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.
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.
A superb expose. Now we have a name and a face to the bad guy.
Posted by: PS | April 01, 2010 at 04:52 AM
Andrew Wakefield will surely speak his mind and I note that John Walker-Smith has said in his one public statement:
"I have always and will continue to contest any allegation of wrongdoing".
I have already offered the view that it is a waste of time pursuing the Justice Eady angle, though I am not an expert - it seems to me that Deer had this data before based on his allegations as far back as 2004 and by material actually posted on his website. I wouldn't take it either that all the parents have been idle over these issues, the greater diffculty is getting people in authority to act.
But shifting the onus back on the people offended against, doesn't I must say seem exactly fair. I would really like to know what Deer has to say by way of explanation, or the Royal Free Hospital. All the rest is just adding insult to injury, and deflects attention from the real issue.
Deer's 2009 allegations are integrally absurd and have been dealt with by Andrew Wakefield himself at great length:
If Andrew Wakefield had fiddled the results in the alleged manner how did the paper ever get out, why was it not the subject of protest at a later time amid all the political pressures, and why even now have none of the 12 other signatories come to Deer's support over the matter? The claims were obvious rubbish.
Posted by: John Stone | March 31, 2010 at 11:54 AM
When Princess Elizabeth was advised to beg for mercy after being implicated in a plot to overthrow Queen Mary, she refused, stating that to beg for mercy was to plead guilty, and she was innocent.
I hope Dr. Wakefield speaks his mind.
Posted by: GH | March 31, 2010 at 09:51 AM
Undeclared conflicts of interest matter, of course. They guide researchers and investigators away from one set of important issues and towards matters which help promote their interests.
But one issue does puzzle me in reviewing autism/vaccine reporting - the Sunday Times only last year claimed that children's medical data within the Lancet paper (now withdrawn) had been falsified. Apparently the newspaper had access to actual children's medical records.
These may have come to them as a result of the Eady legal ruling during the libel action (reported elsewhere). If they did there's a question of possible contempt of court for using the data journalistically.
So what is the consensus? Did the breach of confidence (if it was such) make the reporting of alleged fabrication of data unlawful and should the Lancet paper have been left in place? Or was the reporting in the wider public interest and therefore justified?
How much were the co-authors aware of any fabrication?
How much were parents whose children's medical histories were used in the paper (used or misused?) aware of what had happened in the writing up of the Lancet paper?
Are they in any position to go to court to protest at the use by the Sunday Times of their children's medical histories?
Posted by: Journal Checker | March 31, 2010 at 08:03 AM
You are certainly right. One problem is that we have no tradition in the UK of the lawyers briefing the press. So, the media got the 85 pages of allegations at the beginning, and the findings of fact two and half-years alter at the end, and various politically motivated briefings through the GMC press office, but the defence never got reported at any stage through mainstream sources.
The next stage will be very disturbing since the doctors are supposed to plead for leniency from the panel based on the panel's findings. We have reached the place where two and two make five, and we all learn to love Big Brother?
Posted by: John Stone | March 31, 2010 at 03:02 AM
Thank you for explaining that, John. I had no idea about Southall-- goes to show you how difficult it is to dig for some of these details and how reliant we are on the front lines sleuths for some of this.
I hope there's some justice. What disturbs me so much is that the forced and fabricated complexity of the prosecution's case is its own "deep cover": members of the public would not have the patience to suss out the details for themselves if another injustice were committed.
Posted by: Gatogorra | March 30, 2010 at 09:53 PM
Have you all visited the fun web site muckety.com, where connections are made clear and visible? They have started a diagram of Crispin Davis:
Posted by: Coralie | March 30, 2010 at 08:18 PM
Didn't George Orwell predict this in 1945?
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Animal Pharm, anybody?
Posted by: Taximom5 | March 30, 2010 at 05:48 PM
My comment below to Gatogorra should of course have read:
'particularly the panel's finding are supposed to be "beyond reasonable doubt"'
There might also be strong arguments about the reliability of Richard Horton's testimony, for one.
Posted by: John Stone | March 30, 2010 at 04:36 PM
PS Thank you, everybody, for your kind remarks. John
Posted by: John Stone | March 30, 2010 at 02:35 PM
I don't think the High Court is predictable but there is lots to argue over - particularly as they findings are supposed to be "beyond reasonable doubt", when they manifestly haven't given the doctor's the bemenfit of the doubt on the strongest defences and on any grounds. For one thing I don't see how they could decree after the event that ethical permission 162-95 didn't pertain, and you really want a judge to have a look at that.
I don't like the fact that Meadow escaped but it was a decision on a narrow issue and not a verdict on his entire detestable career. His colleague Southall has not found a remedy in the High Court and has now gone to the Court of Appeal.
Posted by: John Stone | March 30, 2010 at 02:30 PM
Ditto what Jake Crosby said.
Thank you, John, as always.
Posted by: Sandy Gottstein | March 30, 2010 at 01:41 PM
Joan Campbell said:-
'I wrote to Jack Straw, the Office of Judical Review and the Ombusdman and got nowhere with this and was just fobbed off again.'
Sorry Joan. The Ombudsman is there for the UK public in exactly the same way as the Press Complaints Commission is supposed to uphold basic decency and honesty standards in our newspaper reports. Brian Deer and the Davis siblings must be laughing all the way to the banks to withdraw their sackfulls of 'dirty money'. As for Jack Straw, at least the straw man in The Wizard of Oz never PRETENDED to have a brain!!
I have a much better idea. Our semi bankrupt country should abolish these useless quangos altogether, thus saving millions of pounds of public money. The GMC, which is a compulsory quango by subscription, should be forced by law to hold a secret ballot amongst all those doctors registered with the GMC, BEFORE spending millions of pounds of their subscription money on farcical 'kangaroo courts' like the one which 'crucified' Wakefield et al.
Posted by: Jenny Allan | March 30, 2010 at 01:08 PM
I am continually impressed with how maturely and rationally you manage to wade through this mess, despite your strong personal connection to this issue. We can all learn from the patience and calmness you've shown in exposing just how rampant the corruption really is.
Posted by: Jake Crosby | March 30, 2010 at 12:44 PM
The entire thing is revolting-- the conflicts and lies so blatant. I hear people discussing the next steps in the appeals process, but as I'm sure Drs. Wakefield, Murch and Walker-Smith are aware, the High Court is the body that deemed the transgressions of Roy Meadows, the "Munchausen-by-Proxy" doctor, as "not serious" enough to deny him the return of his license. Meadows, as many know, perjured testimony which sent innocent, bereaved mother(s) to jail.
Since MBP has been used to reverse blame for vaccine injuries onto parents in the case of cot deaths or to silence parents complaining about vaccine injuries, it seems it was useful to uphold Meadows and his diagnosis. I'm not thrilled about how the High Court's decision making process might translate for the GMC three.
Posted by: Gatogorra | March 30, 2010 at 11:37 AM
Johon is accurate on ALL counts, as there simply is nothing left to be said…once you understand the compartmentalisation and pressured influence from the key positions (in this case the Director) down to the unsuspecting foot soldiers who are simply doing their jobs and believe in what they’re doing along with unknowingly believing in the honesty of a (crooked, bought and paid for) Director.
This unsuspecting nature is what propels the New World Order (NWO) criminality, because honest people can’t wrap their arms around how evil someone that close to them, on a daily basis, can be!Thesuccess of the Davis family on the back of the suffering of millions of children vaccinated in good faith.. Shame on then and NWO..
Posted by: ANGUS FILES | March 30, 2010 at 10:26 AM
There are so many names of these rotten little little creeps to remember. BUT REMEMBER THEM WE WILL!! WILL WE NOT!
Posted by: Benedetta | March 30, 2010 at 10:26 AM
When I found out the truth about Crispin Davis and his brother the judge Nigel Davis (both Sirs if you mind) and conflicts of interest.
I wrote to Jack Straw, the Office of Judical Review and the Ombusdman and got nowhere with this and was just fobbed off again. I am so used to that happening now that it does not faze me one bit and I shall keep on fighting for justice for our children now teenagers and nearly adults.
Posted by: Joan Campbell | March 30, 2010 at 09:50 AM
The connection diagram regarding conflict of interest in this arena of Dr. Wakefield's persecution is a challenge. Dr. Wakefield (on the left side of piece of paper) vs persecution/prosecution (on the right side of the paper) pharmaceutical board, general medical council, judge, scientific journal publisher, reporter, newspaper owner, newspaper editor (all connected in some way to money from vaccines). Maybe it is just one big solid blob over the whole mess on the right.
And to think this could have happened in the USA, wait…CDC director, and ??, wait a minute, look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Gerberding .
“A long time proponent of drug and vaccine intervention, Dr. Gerberding earned the nickname ‘Chicken Little’ during her tenure at CDC for claiming that each successive flu season might be the one that puts the 1918 Spanish Influenza to shame. Yet there has always been a strange cognitive dissonance in her message. The most recent in a long list of government bureaucrats to leave the public dole and take up the high-paying cause of Big Pharma is none other than former head of the CDC Julie Gerberding. One year and one day from the date of departure from the Taxpayer payroll, Ms. Gerberding takes the reins as president of the vaccine division of the principle descendant of I.G. Farben: Merck Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Gerberding may reside in Georgia, but does not hold a license to practice medicine in that state. She allowed her license to lapse in 2003.”
Posted by: Jim Thompson | March 30, 2010 at 08:42 AM
That pretty much defines a combination in restraint of trade.
Posted by: kerbob1 | March 30, 2010 at 07:04 AM
Well done John.
I think you will find there is a lot of 'dirty secrets' behind what is going on here.
Words fail me as to the injustice that has been done to Dr. Wakefield, Professor Walker-Smith and Professor Simon Murch and the Lancet children.
We have to hold our heads up high in April when these three doctors will probability be crucified and continue fighting for the sake of our sick children.
Hopefully it will be on to the 'high courts' after that.
The truth will out.
Posted by: Isabella Thomas | March 30, 2010 at 04:07 AM