.

The Sunday Times December 31, 2006

MMR doctor given legal aid thousands

Brian Deer

ANDREW WAKEFIELD, the former surgeon whose campaign linking the MMR vaccine with autism caused a collapse in immunisation rates, was paid more than £400,000 by lawyers trying to prove that the vaccine was unsafe.

The payments, unearthed by The Sunday Times, were part of £3.4m distributed from the legal aid fund to doctors and scientists who had been recruited to support a now failed lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.

Critics this weekend voiced amazement at the sums, which they said created a clear conflict of interest and were the “financial engine” behind a worldwide alarm over the triple measles, mumps and rubella shot.

“These figures are astonishing,” said Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.

“This lawsuit was an industry, and an industry peddling what turned out to be a myth.”

According to the figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, Wakefield was paid £435,643 in fees, plus £3,910 expenses.

Wakefield’s work for the lawyers began two years before he published his now notorious report in The Lancet medical journal in February 1998, proposing a link between the vaccine and autism.

This suggestion, followed by a campaign led by Wakefield, caused immunisation rates to slump from 92% to 78.9%, although they have since partly recovered. In March this year the first British child in 14 years died from measles.

Later The Lancet retracted Wakefield’s claim and apologised after a Sunday Times investigation showed that his research had been backed with £55,000 from lawyers, and that the children in the study used as evidence against the vaccine were also claimants in the lawsuit.

At the time Wakefield denied any conflict of interest and said that the money went to his hospital, not to him personally. No disclosure was made, however, of the vastly greater sums that he was receiving directly from the lawyers.

The bulk of the amount in the new figures, released by the Legal Services Commission (LSC), covers an eight to 10-year period. All payments had to be approved by the courts.

Those who received money include numerous Wakefield associates, business partners and employees who had acted as experts in the case.

Five of his former colleagues at the Royal Free hospital, north London, under whose aegis The Lancet paper was written, received a total of £183,000 in fees, according to the LSC.

Wakefield now runs a business in Austin, Texas, two of whose employees are listed as receiving a total of £112,000 in fees, while a Florida physician, who appointed the former surgeon as his “director of research”, was paid £21,600, the figures show.

All have appeared in media reports as apparently confirming Wakefield’s claims.

It is understood that the payments — for writing reports, attending meetings and in some cases carrying out research — were made at hourly rates varying between £120 and £200, or £1,000 a day.

“There was a huge conflict of interest,” said Dr John March, an animal vaccine specialist who was among those recruited. “It bothered me quite a lot because I thought, well, if I’m getting paid for doing this, then surely it’s in my interest to keep it going as long as possible.”

March, who the LSC allowed almost £90,000 to research an aspect of Wakefield’s theories, broke ranks this weekend to denounce both the science of the attack and the amount that the case had cost in lawyers’ and experts’ fees.

“The ironic thing is they were always going on about how, you know, how we’ve hardly got any money compared with the other side, who are funded by large pharmaceutical companies. And I’m thinking, judging by the amounts of money you’re paying out, the other side must be living like millionaires,” he said.

Also among those named as being paid from the legal aid fund was a referee for one of Wakefield’s papers, who was allowed £40,000. A private GP who runs a single vaccines clinic received £6,000, the LSC says.

Following The Sunday Times investigation, immunisation rates have risen and the General Medical Council launched an inquiry. This is due to culminate in a three-month hearing next summer, where Wakefield faces charges — which he denies — of dishonesty over his research.

The LSC is also unlikely to escape criticism. Three years ago the commission, which administers a £2 billion budget to give poor people access to justice, acknowledged that the attempt to make a case against MMR with taxpayers’ money was “not effective or appropriate”.

The total cost for the attack on the vaccine was £14,053,856, plus Vat.

Following media campaigning, lawyers eventually registered 1,600 claimants in the lawsuit. None received any money.

This weekend Earl Howe, a Conservative party health spokesman, called for a parliamentary inquiry. “It’s astonishing,” he said. “This is crying out for select committee scrutiny.”

Wakefield said in a statement that he had worked on the lawsuit for nine years, charged at a recommended rate, and gave money to charity.

“This work involved nights, weekends and much of my holidays, such that I saw little of my family during this time,” he said. “I believed and still believe in the just cause of the matter under investigation.”

Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.
This service is provided on Times Newspapers' standard Terms and Conditions . Please read our Privacy Policy . To inquire about a licence to reproduce material from The Times, visit the Syndication website .

See also:-

Questions for Brian Deer


Deer and Goats


Michael Fitzpatrick: an interesting allegation




'A Political Trial in London'


'Smoke and Mirrors: Dr Richard Horton and the Wakefield Affair'

7   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
john Posted - 01/21/2007 : 21:18:54
have a choke on this one http://briandeer.com/awardclip.jpg

"the only journo to police the drug companies" !

Deer is a pharma shill, obviously. As for his great expose of Septrin etc:

"Robert Mendelsohn had a rule: "You never hear about the dangers of a drug unless another drug to replace it is available."--Ted Koren DC

and it gives him more credibility when they really need him, like now.

his great piece on "vaccine damage" was to say he doesn't think DPT doesn't cause severe brain damage, when the UK gov has paid out for 900 such cases!!

nasty piece of work

jennyr Posted - 01/18/2007 : 12:33:11
Deer's journalistic bile really should not be taken too seriously. His obsessional campaign is fuelled by - what? Ignorance, spite, hubris (particularly the latter) etc. I don't take any of his stuff seriously. That the Sunday Times has chosen to publish it is regrettable, but not surprising, it is unfortunately yet another Murdoch rag.
GUS THE FUSS Posted - 01/11/2007 : 20:17:50
Quite agree hope they all rot..
brianct Posted - 01/07/2007 : 03:48:34

Im new to this board, but im familiar with Wakefield and the MMR controversy. This article is one more effort to get the public back onto MMR, by attacking the messenger.

The piece by the Sunday Times is shrill, and weighs in with quotes from political figures (not the best source, if the matteris conflict of interest).
But its ironic to use this arguement, since the doctors and makers of MMR also have conflicts of interest, which surely cant elude the readers!
If MMR is removed from the list of vaccines, then the manufactures stand to lose out on revenue, and the doctors from what ever they gain
After all, a professionla is simply someone who makes their money from their work....
The libelous implication of the article is that Wakefield has committed fraud by receiving money for his work. Does that mean any professional now can be charged with fraud? Thats the obvious conclusion and rejoinder.

Its irrevelevant where the money goes to...the charge of conflict of interest does not mean Wakefield committed fraud! It can not mean that his results are false.
laura_c_a Posted - 12/31/2006 : 20:44:30
And how much are the others paid (GPs, senior members of DoH, pharmaceutical directors)? I'm fairly confident that their basic pay - let alone additional fees for advisory/consultancy purposes - run into six figures. No doubt Brian Deer's basic salary is well into 6 figures. Typical hypocrisy from that lot - but I have learnt to expect nothing less. Happy New Year from a worn out person.
John Stone Posted - 12/31/2006 : 09:29:26
No, Andy circulated a statement a week ago which of course the Sunday Times have not reported in any respect:

"Sunday December 24th 2006

"Response by Dr Andy Wakefield to enquiries about expert fees.
Thank you for your enquiry. I hope that the points below will answer any questions you may have about the issue of experts#146; fees in the MMR litigation.

"1. I worked as an expert in the MMR class action litigation for nearly 9 years. As instructed, I charged for my services and this was at an hourly rate recommended by the BMA after consulting with them on this matter.

"2. I worked extremely hard on this very onerous litigation because I believed and still believe in the just cause of the matter under investigation. This work involved nights, weekends and much of my holidays such that I saw little of my family during this time. The price for standing by these children has been high both for my family and my professional status.

"3. The money that I received was, after tax and out of pocket expenses, donated to an initiative to create a new center, in the first instance at the Royal Free Hospital, for the care of autistic children and those with bowel disease. This intention was made clear, in writing, to senior members of the medical school. The initiative was unsuccessful at the Royal Free but ultimately succeeded in the US.

"4. My role as an expert was declared as a conflict of interest in relevant publications (see references below) that discussed the possible role of MMR vaccine intestinal disease and autism and to journal editors in other instances. I have referenced the relevant publications below for your convenience.

"5. The costs judge has revised the sum payable by nearly #8356;100,000 and I am happy to abide by this ruling. He has done the same for other experts and I am informed that this is common practice in cases such as this. A substantial part of this money was not paid to me in the first place.

"6. My actions were at times taken in the best interests of children potentially damaged by the MMR vaccine. It was my earnest desire to establish a centre of excellence for the care of these children in the UK. Sadly, the political climate in there made this impossible. I remain dedicated to helping these children and resolving the issue of whether vaccines are involved in this disorder or not. I will not be intimidated or coerced into stopping this work prematurely.


Stott C et al Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 2004;9:89-91
Wakefield AJ et al. Medical Veritas 2006;3:796-802"

Aasa Posted - 12/31/2006 : 04:30:19

Is there anywhere where anyone can respond to that article?


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