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Lancet editor "regrets" research claims which caused worldwide vaccine crisis

This page is research from an award-winning investigation, concluding in 2011, by Brian Deer for The Sunday Times of London into a campaign linking the MMR children's vaccine with autism based on fraudulent research by British former doctor Andrew Wakefield

After a five-hour confidential briefing by Brian Deer to six Lancet senior staff and a member of parliament on Wednesday 18 February 2004, editor Dr Richard Horton broke an embargo agreed with The Sunday Times and rushed out an admission that the journal was wrong to have published a research paper by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 which claimed a possible MMR-autism link

Here is how the BBC reported the story, including Horton's refusal to admit where he had obtained the "allegations". Claims in this news report that the Sunday Times investigation did not "cover the actual findings of the study" are also wrong

Friday, 20 February, 2004, 19:58 GMT

Journal regrets running MMR study

The medical journal that published a controversial study linking MMR to autism says, with hindsight, it would not have published the paper.

Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet told the BBC the researchers had a "fatal conflict of interest".

But Andrew Wakefield, the researcher at the centre of the study, rejected the journal's claims.
The paper prompted many parents to reject the three-in-one jab, even though most experts say it is safe.

The Lancet launched an investigation into the way the study was carried out after receiving "an allegation of research misconduct". It would not reveal who had made the allegations - which do not cover the actual findings of the study.

But in a statement, the Lancet said Dr Wakefield had not said he was carrying out a second study into whether there were grounds for legal action on behalf of parents of allegedly vaccine-damaged children.

Some children were involved in both studies.

The Lancet says it should have been told about this overlap, although Dr Wakefield says he was not involved in the selection process for the second study.

Dr Horton said: "There were fatal conflicts of interest in this paper. "In my view, if we had known the conflict of interest Dr Wakefield had in this work I think that would have strongly affected the peer reviewers about the credibility of this work and in my judgement it would have been rejected."

He said: "As the father of a three-year-old who has had MMR, I regret hugely the adverse impact this paper has had."

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