The Wall Street Journal reports that James Murdoch, son of beleaguered media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose empire is embroiled in scandal, has stepped down from the GlaxoSmithKline board. See WSJ online HERE. In addition, Sir Crispin Davis, former Chief Executive of Reed Elsevier, which owns The Lancet, which published the paper that included Dr. Andrew Wakefield's MMR information, is leaving the board after a nine year tenure.
The heir to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has quit the board of Britain’s biggest drugs company in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.
James Murdoch joined GlaxoSmithKline less than two years ago.
He has come under fire from MPs who have questioned him about signing off out-of-court settlements to hacking victims without a full picture of what had gone on at the News of the World.
He was forced to deny misleading Parliament over the extent of his knowledge.
Glaxo said Mr Murdoch’s decision to turn his back on the £98,000 role was entirely his own.
Chairman Chris Gent said: ‘James has taken this decision to focus on his current duties as non-executive chairman of BSkyB and following his decision to re-locate to the United States as chairman and chief executive, international, of News Corporation.’
John Stone has written about both Murdoch and Davis and their proximity to the Dr. Andrew Wakefield MMR Lancet Paper BMJ topic.
James Murdoch Still Supported by GlaxoSmithKline ran last July:
Lancet Boss Failed to Disclose Own Conflicts to Parliament While Denouncing Wakefield
Both posts run in full following the jump:
The accusations, while flawed, were devastating to Wakefield’s reputation. According to the Sunday Times, and its journalist, Brian Deer Wakefield was singly guilty of fabricating the data in the Lancet paper of 1998 although none of his 12 co-authors have ever repudiated it and one of them, histopathologist, Susan Davies subsequently wrote to British Medical Journal rebutting Deer’s interpretation of her evidence before the General Medical Council. Deer’s allegations were also based on his own inexpert interpretation of GP records which were never available to the authors of the paper. The allegations which were re-cycled by British Medical Journal were rebutted by Wakefield in his book Callous Disregard, and frequently in articles published on Age of Autism (AofA The Big Lie , AofA Time To Revisit Deer's Claims , AofA Part 2 Time To Revisit Deer's Claims ). In contrast to normal academic journal policy BMJ have adopted a legalistic defence of its allegations and (more here). Furthermore, they were forced to admit under pressure that they had undisclosed conflicts with MMR manufacturers Merck and GSK.
The Sunday Times campaign against Wakefield began in 2003 when section editor Paul Nuki approached Deer saying that he needed "something big" on "MMR" . Nuki was the son of Prof George Nuki who sat on the Committee on Safety on Medicines when MMR/Pluserix were first introduced in the late 1980s. Shortly afterwards Deer interviewed parent litigants under a false name. Unknown to Sunday Times readers Deer also pursued his own official complaints against Wakefield and colleagues and came to an arrangement with General Medical Council lawyers that he would not be named in the case, leaving him free to continue reporting as if an independent journalist . Deer’s obtaining and use of confidential data remains to be investigated. A statement on copyright on his website probably dating back some years states (my underlining.):
'For reference, with regard to Brian Deer's MMR investigation, almost all of the key facts and documents are not public domain, and, such is the culture of plagiarism, he will act against authors who represent his writing, interviews, documents, or other research, as the fruit of their own inquiries, whether referenced or not.'
In an article his website he also mentioned reading confidential reports in the MMR litigation and commented on them. When these issues were raised in British Medical Journal last year the journal took the step of removing several letters from its on-line correspondence, effectively banning all further reference to the matter from its columns.
The role of both BMJ and the News International in this affair require urgent official investigation.
Lancet Boss Failed to Disclose Own Conflicts to Parliament While Denouncing Wakefield
Sir Crispin Davis, until recently chief executive of Reed Elsevier which owns the Lancet, failed to disclose his own conflicts while denouncing Andrew Wakefield to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in March 2004. Sir Crispin failed to disclose either that he was a non-executive director of MMR defendants, GlaxoSmithKline, or that it was his own brother Sir Nigel Davis who had endorsed the Legal Services Commission’s decision to pull the plug on the funding of the case in the High Court 3 days before ((HERE).
This was barely more than a week after allegations had been levelled against Wakefield by Lancet editor Richard Horton, and Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer. Nor do Davis’s conflicts ever seem to have been mentioned by Horton.
Remarkably, these relationships had been mentioned in Sunday Times article about Sir Crispin, just weeks earlier:
"Family get-togethers could become galling for Davis if he ever slips up, such is the incredible success he and his brothers have achieved. One of them, Ian, is managing director of McKinsey, the management consultancy, another, James, is a partner at the top law firm Freshfields, while a third, Nigel, is a High Court judge.
"Davis’s only other City job is as a non-executive board member at Glaxo Smith Kline, a position he secured last year."
This did not stop Sir Crispin accusing Wakefield as he was cross-examined before the committee by Dr Evan Harris MP who had accompanied Deer to the Lancet offices 12 days earlier. He told Harris:
“At the time of the submission of the article there was no admission of conflict of interest. Three months later there was a written letter. I think I have got it somewhere here.“
To which Harris interjected:
“I have it here as well, 7 May 1998.:
And Davis responded:
"It actually says, 'There is no conflict of interest'. Should the editor then—"
However, what the interchange hides is the fact that Wakefield disclosed his involvement with the litigation while denying that there was a conflict - all of which had anyway long been known to the Lancet (AoA Smoke and Mirrors , AoA The Last Day of Wakefield's Defence). In the letter published on 2 May 1998 Wakefield had stated:
"A Rouse suggests that litigation bias might exist by virtue of information he has downloaded from the internet: from the Society for the Autistically Handicapped. Only one author (AJW) has agreed to help evaluate a small number of these children on behalf of the Legal Aid Board. These children have all been seen expressly on the basis that they were referred through normal channels (eg, from general practitioner, child psychiatrist, or community paediatrician) on the merits of their symptoms. AJW has never heard of the Society for the Autistically Handicapped and no fact sheet has been provided by them to distribute to interested parties. The only fact sheet we have produced is for general practitioners, which describes the background and protocol for the investigation of children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms. Finally all those children referred to us (including the 53 who have been investigated already and those on the waiting list that extends into 1999) have come through the formal channels described above. No conflict of interest exist."
Davis’s evidence was defective in not mentioning that Wakefield had made a disclosure while denying – correctly – that there was any conflict in the paper (nor was he corrected by Harris). He was also wrong in implying that Wakefield had taken 3 months to respond. The letter was published only 9 weeks after the original paper, and was responding to a letter from Dr Rouse dispatched only four days after publication, the delay being determined entirely by the Lancet and not by Wakefield.
The delay quickly became a key part of the Lancet’s defence, with Horton claiming that he took Wakefield to mean that he had been engaged by the Legal Aid Board after the publication of the paper. Horton responded to Wakefield in the Journal on 17 April 2004:
"We do not accept Andrew Wakefield and colleagues' interpretation of the letter published in The Lancet on May 2, 1998,..which was, in any event, only published 3 months after the original 1998 Lancet paper."
And when Horton was examined by Sally Smith QC at the GMC in August 2007 the delay was beginning to extend to four months:
“Smith: Looking at the wording of the sentence you referred to "only one author that agreed to evaluate a small number of these children on behalf of the Legal Aid Board", you say you took that to mean since the publication of the paper and we are now some three or four months on.”
To which Horton responds with a single word:
“Yes” (First amended complaint). This delay – which seems to have been so important to Horton’s and the Lancet’s case against Wakefield - has never had any basis in fact.