Taking Umbrage with Dr. Nancy Snyderman
New York, Politics and Autism

What’s Behind Ben Goldacre?

Ben Goldacre GSK

By John Stone

After years of secrecy on the matter confirmation has finally come to light that Guardian ‘Bad Science’ journalist Ben Goldacre is the son of Oxford professor of public health  Michael  J Goldacre (HERE). Prof Goldacre has been director since 1986 of the UK Department Health funded Unit of Healthcare Epidemiology (HERE).  The family relationship is mentioned in a review of Goldacre junior’s Bad Science book in the peer-review journal Medicine, Conflict and Survival  (25, p.255-7, 2009)by Dr Ian Fairlie, but there has been a long term lack of candour about the matter. While the reasons for the secrecy remain unknown it is possible that if the relationship, which has never before been mentioned in the mainstream media or scientific publications, had been common knowledge it might have raised questions about the independence of the younger Goldacre’s views.  Goldacre senior was a co-author of a study of the effects of GlaxoSmithKline’s notorious Urabe strain version of MMR, Pluserix, after it was suddenly withdrawn from public use in 1992 (HERE): the Unit has produced several MMR related studies.

Ben Goldacre’s column which started in 2003 has featured his largely epidemiological approach to health issues, most prominently MMR and autism. Coming apparently from nowhere, journalistically speaking, he was promoted to the role of an “opinion leader” from the outset. His early article MMR: Never mind the facts won the accolade of the GlaxoSmithKline sponsored Association of British Science Writers’ award for the best feature article of 2003.
The article, however, used flawed epidemiology for which he later offered no defence (HERE), as well as including an anonymous attack on Andrew Wakefield by one of Wakefield’s colleagues. This was just the first of several notable interventions Ben Goldacre in the MMR affair. A stock-in-trade has been his generalised attacks on parents of MMR damaged children. His Bad Science blogsite for a long time offered this intimidatory advice to would-be contributors:

“..personal anecdotes about your MMR tragedy will be deleted for your own safety”

A fundamental of Ben Goldacre’s journalistic method is the ad hominem and he always talks across opponents: he can always depend on the greater prominence of his published views and he never answers the many awkward criticisms.

The Goldacre dynasty seem to be one of several with on-going connections with the MMR affair:

  • *Dr Evan Harris, the former MP, who accompanied Brian Deer to make accusations against Andrew Wakefield and colleagues, and led a debate under privilege in the House of Commons making further allegations of unethical practices (HERE) is the son of paediatrician Prof Frank Harris who sat on the Committee on Safety in Medicines and the adverse reactions to vaccine committee ARVI in the early 1990s when Pluserix MMR vaccine had to be withdrawn (HERE) , (HERE) , (HERE).
  • *Paul Nuki, the Sunday Times features editor, who hired journalist Brian Deer to investigate Andrew Wakefield with the statement “I need something big” on “MMR” ( HERE) was the son of Prof George Nuki who was on the Committee on Safety of Medicines when MMR and Pluserix were introduced in the late 1980s.
  • *The Davis brothers Sir Crispin and Sir Nigel. Sir Crispin was CEO of Reed Elsevier, publishers of the Lancet, when Lancet editor Richard Horton denounced Andrew Wakefield to the BBC but was also a non-executive director of MMR defendants GlaxoSmithKline, and Sir Nigel was the High Court judge who upheld the Legal Services Commission to withhold funding from the MMR case a week later without disclosing a family connection to the case (HERE). Sir Crispin gave evidence against Andrew Wakefield to a Commons committee as CEO of Reed Elsevier, cross-examined by Evan Harris, in which he neither disclosed his GSK directorship or his brother’s judicial involvement in the case (HERE).
  • * In 2009 James Murdoch CEO of News International, publishers of the Sunday Times joined the board of GSK, with a responsibility to "review external issues that might have the potential for serious impact upon the group's business and reputation" (HERE). This was immediately followed by renewed “overkill” type attacks in Times newspapers on Andrew Wakefield by Brian Deer and others.

For several years Ben Goldacre kept his distance from the Deer allegations against Wakefield, preferring to use the epidemiological literature to combat and deride concern about MMR and autism. In another ABSW award winning article Don’t dumb me down sponsored by Syngenta he wrote:

“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.”

Remarkably, Evan Harris - who originally made the allegations about scientific fraud against Wakefield and colleagues under privilege in a House of Commons debate in March 2004  – was on the panel of judges that made the award (HERE).

Indeed, Goldacre was right: the claims were convoluted and tenuous. When the GMC finally brought in its verdict against the three doctors in January 2010 it managed to find them guilty both of conducting the Legal Aid Board protocol in the Lancet study and guilty of not conducting it at the same time. Since the Lancet paper was as Goldacre had stated a ‘a perfectly good small case series report’ and “ an early report” as paper itself stated, Wakefield and colleagues were found with remarkable ingenuity to be in innumerable respects in breach of the terms of the protocol which they had reasonably pleaded they were not doing.

By this stage, however, Goldacre had “dumbed” himself “down” and welcomed the verdict (HERE). In retrospect this looks like nothing so much as an elaborate ploy in which the medical and political establishment were giving themselves a policy in case the GMC failed to bring in a guilty verdict. If this had happened the polemical position evolved by Ben Goldacre over seven years, based on dodgy epidemiology, might have provided the main defence for MMR.

There have been a number of other key moments when Ben Goldacre has intervened in the MMR debate. In 2005 Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, alone in the journalistic profession, correctly spied the weakness in the newly published Cochrane review of MMR (HERE). While this had been successfully spun to give the impression MMR was safe, the real findings were that after sifting 5000 related studies and reviewing the 31 best the evidence base for MMR safety was “largely inadequate”, while individually several of the autism studies had come in for scathing criticism, and none of them was strong (HERE). Goldacre berated Phillips for knowing nothing about science, but the reality was that she was the only journalist who had taken the trouble to read the small print and dared to say the emperor had no clothes. There is no doubt in this attack that ad hominem prevailed over substantive discussion of the science (HERE). There is a dangerous message here from Goldacre of ‘leave it to the scientists’, but scientists are human, subject to institutional bullying and manipulation: many will not speak up against the powerful interests, or they speak, as did Cochrane, “with forked tongue”.  Goldacre’s attack on Phillips sounded plausible, but the problem with the literature that Cochrane reviewed was not that the science was “imperfect” as Goldacre put it, it was that it was mostly no good whatsoever. And hiding behind a few weasel statements Cochrane had said just that.

In 2007 Goldacre led an attack via the Guardian on its sister newspaper the Observer contributing to the dismissal of its editor, Roger Alton. The Observer had published ahead of the GMC hearing against Drs Wakefield, Walker-Smith and Murch an account of a study which showed the autism rate amongst Cambridgeshire schoolchildren to be running at 1 in 58. One of the authors concerned about the seriousness of the situation and delays in publication had leaked an early version of the paper to the newspaper. The story was denied by lead author Simon Baron-Cohen, ridiculed by Goldacre, and the Rwanda massacre denying director of Science Media Centre, Fiona Fox, organised an institutional hanging party against the newspaper. Then, a few months later, when the furore had died down, the article had been removed, the Observer editor sacked, Baron-Cohen gave a presentation at the London IMFAR conference, which showed that story had been  correct all along (HERE) .

It has been a lamentable feature of Ben Goldacre’s contribution to the public discussion of science in the UK that he has everywhere generated an atmosphere of intolerance in support of his views, and rather than raise the tone of the debate it has encouraged a new kind of scientific infantilism, in which you deride your opponents and defer to authority. The ruthlessness of this power was demonstrated when LBC radio journalist Jeni Barnett questioned the heavy-hand of the MMR lobby. She could not have been proved more right when the station was inundated by protests from Goldacre’s website, LBC removed the broadcast from its website, and Goldacre arranged for Liberal-Democrat Members of Parliament to organise a motion censuring Barnett: the second signatory inevitably being Evan Harris (HERE , HERE).

A recent development in Ben Goldacre’s career has been the projection of himself as an arbiter of research ethics. It remains hard to judge the sincerity of his position. While he has recently attacked GSK over the diabetes drug Avandia  (HERE) this is only after many years of controversy surrounding the product and with the US Food and Drugs Administration about to take action. Only last year he led a hostile campaign against Express journalist, Lucy Johnston, for her reporting of GSK’s HPV vaccine Cervarix. (HERE). Yet the long term efficacy of the product is still to be demonstrated, and to attack concerns about safety is to prejudice the issue in relation to those who suffer adverse effects. Goldacre’s angry denunciation is an essence no better than a public relations agenda (on behalf of whom?), and can only prejudice the science. Johnston, on the other hand, was just trying to report.

There is not a little irony in the doctor-journalist who sells ‘MMR is Safe’ T-shirts, mugs and baby-bibs from his website (HERE ) calling for an end to scientific spin (HERE). Did Cochrane say that? No, Cochrane said “The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing is largely inadequate” HERE, which is quite different. The calculation apparently would appear to be that we are by now all too stupid or too intimidated to call his bluff. 

I agree with Ben Goldacre, we need an end to spin and he can start at home: we not only need to know what we are being told, we also need to know why. And we can do with an end to the totalitarian tactics.

John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.



John Stone

Hi Stella,

Yes - it was the award ceremony in which he received an accolade for his article 'MMR: Never Mind the Facts' (indeed he didn't) and he also displays a beautiful certificate with the GSK logo on it as well: he looks tickled pink. The irony was somewhat driven home by his 2007 BMJ article 'Journalists, anything to declare?' to which I contributed a number of Rapid Responses:


Re: Restrictions on hospitality apply to journalists and doctors

I am grateful to Heather Simmons.

We can all benefit from Ben Goldacre's wisdom. For instance, in 2004
Goldacre received the Association of British Science Writer's (ABSW) award
for "the best feature on a science subject in a national or regional
newspaper (2003) [1] for an article on MMR: 'Never mind the facts' [2].
The major sponsor of the award of £2000 was MMR manufacturer and defendent
Glaxo SmithKline [1]. This has not been disclosed in many Guardian
articles mentioning MMR, nor was it recently Goldacre's BMJ piece 'MMR,
the scare stories are back' [3].

I also wonder whether this one of the best examples of Goldacre's
work. Goldacre cited four studies three of which were subsequently
reviewed by Cochrane 2005 [4]. Of these Cochrane stated:

"The study demonstrates the difficulties of drawing inferences in the
absence of a non-exposed population or a clearly defined causal
hypothesis". (Re: Taylor 1999)

"The number and possible impact of biases in this study was so high
that interpretation of the results is impossible". (Re: Fombonne 2001)

"The interpretation of the study by Madsen was made difficult by the
unequal length of follow up for younger cohort members as well as the use
of the date of diagnosis rather than onset of symptoms of autism". (Re:
Madsen 2002)

The fourth study mentioned was the most remarkable of all, the
Peltola letter to the Lancet of May 1998 which recorded no cases of autism
or inflammatory bowel disease following 3 million applications of MMR in
Finland simply because they were not in the follow up criteria of the
larger study [5].

Moreover, there was a complex of funding issues unrelated by Goldacre.
The Peltola study received funding from MMR defendent Merck [5]. The
department of Elizabeth Miller who contributed to the Taylor study [6]
benefited from funding by MMR defendents SmithKline Beecham and Aventis
Pasteur [7]. At least one MMR study authored by her and Brent Taylor
received funding from SmithKline Beecham [8]. The Fombonne study disclosed
no interests [9] but according to a later study [10]:

"In the United Kingdom, Dr Fombonne has provided advice on the
epidemiology and clinical aspects of autism to scientists advising
parents, to vaccine manufacturers, and to several government committees
between 1998 and 2001. Since June 2004, Dr Fombonne has been an expert
witness for vaccine manufacturers in US thimerosal litigation. None of his
research has ever been funded by the industry."

So you can't be too careful!

[1] ABSW Science Writers Award 2003:

[2] Ben Goldacre, 'Never mind the facts', Guardian 11 December 2003:

[3] Ben Goldacre, 'MMR, the scare stories are back', BMJ 21 July
2007: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/335/7611/126

V Demicheli, T Jefferson, A Rivetti, D Price,[Review]
'Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children', Cochrane (Wiley

[5] Heikki Peltola, Annamari Patja, Pauli Leinikki, Martti Valle,
Irja Davidkin, Mikho Paunio, 'No evidence for measles, mumps, and rubella
vaccine-associated inflammatory bowel disease or autism in a 14-year
prospective study', Lancet vol 351, May 1998, p. 1327-8:

[6] Brent Taylor, Elizabeth Miller, C Paddy Farrington, Maria-
Christina Petropoulos, Isabelle Favot-Mayaud, Jun Li, Pauline A Waight,
'Autism and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological
evidence for a causal association, Lancet vol 135, 12 June 1999.

[7] According to Geier M and Geier D (P3R to PEDIATRICS,' Thimerosal does not belong in vaccines' 8 September 2004) this funding was disclosed by Elizabeth Miller to the Committee on Safety of Medicines in 2002, and this was not denied by Dr Miller in her response: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/eletters/114/3/584.

[8] E Miller, P Waight, C P Farrington, N Andrews, J Stowe, B Taylor,
'Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and MMR vaccine'. vol. 84 p.227-9
March 2001, http://adc.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/84/3/227

[9] Eric Fombonne, FRCPsych and Suniti Chakrabarti, FRCPCH,
'No Evidence for A New Variant of Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Induced Autism
',PEDIATRICS Vol. 108 No. 4 October 2001, p. e58

[10] Eric Fombonne, MD, Rita Zakarian, ME, Andrew Bennett, PhD,
CPsych, Linyan Meng, MSc and Diane McLean-Heywood, MA, 'Pervasive
Developmental Disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and Links
With Immunizations', Published online July 3, 2006
PEDIATRICS Vol. 118 No. 1 July 2006, pp. e139-e150 (doi:10.1542/peds.2005-
2993) , http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/118/1/e139

OK Ben, let's be transparent

In the name of transparency BMJ readers may like to know that Ben
Goldacre is a research fellow at the Maudsley Hospital [1]. In this regard
his prominent intervention in the WiFi dispute with the BBC Panorama
programme earlier this year may be relevant [2], noting that the Mobile
Phones Research Unit which researches this issue [3] is for some reason
part of the Institute of Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital [4]. Given Dr
Goldacre's normal fastidiousness it is not clear why this information has
not been made readily available.

It is also fair to question whether the sarcastic tone of an article
entitled 'Watch out for that blob of radiation!' or his personal attack on
another journalist [2]:

"The Independent has put its green columnist Julia Stephenson on to
Panorama's Wi-Fi scare story: a charming beef heiress living in Chelsea on
a trust fund, who believes her symptoms of tiredness and headache are
caused by electromagnetic radiation from phones and Wi-Fi."

constitutes good or objective science.

[1] Royal College of Psychiatrists, Liason Psychiatry Faculty, Annual
Residential Conference 2008: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/ProvProgLi08.pdf

[2] Ben Goldacre 'Watch out for that blob of radiation' Guardian 2
June 2007:

[3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6583815.stm

[4] http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/departments/?locator=364&context=975

...and the Maudsley should be transparent too

On reflection the implications for the Maudsley Hospital and its
teaching institution, the Institute of Psychiatry, are profound. They have
in effect indulged Dr Goldacre's career, and benefitted from his
journalism, without taking responsibility for it. Dr Goldacre, for
example, gave a seminar at the Institute entitled 'Science and Journalism'
on 10 December [1]. A check on Pub Med suggests the only articles he has
published are journalistic.

Does the hospital take responsibility for Dr Goldacre's website where
he warns bloggers:

".. personal anecdotes about your MMR tragedy will be deleted for
your own safety" [2]

Is this ethically tolerable, or a proper way to do science? I believe
they have to look at their position.

[1 ]http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/departments/?locator=364&context=779

[2] http://www.badscience.net/?page_id=7

Re: Ben Goldacre's publications

I can assure Michael Calais that I have no grudge against Ben
Goldacre. I have taken a close interest in the MMR affair, and vaccine
related issues. Goldacre has been prominent and publicly influential in
the MMR debate since 2002, so I am legitimately concerned with accuracy
and transparency. I note my objections to the science in the GSK/ABSW
award winning 2003 article [1,2] have never been met. Nor were Goldacre's
close connections with the psychiatric community made clear, for example,
with intervention in the Observer affair earlier this year [3]. For,
instance a senior luminary of the Institute of Psychiatry is Sir Michael
Rutter who has taken a strong line on the issue of MMR [4]. Simon Baron-
Cohen, who was quoted in the article, formerly held a senior position at
the Institute [5].

It is unusual for someone in Goldacre's position to withold their
place of work: there is a box for this information even in Rapid
Responses, and if Goldacre had published research in the recent past he
would certainly have had to make such a declaration. There is obviously a
problem with someone attached to an institution representing themselves as
an independent journalist.

I bow to Michael Calais over my failure to turn up the 1997 study in
Pub Med. I typed into the search engine "Goldacre, B" and "Ben Goldacre"
and neither search recovered the article. However, the article is
irrelevant to the present circumstances, and changes nothing.

[1] http://www.pfd.co.uk/clients/goldben/a-pre-image.html

[2] John Stone, 'Re: Restrictions on hospitality apply to journalist
and doctors',http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/335/7618/480#176662

[3] Ben Goldacre, 'The MMR story that wasn't',

[4] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4311613.stm

[5] http://www.jkp.com/mindreading/documents/SBC_bio.pdf

Re: Re: Restrictions on hospitality apply to journalists and doctors

I wonder if Heather Simmonds can confirm that under code which it is
apparently her job to enforce Glaxo SmithKline would be under an
obligation to make sure that Dr Goldacre acknowledges their support when
wrting as doctor, scientist and journalist on relevant topics?

I would also be grateful if she could elucidate the role and
responsibilities of such lobby organisations (charitable or not) as Sense
about Science and Science Media Centre, which receive industrial funding,
but pose as the objective voice of science. I note that her own parent
body, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI),
subscribes to Sense about Science.


This one they didn't publish:

"Re: Re: Restrictions on hospitality apply to journalists and doctors"

Ben Goldacre won the same award again for 2005 for the article 'Don't
dumb me down', which also referred to his previous award winning article
on MMR [1,2]. On this occasion sponsorship of the award had passed to
agricultural bio-tech company Syngenta [1], which perhaps Goldacre ought
to disclose when engaging in polemics to do with food and nutritionists
such such as 'Tell us the truth about nutritionists'[3]. Also of interest
is that on the panel of judges for the award were not only two other
Guardian journalists Tim Radford and Michael White, but also Dr Evan
Harris MP [4], who accompanied Brian Deer to the Lancet offices to accuse
Andrew Wakefield of malpractice in February 2004, and subsequently led a
Commons debate on the topic.

On that occasion Harris acknowledged the patronage of MMR defendents
Aventis [5] and he had also been a Glaxo Wellcome Fellow (which by that
stage had been subsumed into MMR defendent Glaxo SmithKline) [6]. More
recently Dr Harris has acknowledged in the members register the assistance
of the organisation Sense about Science:

"I have been provided with the services of an intern to conduct
research work and co-ordinate a project by Sense About Science, an
independent charitable trust." (Registered 30 January 2007) [7]

Dr Harris describes Sense about Science as an independent trust but
it is in fact funded by industry including Glaxo SmithKline, the
Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), and Elsevier,
publishers of the Lancet . George Monbiot warned about the influence of
the organisation in December 2003 in an article: 'Invasion of the
Entryists: how did a cultish political network become the public face of
the scientific establishment?'[9]. Sense about Science credits itself and
the Science Media Centre with having turned the debate on MMR and
"Frankenstein foods" since 2001 [10]. I do not know whether the ABPI and
the others still fund Sense about Science but perhaps Heather Simmonds
ought to look at it.


[2] 8 September 2005,

[3] BMJ, 10 February 2007,


[5] http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2004-03-15.128.2

[6] http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/328/7442/726-a#56634

[7] http://www.theyworkforyou.com/regmem/?p=10261


[9] 9 December 2003,

[10] http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/pdf/Healthwatch.pdf


In answer to the original question "What’s Behind Ben Goldacre?", it appears to be a display stand for the Science Writers' Awards, 2003 - in this instance, anyway.


Superb piece. Thank you John Stone.

andy s

"Science Media Centre, Fiona Fox"

Who has, I believe, zero scientific qualifications, but a long history of pharmaceutical worship common to Revolutionary Communist Party alumni.

John Fryer Chemist

Professor Meadow was paid huge sums of money for his expertise.

Someone in the trial against Angela Cannings STUNG the police with their bill for their expertise.

We do not know which JUDAS this was but at least one asked and got far more money than they were entitled to.

The giving a knighthood also amounts to protection from any crime including mass murder.

Whatever; the papers of Meadow stand, the ability to practice and his personal fortune from his expert testimonies.

John Stone

Hi Dot,

The problem is what significance can be given to not finding something if the studies were no good in the first place:


Dot Murray

I find it interesting that you quote with approval the line from the Cochrane Review article starting "The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine..."

but not the line just earlier in the same Cochrane review:

"Exposure to MMR was unlikely to be associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, autism"

Autistic Debris

The appositeness of Margo's remark is somewhat elusive. Of course, there are not huge financial, commercial and political interests involved in teaching Latin these days.

Margo Milne

My father taught Latin. Doesn't make me an ancient Roman!

Angus Files

Martin Walker on Goldacre..



Jenny Allan

Mike Stanton said:

"This was a study that criticized Pluserix and demonstrated a link between the Urabe mumps component and aseptic meningitis."

Jake said:
"And totally played down its potential public health impact":

This article was not a 'study'; it was a government sponsored attempt to ameliorate public and medical concern about the Urabe scandal. Some 'statistics' were produced to claim that 'wild' measles was 4x more likely to cause aseptic meningitis, but they then go on to say that the diagnosed cases of aseptic meningitis were a 'chance' finding in children investigated for seizures. They failed to state that seizures was another serious side effect caused by this vaccine. The implication was that aseptic meningitis was no 'big deal' in children anyway!!

How was the aseptic meningitis diagnosed?? In exactly the same way as meningitis is always diagnosed, by a lumbar puncture or spinal tap.

This article was written in 1993, 5 years before the Wakefield et al fateful Lancet article and 17 years before Dr Wakefield and his colleague Professor Walker Smith were struck off by the GMC for, amongst other things, 'subjecting' chldren to unnecessary lumbar punctures and spinal taps. Oh the irony!!

John Stone

Patron 99

I believe the Wellcome Trust severed its ties with Glaxo Wellcome in the 1990s. Interesting that they should be in partnership over a project with Merck (who obviously badly need the money). They also sponsor Ben Goldacre:

"Competing interests: BG has written newspaper articles and part of a book criticising questionable activities in the drug industry, and has a Clinical Research Training Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust."

Ben Goldacre,'Is the conflict of interest unacceptable when drug companies conduct trials on their own drugs? Yes'


Of course, I agree with what Ben Goldacre says in the article (based on an Oxford Union debate) as far as it goes, although he does not really live up to the title but simply argues that drug industry trials should be more transparent and better regulated.

As to GSK, he certainly benefitted by £2000 from their largesse in 2004.


GSK...no kidding? What a surprise! What's the relationship between GSK and the Wellcome Trust? What's the relationship between the Wellcome Trust and global vaccine policy? What's the relationship between Merck vaccines and the Wellcome Trust?


Let's not forget the priceless interview of the late Dr Maurice Hilleman by Dr Edward Shorter.


John Stone


From left to right

Pallab Ghosh - BBC Science Correspondent and Chairman of ABSW

Dr Ben Goldacre

Dr Alistair Benbow - GSK

Kendra Pettengill

I do not know who the two men bookends are in the photo nor the woman in the middle???? Anyone???

John Stone

I would like to be clear that at no point did I suggest that Prof Goldacre works for the pharmaceutical industry, though it is evident that he works in part for the UK government. A big part of problem we have here is transparency - and I am talking about the problem here and not about the Goldacres. We actually need systems which are not opaque and in which agencies have independence from each other and don't police themselves. What we have instead to a very large extent is an impenetrable morass, and perhaps the only real defence is disclosure.

But disclosure is not enough: we also have to avoid extreme and absurd conflicts, and while it is not at all bothersome that Prof Goldacre took part in reviewing the urabe policy,it is more worrying that the lead author of the study in which he took part was Prof Elizabeth Miller who was on the committee that passed the vaccine for use in the first place:


Again, without making any personal remarks, it is just not possible for someone to investigate themselves. Also, it is a matter of record the Prof Miller's laboratory was heavily funded by the industry:


To defend the public interest you need the media to be as sceptical about the Department of Health ast they are about the Ministry of Defence, and as sceptical about pharmaceutical manufacturers as they are about arms manufacturers. Instead, they now only seem concerned about offending these people.

Apart from this, looking back here at the posts criticising me I think it is noteworthy that they have focused on the potential COI issue, rather than the other matters on which I have taken Ben Goldacre to task, as if they don't need answer.


We cannot continue to "play the fool" for the sociopaths that are so well-described in this article. Our very survival is at stake. The flu season in the Northern Hemisphere is right around the corner.

“CDC Involved in a Cover Up of Miscarriages due to H1N1 Vaccines”


“Flu Vaccine Suspended in Australia”


“New seasonal flu vaccine to contain H1N1 strain”


“Parents recount flu jab nightmare”


“Vaccine warning - Pandemic warning”



@ michael framson - Well stated and very true!

"Its impossible not to see the entire medical/pharma industry as one giant family, engaged in deceit and corruption. The rotten stench of pharmamedicine."

Pharma-medicine is like a rotten fish, that stinks from head to tail.


Science lives and dies based on transparency, credibilty and disclosures of potential conflicts of interest. That his father works for the industry and that he mostly defends it's position except when the obvious is about to occur (removal withdrawl of a prodouct) and has not disclosed and therefore hid the relationship AND he has no real credentials,( he has no licensure to practice medicine anywhere in the world), his opinions, which are clearly biased and conflicted, should be regarded as pure prepaid nonsense.

Why should anyone listen to a non medical person speak authoritatively on a medical subject with which he has no training, none. He cannot even prescribe an aspirin yet he is an authority on vaccines? He proffers his daddy's opinion so his daddy can get paid - even if it kills all of our children.

You people(yeah you people) that support this whack job really need to seek proffesional help, could it be that this is your twisted cry for help?

mary podlesak

@cybertiger, In answer to the question Why?... follow the money.

A Friend

Wonderful reporting. Thank you for putting all those names up in one article. To follow along with this web of deceit is both sad and yet, not surprising. What a shame that so many thousands of children have fallen victim to vaccine injuries due in part to these corrupt men.


A great piece of investigative journalism. Congratulations.
Hans Raible, Stuttgart, Germany

media scholar

A journalist makes himself the hero of the story. A reporter is only a witness.


It is good to glimpse at the dynastic origins of the Goldacre smugness, snarkiness and scientific sophistry ... but a further psychiatric evaluation is required in advance of a trial for crimes against humanity.

Also to the psychiatrist's chair must be brought the professors ... Professors Meadow, Southall, Salisbury, Colquhoun, Greenhalgh and paediatric Professor Terence Stephenson and honorary Professors Horton and Brian Deer.

Why do they do what they do? Why did they do what they've done? Why?

Jim Thompson

This is an interesting insight into the disturbing practice of how journalists’ with integrity are taken out. And revealing this Pharma hit man’s connection to a family member, in turn connected to Pharma, is apt.

Angus Files

Seems to have been a mix up Mike on the link from when i first presented it...strange that it only happen s from our end



John as another writer has written excellent detective work but is it all a great surprise , no not really there are major major conflicts of interest here and while these people hold power they will always get away with the most serious of issues , this information needs to be in a court of law and these so called examples for human beings need to be held to account for their lies and their part in encouraging the sale of vaccines that damage our precious children shame on you all and i have no idea how you sleep of a night

Mike Stanton

you wrote that, "Goldacre senior was a co-author of a study of the effects of GlaxoSmithKline’s notorious Urabe strain version of MMR, Pluserix, after it was suddenly withdrawn from public use in 1992."

This was a study that criticized Pluserix and demonstrated a link between the Urabe mumps component and aseptic meningitis. It was a contribution to vaccine safety and not part of a cover up.


"A fundamental of Ben Goldacre’s journalistic method is the ad hominem"

For some reason, the words pot, kettle, and black floated through mind after reading this.

Angus Files

Mike let them come back on that ...

Pharma Trolls that they are ,that they are..


Angus Files

Cybertiger its a cottage industry no more than 250 employees world wide ...destroying the babies of today forever..


Mike Stanton

Sorry Angus,

I think you have mixed up two different people. I did follow the link after Chris's post. It took me to Chris MacDonald of Saint Mary's University in Nova Scotia. But you listed the research grants of Mike McDonald of the University of British Columbia. Why? They are both philosophers. They both take a keen interest in ethics with regard to science and medicine. But only Chris has commented here and neither Chris MacDonald nor Mike McDonald is paid by the pharmaceutical industry. So why call either of them a pharma troll?

michael framson

Reading this makes my head swirl. Joan Campbell said,"web of deceit and corruption", yes indeed. Its impossible not to see the entire medical/pharma industry as one giant family, engaged in deceit and corruption.

The rotten stench of pharmamedicine.

John Stone, thanks for your great work.

Angus Files

Mike your wrong if you follow th HTTP link on Chris Mc Donald`s link it takes you to his blog ,simple as that.Sorry for any mis leading in the Mac (Scottish origin) and the Mc (Irish origin)...

Apart from that Im correct



And what are we to make of Sacha and Simon, the brothers Baron-Cohen? I think there may be something twistedly familial about these two conflicted jokers.


Evan Harris and Frank, Paul Nuki and George, the Davis brothers and their Dad, James Murdoch and Rupert, Ben Goldacre and Michael. There's something twistedly oedipal about this twisted lot,


Forget MMR, I think we should be concerned for the safety of the mothers.


What a tangled forest of interlinking family trees, whose inhabitants engage in a virtual blood sport to defend their financial territories. Only unlike centuries past, they're fighting sick infants and toddlers.


Chris MacDonald-- I don't think the author accused Goldacre senior of truly being an "expert". That would be untoward.

Mike Stanton

you have the wrong MacDonald. Chris MacDonald, who left the comment is not the Mike MacDonald you link to. Even so, I do not understand how Mike MacDonald, a respected philosopher whose job it is to investigate ethical conflicts in science and medicine, can be described as a "Pharma Troll."

Jeff C.

Outstanding report, but not surprising.

What these individuals haven’t yet accepted is the era of the argument from authority is over, thanks to the internet. It no longer works to say, “you must behave in a certain way, as we are the experts on this and you don’t have the knowledge to decide for yourself”. When someone in authority states that administering seven vaccine doses simultaneously has been conclusively shown to be safe, with some quick googling I can check out myself whether it’s true or not. Two decades ago I would have needed to spend days at a university library. It wasn’t feasible for the masses to fact check the self-appointed experts, we generally went along with what they said.

The vaccine defenders have used the old model of bluster and lies, instead of rational persuasion to win converts. They act as if its 1985 and we have no way to fact check their statements. In doing such, they have lost their credibility as too often their statements have been shown to be hyperbolic, distorted, or just downright false. We are not dummies, I may not be a "vaccinologist", but as an engineer I understand how to perform research, apply the scientific method, and draw my own conclusions. I understand confirmation bias and how the peer review system can be corrupted by those enforcing dogma. Yet those that argue from authority insist that I must discard my own rational thought and conclusions to follow their dictates. Bullshit.

It does make you wonder how much longer us poor slobs will be allowed access to the information. Those in authority think it is too dangerous to allow us to think for ourselves.


Sorry my copy and paste missed this juicy bit no conflicts then Mr Mac Donald...ha ha ha ha

Grants and Awards

Year(s), Granting Agency, $ per year (Principal Investigator)

1991 SSHRC/UBC Business & Professional Ethics, Workshop $19,000 (McDonald)
1991-1994 SSHRC Applied Ethics Network $40,000 (McDonald)
1994-1997 SSHRC Applied Ethics Network $30,000 (McDonald)
1994-1997 SSHRC/Ford Cross Cultural Health Care Ethics $62,000 (Harold Coward)
1997-1998 SSHRC Ethics of Ecological Restoration $5,000 (Eric Higgs)
1999-2001Kidney Foundation Ethnocultural beliefs regarding organ donation $32,500 (Anita Molzahn)
1999 Law Commission Governance relations in medical research $63,500 (McDonald)
1999 SSHRC Bioethics and Health Law $39,924 (Susan Sherwin)
1999 SSHRC Ethics and Society and Health $40,000 (Storch, McDonald, Anderson)
Fujisawa and Hoffman LaRoche Who is the LAD? Understanding the Living Anonymous Donor $310,000 1999-2001 (David Landsberg)
2000 CIHR Training Institute Seed Grant $5,000 (McDonald)
CIHR Towards the Ethical Governance of Canadian Research Involving Humans: Principles, 2002-2004 Policies, Practices and Outcomes $58,970 (McDonald)
2002-2008 CIHR Training Program in Health Ethics Research & Policy $300,000 (McDonald


Chris Mac Donald by your remarks and the help of the web you yourself have a conflict here "McDonald’s work is located at the intersection of theory and practice in health care, business and professional life"


Pharma Trolls nowhere to hide these days..



John Stone

Chris Macdonald & Paul

This is an example of expected candour from the current ICMJE rules:

"4 Use this section to report other relationships or activities that readers could perceive to have influenced, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing, what you wrote in the submitted work."


Chris MacDonald

It seems kind of ironic to accuse Goldacre of ad hominem attacks, when the main focus of your own critique is to criticize Goldacre for who is father is (i.e., an ad hominem attack).

If you actually think Goldacre is in some kind of conflict of interest due to his family, then come out and say so. But there's no way you can squeeze a COI out of something as thin as "he writes on X and his dad is also an expert on X."


It's quite a pattern, isn't it? It reminds me of an ethically inverse version of the story of how generation after generation of the family of Robert Kearns-- inventor of the intermittant windshield wiper-- went after Ford Motor Co. for stealing the patent (from the film, "Flash of Genius"). Except in these cases, the "juniors" of deeply corrupt and dangerous medical authorities feel compelled to continue the cover up of their daddies' crimes. It's downright biblical. I think it deserves its own haiku:

bad science scion
if you extend the crime spree
will daddy love you?

Deborah Nash

Great article John. I think the public would be shocked to read about so many Conflicts of Interest behind the Pro-MMR Brigade. Can we trust anyone of these people? Sadly probably NO. Blood is thicker than water and a favour done here and there, will be returned or rewarded at a later date! What really gets me about these people is their "holier than thou attitude" and their denigration of parents with genuine vaccine safety concerns.


Craig - Goldacre Junior's 'forum rules' used to include 'personal anecdotes about your MMR tragedy will be deleted for your own safety'. It's still there in the Wayback internet archive.



Here is more on Ed Bernays, the uncle to Matthew Frued, the husband of Elizabeth Murdoch who runs many media corps in UK. I think it an interesting connection.
Edward Louis Bernays (November 22, 1891 – March 9, 1995, was an American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda along with Ivy Lee, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations".[1] Combining the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Dr. Sigmund Freud, Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious.

He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the 'herd instinct' that Trotter had described.[citation needed] Adam Curtis's award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations, and Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine.[2]


John,,, let's not forget the other connections between the Murdochs and the Spin Machines...
Elizabeth Murdoch, Jame's sister,,, who runs many media in UK is married to Matthew Freud, who runs Freud Communications, a public relations firm. Freud, related to Sigmund and Ed Bernays.. "The Father of Spin" who used his PR firm to topple governments etc. He wrote Propanda which spoke of how to wind of the masses and feed them propaganda. You should read up on him. These folks are experts at this stuff,,, and the skills have been passed down for generations.


This is amazing John. What a great piece of detective work - and thank you for all the work and thought this must have taken – and for making it available to readers in the public domain. You have made a wonderful job of teasing out the facts, illustrating connections, and piecing together this complex jigsaw of nepotism and cronyism! Once again, it is frightening to see the lengths to which this little pack will go, to protect reputations and government policy.


From the Cochrane review of MMR mentioned in the article:

"The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate."

It was Wakefield's own review of these safety studies that led him to recommend single jabs over MMR, not his investigation of the Lancet children.


Sorry, but why should Dr Goldacre have ever mentioned his father?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you've ever mentioned your father in your blog posts. As a journalist myself, I've never mentioned mine either. Nor have I mentioned my girlfriend, mother, brother or half-cousin.

As you well know, Dr Goldacre is obsessive about facts and evidence. He is just as willing to criticis Big Pharma is he is to criticise bogus nutritionists, fellow doctors, poor research or dodgy journalism. Given this rare and admirable outlook, it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest he would break his own strict rules in some kind of bizarre attempt to support some obscure research his father did in the late 80s.

I've now read this blog twice and I can't figure out what Dr Goldacre would gain from doing so.

Please illuminate.

Teresa Conrick

You can't make this stuff up! Great report!


Uh, not to crit your referencing but the link for “..personal anecdotes about your MMR tragedy will be deleted for your own safety” I had to find another reference to the /actual/ source of the quote, which is actually "Try to be combative, intelligent, and rude, but remember these three things: personal stories about your health will always be deleted; childish personal attacks are only permitted when they are very funny; and if your post is more than one thousand words long then you are officially a loser."

Nothing specific about MMR, no insidious threats. Maybe I've missed it, if so, I apologise

Evelyn Pringle

Great report.

Martin Hewitt

Excellent. I guess Ben's reluctance to refer to his eminent father is another 'dynasty effect' similiar to the former PM Tony Blair's refusal to disclose if his son Ewan received his MMR jab back in 2001. Powerful and influential people like to protect their privacy.


Was Andrew Wakefield a victim of concerted action? Hmmmm. Let's just say that there is an appearance of impropriety. Actually, it's like a smoking gun.

Generally speaking, the moral entrepeneurs, or "Dark Lords" of the vaccine industry, are living large while many loving parents are wrongfully imprisoned after being falsely accused and convicted of "shaken baby syndrome". The horror! The injustice!

How many SIDS/SUID deaths are the direct result of a vaccine? This goes to more than just the Hep B jab and MMR. It goes to the "safety" of the vaccine schedules and global vaccine policy, generally.


Great post, Mr Stone - public health corruption is not a US-centric phenomenon, it's worldwide. The characters you discuss typify the growing legion of moral entrepeneurs, on both sides of the pond, who have made faustian bargains and sold their eternal souls. This is why we all need prayer, now more than ever.

BTW - I'm reminded of certain fictional characters from the film V for Vendetta...Prothero, Surridge, Creedy. Today, reality imitates art.



not much to different in my opinion, an article below dont want to get off topic from your great article above..

"3/7/2006 - "The concentration camps were used as a huge laboratory for human experimentation," says Wolfgang Eckhart, professor of Historical Medicine at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. During the Holocaust, Bayer, Hoechst, BASF and other German pharmaceutical..."



Jenny Allan

Wow!! John - This is what I call investigative journalism. It's a pity that you are not an investigative journalist. In the present media climate you would not be employable. You are far too good at the job and far too truthful and fact based!!

John Stone


I don't think it is worse than the holocaust - certainly not for holocaust victims - but it is very serious. We should not allow our news to be managed in this way, and we pay a high price for doing so.



Superb article John the suffering this corrupt lot have caused world wide is a 1000 times worse than the holocaust. Hope and pray ,what they have put about , comes about…

Angus Files

Joan Campbell

Ben Goldacre can keep his silly t-shirts and all his so called friends for all I care. What another great article John Stone has written and the way he shows us the web of deceit and corruption that these sad bad individuals get up to licking each other's asses. To stoop so low beggars belief.

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