Trisha Greenhalgh's Competing Interests in Wakefield Case
Prof Trisha Greenhalgh, whose analysis of the controversial Wakefield Lancet paper, was published by Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer on his website (HERE) has received more than £1.4m in grants from the UK government’s Department of Health since 2003.
When Deer’s original allegations were published in the Sunday Times in February 2004 they were supported by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson. Prof Greenhalgh failed to disclose either her government funding or her assistance of Deer when earlier this month she published an article in British Medical Journal criticising the Lancet’s delay in retracting article (HERE). Nor have BMJ so far published the letter (see below) pointing out her unfortunate omissions.
Greenhalgh’s reading of the paper was not only contested by Andrew Wakefield (HERE) and Carol Stott (HERE) on one side of the MMR controversy, but also implicitly by prominent Guardian science journalist Ben Goldacre on the other. Goldacre wrote in a 2005 award winning article (HERE):
"...people periodically come up to me and say, isn't it funny how that Wakefield MMR paper turned out to be Bad Science after all? And I say: no. The paper always was and still remains a perfectly good small case series report, but it was systematically misrepresented as being more than that, by media that are incapable of interpreting and reporting scientific data."
Goldacre’s opinion apparently led to bad feeling between himself and Deer (HERE ).
Greenhalgh’s analysis projected a hypothesis onto the paper which was not partof its design and may have indirectly influenced the decision of the General Medical Council who decided that paper was not an early report, as stated, but a bungled version of a more formal scientific paper, commissioned by the Legal Aid Board, which the defence always insisted was never undertaken.
This is the text of my letter to BMJ, so far unpublished by them:-
"Trisha Greenhalgh: competing interests"
Prof Greenhalgh  does not disclose any competing interests. She
has, however, contributed a controversial article [2,3] attacking the 1998
paper  to journalist Brian Deer's website. Although not disclosed here
by Greenhalgh or in the accompanying article by Deer , Deer was named
as a complainant against Andrew Wakefield in the High Court by Mr Justice
Eady, who stated :
"Well before the programme was broadcast [Mr Deer] had made a
complaint to the GMC about the Claimant. His communications were made on
25 February, 12 March and 1 July 2004. In due course, on 27 August of the
same year, the GMC sent the Claimant a letter notifying him of the
information against him."
Since 2003 Greenhalgh has benefitted from more than £1.4m in research
grants from the Department of Health . When Deer's original allegations
were published in the Sunday Times in February 2004 he was supported by
the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who told ITV :
"There is absolutely no evidence to support this link between MMR and
autism. If there was, I can assure you that any government would be
looking at it and trying to act on it. I hope, now that people see that
the situation is somewhat different to what they were led to believe, they
will have the triple jab because it is important to do it."
and by Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, who told the BBC
"I don't think that spin and science mix. If they are mixed, it is a
very unfavourable position for children's health. Now a darker side of
this work has shown through, with the ethical conduct of the research and
this is something that has to be looked at."
and Jeremy Laurance reported in the Independent :
"At the Department of Health, which has striven for the past six
years to bolster public confidence in the vaccine, joy is unconfined at
the discrediting of Andrew Wakefield, as the researcher responsible for
Meanwhile, Health Secretary John Reid asked the GMC to investigate
I express concern that conflicts that go up to the highest ranks of
government are still conflicts, that the government itself is not a
disinterested player, and has not behaved like one. At the same time Prof
Greenhalgh's research has benefitted hansomely from its largesse. I
believe there should be an inquiry.
 Trisha Greenhalgh, Why did the Lancet take so long?
BMJ 2010; 340: c644
 Professor Trisha Greenhalgh. Analysis of Wakefield MMR study asks
why flaws weren't spotted by Lancet editors. April 2004.
 Mark Struthers, 'Unfonded and Unjust' BMJ Rapid Responses 8
February 2010 http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/340/feb02_4/c644#230993
 Wakefield et al, 'Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-
specific colitis, and pervasive development disorder in children, THE
LANCET, Vol 351, p.637-41, February 28, 1998 637
 Brian Deer,'Reflections on Investigating Wakefield' Published 2
February 2010, doi:10.1136/bmj.c672
 Melanie Phillips, 'A deer in the headlights', The Spectator 16
February 2009, http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3362116/a-deer-
 Profile: Prof Trisha Greenhalgh: Funding Received:
 James Meikle, 'Claim that MMR work mixed science and spin',
Guardian 24 February 2004,
 Jeremy Laurance, 'Ministers temper their triumphalism but delight
spreads at Whitehall', 24 February 2004,
 BBC NEWS, Top doctor wades into MMR debate',
John Stone is UK Contributing Editor to Age of Autism
I don't think BG will be under any illusion that I am a admirer of his:
My own view is BG was simply covering himself for the likelihood that the charges would unravel, and they certainly ought to have done.
Posted by: John Stone | February 27, 2010 at 11:45 AM
Ben Goldacre would probably be annoyed at how you've interpreted that quote him. Perhaps you haven't read anything of his ever before.
He's not exactly a vaccine-sceptic.
Posted by: Ian G | February 27, 2010 at 07:38 AM
Sorry " answer to your question",
Posted by: John Stone | February 25, 2010 at 10:20 AM
I don't know whether you have an answer to question - I certainly don't know of any sure means.
Posted by: John Stone | February 25, 2010 at 10:10 AM
If a government or governments by action or inaction - are guilty of a crime against humanity, what is the means by which they can be brought to justice.
Posted by: Robin Rowlands | February 25, 2010 at 06:50 AM
Good show, John. Let's see what the reaction is at the BMJ. I'm quite sure there are average people who don't speak up who are being moved by the facts, and you have such a way of putting things. Thank you.
Posted by: Gatogorra | February 24, 2010 at 03:32 PM
I am delighted to record that my letter has appeared this morning in BMJ on-line:
Posted by: John Stone | February 24, 2010 at 07:08 AM
To nobody in particular
(everywhere and nowhere),
Change of rules.
Posted by: Robin Rowlands | February 24, 2010 at 07:03 AM
@Craig, (From "across the pond"),
I hope that the hackers have found a copy of the MSDS (product insert) for the original MMR which Merck had on their official website until maybe twelve+ years ago. Somebody post here if that happens. If you'd read it you'd know why I want a hardcopy (Dan might too). Thanks in advance.
Posted by: ElizaCassandra | February 24, 2010 at 04:49 AM
John, Your investigative journalism always amazes and inspires me. And thank you for disclosing your own "competing interests"..."Son with autism" (Smile) Your son is fortunate to have you for a father.
Like Kevin Trudeau always says, "Follow the MONEY"....
And yes "Where there is smoke there is fire"
Someday these greedy hypocritical prostitutes are going to burn themselves up with their own lies because "the words from their own mouths shall condemn them".
Ancient Chinese Proverb: "Man who rake firey coals into bosom get burned."
"Whatever goes around comes around", and as the Bible states: "Whatever a man is sowing, that is what he shall also reap".
All of this corruption will be exposed in due course of time. And thanks to your work John, it's all on the record.
Posted by: Autism Grandma | February 23, 2010 at 11:16 PM
A few days ago, Merck was infected by a pretty severe computer virus that gathered a lot of information, similar to what happened to the Global Warming scientists. Wouldn't it be great of those hackers were to release secret internal documents (like they did with the Global Warming scientists) that showed just how guilty these people are in all of this?
Ah, one can dream, I suppose.
Posted by: Craig Willoughby | February 23, 2010 at 01:22 PM
Probably single shots were off patent but of course the policy decision to withdraw them was made after Andy's remarks at the press conferece (which had been organised by Prof Zuckerman just so he would support single vaccines): the result of withdrawing single vaccines was to polticise the issue - if single shots were on the menu then it was harder to make Andy into public enemy no 1. But I also think the industry wanted to stop the situation in the UK where all the vaccines were available singly and parents could pick and choose - it was particularly essential to their plans in the UK which did not have a mandated vaccine schedule. Parents were thus being told it was all or nothing. A decade on you can't even get a separate tetanus booster in the UK - children get it with pertussis and adults with diptheria.
Temple Grandin was telling us to space the shots out - if only we could!
Posted by: John Stone | February 23, 2010 at 12:08 PM
Great job John & AoA team. This is citizen journalism at it's best, filling the void mainstream media left a long time ago. You are providing future historians with a lot of crucial information they will not find elsewhere.
Posted by: AnaB | February 23, 2010 at 11:26 AM
I love how these people go off about Dr. Wakefield's so called conflict of interest, but will defend to the death those who oppose him who have a documented conflict of interest. Seems like a double standard, no?
Perhaps the pot should not be calling the kettle black!
And they also continue to ignore that the ruling of the GMC was not about whether mercury causes autism or not! Talk about reading into things what you want to see!
Posted by: Darian (nickname) | February 23, 2010 at 11:22 AM
Thank you, John. They're dancing on the graves of children. I love how Tony Blair promotes the "triple jab" after approval for single shots was withdrawn.
The single shots were off-patent, weren't they? I've never been sure of that.
Posted by: Gatogorra | February 23, 2010 at 11:11 AM
Prof Trisha Greenhalgh might not have such a big smile on her face if she had chronic diarrhea for two years....
Sadly, "big science" has become a commodity to be hyped, bought and sold.
Posted by: cmo | February 23, 2010 at 11:07 AM
What this is all about is a few people gets ahead in the world and they think the rest of us are dumb and stupid. No one will ever figure out that these elites have outside interest.
That is what the Environmental government people thought too. They tell us the world will come to an end because all the (faked) data shows that CO2 (stuff we breath out of our lungs) is causing global warming, sea levels rising, polar bear extinction. I might have believed them if they said the cows are farting mercury from all the vaccines they receive! Now these science guys are having to resign with careers ended.
Can't wait till these "vaccine cause no harm" has to see their careers ending, and people making fun of them.
Posted by: Benedetta | February 23, 2010 at 11:04 AM
Thank you Jake for informing the public about these powerful conflicts of interests.
What grotesque corruption
Dr. Greenhalgh seems to have many competing interests, non of which is the health of autistic kids.
What a joke the GMC is. How insanely ironic it is that they found Wakefield guilty of unethical conduct. If this wasn't so sad it would be funny.
Posted by: Katie Wright | February 23, 2010 at 09:46 AM
Ah, so Conflicting Interests are OK as long as they defend pharmaceutical interests. These people are such hypocrites....
GH, you bring up and interesting point. I often wonder why Dr. Wakefield's legal team didn't fight as hard as it should have. Could it be that Dr. Wakefield knew he wouldn't get a fair trial and that he would challenge the verdict in a real court?
Posted by: Craig Willoughby | February 23, 2010 at 09:27 AM
Oh dear, Professor Greenhalgh's 'critical appraisal' of the Wakefield et al's paper was awful, shameful in fact. How can she be allowed to get away with it?
Posted by: Cybertiger | February 23, 2010 at 08:58 AM
I guess that that is a different article. The British Government have ties to GSK and the industry in a number of ways - for instance the medicines licensing authority (the MHRA) which is a Department of Health agencey funded by the pharmaceutical industry. The House of Commons Health Committee roundly condemned the MHRA in 2005 for its failure to separate its culture from the industry:
It also condemned the Department of Health for failing to distinguish the interests of the industry from that of the public.
The government are also in partnership with the main British pharmaceutical manufacturers in "a competitive task force":
(a lot of stuff on this link I haven't read).
We also know that the NHS (which is "state" rather than "government" - but what's the real difference? - indemnified GSK over Pluserix vaccine in 1988):
And then there was Gordon Brown's Treasury Advisory Committee:
I am not sure why anyone would assume that Bill Gates has the economic interests of British citizens at heart, but there you are! Admittedly, the committee looks more like a monument to Gordon Brown's inordinate vanity and psychophancy than a viable body.
Posted by: John Stone | February 23, 2010 at 07:03 AM
Great article John, isn’t it so sad that such simple but crucial detail is omitted by the GMC/GSK trial that even Polpot would have been disgusted with.
Posted by: Angus Files | February 23, 2010 at 06:58 AM
The key quote there is 'the government itself is not a disinterested player'. The only chance of a fair hearing for Dr. Wakefield will be in independent courts, and I wonder if a case would be possible under UK / European employment law for restraint of trade. The GMC statement about project 172-96 never being undertaken: 'In the light of all the available evidence, the Panel rejected this proposition' does not appear to be justified anywhere in the 143 pages of the document (if it is I can't find it), which seems ample grounds for complaint against the procedure. The evidence for false testimony by Horton and Zuckerman also appears very strong, and would no doubt be viewed differently by a jury without a company man appointed as foreman. Their testimony might even be different in a court where perjury would have consequences.
I am no lawyer, and I don't know what power European law gives to the GMC, but I would be surprised if it were so absolute as to prevent the possibility of action.
Posted by: GH | February 23, 2010 at 06:47 AM
Well done John. You so efficiently illustrate the hypocrisy, dirty dealings and hidden agenda present in this whole dreadful affair. Thank you.
Posted by: Seonaid | February 23, 2010 at 06:09 AM
Ok so they put these doctors 'on trial' for behaving unethically, but now they are celebrating that because these doctors are 'proven' unethical ... somehow their research is proven invalid??
And the theories arising from their research are no longer fit to pursue, BECAUSE they were misbehaving?? Even if, hypothetically speaking, these three doctors behaved very badly towards patients, how does that disprove what they observed?
The GMC hearing was about ethical misconduct. How does the verdict of ethical misconduct prove anything about the safety of MMR?
Posted by: Confused | February 23, 2010 at 06:07 AM
An awful lot of people are making an awful lot of money, on the backs of our dead and damaged kids.
Posted by: Alli Edwards UK | February 23, 2010 at 05:23 AM
Way to go John! But you left out the part of your DoH partnering with GlaxoSmithKline.
Posted by: Jake Crosby | February 23, 2010 at 01:01 AM