Thursday, June 3, 2010

More on Andrew Wakefield, autism, and inflammatory bowel disease

There is a great correspondence section from an issue of The Lancet in May of 1998 (the same year that Wakefield et al.'s "seminal" paper was published).  The first four pages are contributions from other medical practitioners and researchers pointing out many of the flaws in the report... the most commonly cited being the selection bias I pointed out in my last post.  Also, many take issue with the claims that were made about the MMR vaccine for which the paper only presented very limited anecdotal evidence.  (As I like to say, in experimental science, the plural of anecdote is NOT data).  Anyway, this makes it pretty clear, that many people saw the poorly done science in this paper right from the outset, but the media frenzy, rather than any real or reliable findings, vaulted Wakefield to cult hero status and somehow gave his viewpoint an artificial sense of credibility.  You can read the correspondence here. (and if you don't want to read all of my last post, basically I compared Wakefield and colleagues' selection bias to asking for all of the red M&Ms out of a bag, then looking closely at just those M&Ms and falsely concluding that all M&Ms must be red.)

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