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BMJ Prepared to Climb-down and Acknowledge Merck link in the MMR affair?

Confessional By John Stone

After months of arm-wrestling British Medical Journal seem to be preparing to give more ground in acknowledging its commercial relationship with MMR manufacturers Merck. Following pressure from Age of Autism and AHRP in February and March BMJ editor in chief, Fiona Godlee, made limited acknowledgement of sponsorship of BMJ Group’s annual awards by Merck and another MMR manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, but still failed to make a formal disclosure regarding the partnership between BMJ Learning and the not-for-profit information arm of Merck, Univadis. The controversy blew up after BMJ published renewed allegations in January by journalist Brian Deer against Andrew Wakefield.

Now BMJ have published a letter from the present writer asking point-blank what they intend to do about acknowledging the conflict. However, the published version has been altered in order to get BMJ off-the-hook once again from linking any corrections in the journal to Deer’s articles, leaving the matter less than transparent for the bulk of readers. Age of Autism has published several articles showing Deer’s allegations to be completely erroneous (The Big LieTime To Revisit Deer's ClaimsPart 2 Time to Revisit Deer's Claims and  Part 3 Deer's Claims ), while BMJ have been legally defensive and restricted discussion of Deer’ alleged evidence (See Guardian UK HERE and HERE ).

The following new letter has been submitted to the journal:-

Re:Re:Re:Time to curtail the excesses of vested interest

It is regrettable that BMJ should have altered the single question I posed in my last published Rapid Response from:

"What action do BMJ propose to take in relation to making known the group's conflict over its partnership with the information arm of Merck, Univadis, in relation to the publication of Mr Deer's articles?"


"What action do the BMJ propose to take in relation to making known the group's conflict over its partnership with the information arm of Merck, Univadis, in relation to the editorial and two editor's choices on Wakefield's research?"

I do not know whether this presages the publication of a new correction to the editorial material indicated in the journal's altered version of my letter, five months after the first correction, but there is still the problem that while that might in a limited way make acknowledgement of BMJ group's conflict, people reading Mr Deer's articles on their own would still be none the wiser about the journal's conflict, and this would not betoken a high standard of transparency. (It has to be said, further, that even if they were at this late stage to make this relevant information available with Mr Deer's articles this would still not be giving it the publicity of the international press launch in January).

It may be that BMJ would like to argue that they would be doing enough by simply appending a correction to the editorial pieces and not Mr Deer's articles, but they are surely trying to pre-empt open and legitimate discussion of that point by altering my letter to something I did not say.

Age of Autism: Holier than Thou Godlee Fails To Acknowledge Merck MMR Conflict

Age of Autism: BMJ The Emperor Has no Clothes

Age of Autism BMJ Double-speak ContinuesAge of Autism: BMJ Forced To Publish Letter

John Stone is UK Editor of Age of Autism.


Angus Files

"By law,,, a corperation in America is beholden to their shareholders first."

Tag your it surely someone so well informed as you are concerning corporate law would know what the rules are over here for corporate share holdings?

I shall google for you just a second...oh suprise I have found Rupert Murdoch in his recent takeover attempt in the UK

As you see very similar rules apply as here to America ..

I cannot see what effect knowing information will have when the whole of the dis-United Kindom is corrupt from its cops to Mp`s and hacks of journo shills .As we have seen are all funded over the past 40 years by Rupert and baby Murdoch James...

please don`t reply your arguments are de-railing the great postings by John and arent constructive to the debate if it were a debate you would be told to be quiet by the chair...

John Stone

Tag, You're It!

Sorry, you keep on making the same point over and it is fallacious. There is no way I am naieve about the pharmaceutical industry ( no one could conclude for a second reading my posts in these columns over the last 3 years) or that I want to let them off the hook, but that doesn't mean that BMJ and Godlee do not have reponsibility for what they do, particularly as they are posing at the moment as the keepers of the high moral ground on research integrity and conflict of interest. I am attacking BMJ and Godlee in this instance and I am also attacking the industry. And, of course, I shall continue to do so.

Tag, You're It!

It sounds like people think I am agreeing with it,,, Please know I am not. I'm just facing reality. There are laws that are protecting companies from being truthful. And until the laws are addressed, untruth will prevail. I know John doesn't like this topic,, I dont know why. And I hate to think that he is being Godleeish for not posting my last post to him. I love you for all you do, John,,, I just think it's time to dig deeper for the truth, and in some instances the truth is being hidden by laws written by the corperations and passed by the legislators who are sponsored by them. This sick cycle needs to be stopped. By law,,, a corperation in America is beholden to their shareholders first. Is it that way in UK is all I'm trying to get to, and does that include sponsorships? And how bound is a person held to their job description and contract?

John Stone

Hi Jeanette

The problem with the 'Tag, you're it' line is that if the system is to blame then no one is individually, and no one can be held to account. But actually BMJ is a very good place to start, particularly since they are sticking their necks out on conflicts of interest.

The difficulty with corporate liability is that immediately something has gone wrong a company is left defending its interest legally at all costs. In the notorious case of Merck's Vioxx it is really just viewed as a commercial risk which went wrong, and part of the problem is that there is no criminal liability for what they did, so that executives who were involved in disgusting policies continue to get rewarded (let alone punished), and even shareholders come to view it as a legitimate risk. A sleazy aspect of the BMJ-Merck alliance is that it was forged in the immediate aftermath of the Vioxx affair and continued despite further revelations, notably in the Australian courts. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why they are eager to escape scrutiny.

At the end of the day BMJ looks like a false flags enterprise, and poachers pretending to be gamekeepers. The answer is not, of course, "the boys will be boys" attitude of our helpful correspondent.


Jeannette Bishop

re posts by Tag, You're It!

This is not shooting the messenger, just rhetorical venting on something previously unknown to me, but how can honesty be against the law or dishonesty be required by law? How does it happen that the acts of lying, carelessly overdosing infants with mercury, aluminum, etc., disabling babies, children and so on, arm-twisting governments for liability protection or "we won't make vaccines" not be the type of acts that hurt the corporate bottom line?

For the U.S. government at least, it sounds like getting into any collaboration with pharma could create a significant legal conflict between shareholder law and basic constitutional rights, life, liberty? How can it legally happen that "unavoidably unsafe" corporate products are mandated and promoted by the U.S. government? Is the general public health official mindset something like "we can't truly study vaccine adverse events because then we would be required to both disclose and hide any adverse results?"

Mark Struthers

Being economical with the truth and bringing the medical profession into disrepute are normally considered serious offences. Perhaps Dr Godlee will now be considering her position.

Angus Files

Your right John the BMJ have to lead by example.It dosen`t matter if Godlee has as much free thought as a performing seal she represents the BMJ in all its colour.

John Stone

Tag, you're it!

Please stop trying to confuse the issue.

Bad as thing are they are still responsible for their actions and their actions should be examined and debated. Of course, it has to be seen and can be seen in a wider context, but actually this also happens in the context of BMJ feigning to take a lead on Conflict of Interest so it is essential to hold them to account. BMJ are claiming to be the arbiters on research ethics and they are struggling to keep up with their own.

Tag, You're It!

One person's credibility means nothing here.... Especially if there are contracts and/or laws preventing full disclosure that may jeopardize the business plan and shares of the organization or corperations in question. She is just a head and mouthpiece. She is not the decider.... Nor was George Bush. :) And the definition of her title has probably changed over the years. What an editor in chief did years ago, may be by definition entirely different today. What is her official job description? What are her official duties under her contract? Have you asked her to disclose that information?

John Stone

As Mark pointed out the contract between BMJ Learning and Univadis is huge: we know that much without any further probing. It is an interesting question why BMJ have been dodging disclosure but at the end of the day it is clear that a journal's editor has an ethical duty to its readership and the public, and this is why Dr Godlee's credibility is at stake.

Tag, You're It!

PS... Everyone should watch the movie, The Corperation. It doesn't explain everything, though. I'm sure it's jus a hint of what is going on these days.


We also need to know how much advertising revenue BMJ had
received from Merck as they are tied together by their pocket books and bank accounts.We need clear answers and
full transparency on this issue.How much power does an advertising mega-pharma has on the contents of a medical
journal??? What research papers get published and what does not. I think we know the answers on this one.

Tag, You're It!

Yes, but I keep hearing everyone saying that they are sponsored by the corperations in question. Wouldn't this make them an arm of the corperation? And if so,,,, if it is merely a sponsorship..... and not a direct tie... what are th laws of sponsorship. Do they have a contract with these organizations? I just think there may be other avenues of approach to getting them to fess up... and the first would be to see if there are any laws or even contracts under the law preventing them from fessing up since an admission of this type would effect shareholders profits. AND....... At least in the US,, the shareholders come first. It's an ugly circle of greed that is protected by laws made by the greedy ones. In a nutshell...Someone should investigate if the BMJ is obliged by law to protect the corperations in question.

John Stone

Tag, you're it!

Sorry, what is your point? A trading company's first duty is to its shareholders. This is true for Merck whether in the US or the UK and it isn't in doubt. This has nothing to do with a journal editor's obligation to make full disclosures. Fiona Godlee is not a Merck executive, she is editor-in-chief of British Medical Journal and it is BMJ which is in the spotlight.

Tag, You're It!

John,,, you need to speak to a business lawyer to find out if the laws ar the same there. A business is not allowed in the US to do anything that might cause shareholders to lose their money. So,,, even if they are hurting people,,, they have to pretend they are not and fix things... if they care... without affecting their stocks. I'm not saying it is right... it is a huge problem in the US... It needs to be changed... and the corperations are not going to change it themselves as it doesn't benefit them. There is a good movie called: The Corperation... It touches on some of this.

John Stone

Let's be clear, British Medical Journal is owned by the British Medical Association, which is the trade union of British medical doctors, but come what may it is Fiona Godlee's job to stand for academic integrity and if there are things tying her hands beyond simple commercial entanglements that also should be disclosed, and if they are not that simply adds to the scandal. As Jeanette Bishop put it so well below:

"A lot of effort has been applied to getting honest disclosure, even partial. What does that say about the BMJ's ability to be forthcoming or trustworthy on any aspect of this issue?"

In particular Godlee failed to clear the air when she wrote in March: BMJ then failed to disclose formally its tie to Merck through BMJ Learning and Univadis (which incidentally as 'Mark' point out below is of huge commercial significance), and now she has got to go back and re-visit it even more embarrassingly in August or September. They are evidently acknowledging a problem by publishing my letters, but there seems to be a futher stumbling block that BMJ apparently will not at the moment print corrections against the Deer articles themselves which renders the issue of their publication less than transparent. It would of course be interesting to know what the legal or public relations advice is on this, but absolutely none of it seems to be about academic standards or integrity.


But who are the shareholders?

"Collectively, government has majority share stock ownership in most if not all fortune 500 corporations and most significant companies around the world"

These of course include the pharma companies, the banks and the main media.

Every American taxpayer who wonders where their money is going and every European who wonders why their countries are being stripped of their national assets should see this. And you can guess why you will not see justice done through government.

THE GREAT PENSION FUND HOAX - Corporation Nation 2

Mark Struthers

The BMJ editor's rank hypocrisy has been exposed: an honourable person would now resign.

John Stone

Tag, you're it!

It is obviously BMJ's contention that they are so above interest that they don't have to disclose it. They have so far made limited disclosures and will probably make more: it does not seem likely that they are directly answerable to Merck's shareholders.

Tag, You're It!

John,,, You must get to know the laws that are protecting them. In the US.. it is illegal for a corperation to do anything that would hurt shareholder profits. So they won't advertise the mistakes. Is it the same in UK. Perhaps going after them is feudal since it is against the law for them to admit anything. Hire a business lawyer to figure out what they are doing to prevent shareholder grief,,, and then that law needs to be addressed. I posted this before... Don't know why it was deleted. It's time to think outside the box.. The box is empty if they can't admit their mistakes by law. You have to legally make them.

Heidi N

Well, as Andy says, "We aren't going away." As long as we continue to personally see and hear an alarming amount of vaccine adverse reactions, we will continue to spread the word about them. And we are definitely not going to believe any media or news over what we personally see. But, of course, we will celebrate the media/news that reports what we already know from what we have personally experienced. Just saying.

Jeannette Bishop

Thank you, John Stone! A lot of effort has been applied to getting honest disclosure, even partial. What does that say about the BMJ's ability to be forthcoming or trustworthy on any aspect of this issue?


the Merck deal is huge
They are giving Univadis to every doctor in china FREE including the translated Merck Manual. a total of 1.5 million doctors in 34 countries.
amazing that this didn't occur to the BMJ as a conflict.

Angus Files

Thanks Jenny Allan,the pecking order must be from Pharma,to people of influence to influence goverment ministers and when everyone is up to speed and all the brown envelopes have exchanged hands and shares put into "nominee accounts" , a multi pronged attack via the papers and goverments to influence the populations on the latest non-cure for illness.... Thats how I see the pharma system working..probabably a lot more sinsiter than that ..when you read the evil of the Murdoch corruption such as, hacking voice mail of the 9/11 dead ......peoples last gasps of life on mobile/cell phone message systems ,..hacked because the Murdoch`s wanted more money and more sales...

Jenny Allan

Angus Files stated:-
"Priestess Godlee is looking of a way from distancing themselves from Deer and Murdoch’s lies, as everyone is these days ..."

The BMJ have not yet published my rapid response which follows on from and enlarges the comments made by Mark Struthers, regarding James Murdoch's non executive directorship of GSK; the appointment was made in February 2009 and shortly afterwards several News International articles appeared, all heaping further vilification on Andrew Wakefield, (as if the loss of his job, GMC registration and being hounded out of his country of birth wasn't enough!)

The Sunday Times published this article on 9-02-09:-
'MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism.' Brian Deer, 8-02-09

In January 2011 the BMJ published this remarkably similar Brian Deer article which was stated to have been 'commissioned' by Fiona Godlee:-

'Secrets of the MMR scare: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed' Brian Deer 5-01-11

The allegations of fraud were backed up by this BMJ editorial:-

'Wakefield's article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent' 5-01-11
Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, Jane Smith, deputy editor, Harvey Marcovitch, associate editor

In her editorial, Godlee makes no secret of the REAL objective in all this Wakefield vilification. It's not enough for Merck and GSK to have succeeded in getting the 1998 Wakefield et al Lancet paper retracted; they want to discredit ALL of Wakefield's research, previously carried out at the Royal Free Hospital.

To this end, Professor Pepys, UCL Medical Director and the man responsible for Wakefield being sacked from his research position at the Royal Free Hospital, has now stated that he is 'looking into' all of Wakefield's previous research. Of course Prof Pepys is also GSK's man, via a deal with them to 'cherry pick' taxpayer funded research into Alzheimer's disease and other brain degenative conditions in the elderly. GSK described him as a pharma 'superstar' -as well they might!!
UCL Professor Mark Pepys hailed as an ‘academic superstar’ by GlaxoSmithKline



Would it not be easy to satisfy the broader public by inserting a clear 'tab' marked conflict of interest into the header of the BMJ online page.

...and also a clear statement in each BMJ paper journal either at the title page or the page oppsite, preferably clearly designated with a box around it.

It must be remembered that the original Conflict of Interest pertained to three senior editors and was apparent for at least three major articles focussed on research fraud. That meant three issues of the BMJ.

Of which non disclosure of a "Conflict of Interest" was a major allegation of 'dishonesty' against Wakefield.

I'm sure it is in the public interest to know this type of information especially as they are portraying themselves as the 'Gatekeepers' of this debate.


It is probably worth explicitly stating that the BMJ actually commissioned Deer's work, rather than just having published it, hence the need to state their conflict alongside the articles themselves rather than just the editorials.

To have a conflict statement listing every interested party with financial connections to the BMJ alongside every article they published wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but it is not currently required nor a path the BMJ would want to go down.

Angus Files

Everything else interoperated the wrong way as well..I would like to know who gives High Priestess Godlee the orders ?What’s the pecking order and chain of events?.

I would reckon it goes a bit like,as we are seeing in the Murdoch scandal below on the go now for the past FORTY YEARS in the UK...

" Andy Coulson row prompts inquiry into role of political advisers

Further embarrassment for David Cameron as MPs prepare to investigate the appointment and influence of government 'spads'"

Mark Struthers

Extraordinary! The BMJ has really sunk to new lows. Outrageous behaviour!

Media Scholar

John Stone,

This is an important break in the story.

Not only does it provide us with insights into how the large vaccine-manufacturing drug companies apply unfair and inappropriate pressure to get their things published, this fine work also exposes their black ops.

The BMJ and the dependent media will probably desire to claim they are victims in a tug o' war contest, being pulled one way by the money-sowing pharmaceuticals and the other by us.

Actually, this is false. Our children are the victims. They are the ones who are being jerked around.

Even if it's parents versus the powerful drug companies, billionaires, revenue-rich government agencies, and the yellow journalists Swine/Bird Flu hoaxsters.

Don't let go of the rope.

Angus Files

It seems that anything good in the world Murdoch has done his best to destroy aided and abetted by, gob for hire Deer (toxic name these days)...One would have thought that Deer should have had a follow up article by now, or is it the case that as John has highlighted high Priestess Godlee is looking of a way from distancing themselves from Deer and Murdoch’s lies, as everyone is these days ...

A link below on Murdoch’s families heavy investment in vaccines..

Jenny Allan

Interesting to see that the BMJ rapid responses from John Stone and Mark Struthers on 23-08-11, are both stated to have been edited on legal advice, but this latest published John Stone comment, which WAS edited, to leave out Brian Deer's NAME, contains no such admission!!


Oh, no; when you change the question you have been asked it is FOUL, OUT of the baseline, Wrong, sleezy,and any other adjective that is negative that I can think of.

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