Jun 12 2006
A British doctor who caused panic by suggesting that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to autism is to be charged with serious professional misconduct.
The General Medical Council is about to accuse Mr Andrew Wakefield of carrying out "inadequately founded" research.
Vaccination rates fell sharply following Dr Wakefield's questioning of the safety of MMR, raising fears of a measles epidemic and the number of confirmed measles cases in England and Wales rose from 56 in 1998 to 438 in 2003.
In order to ensure a community is protected 95% of children age two need to be vaccinated.
His research was published by The Lancet, an eminent medical journal in 1998 and it has now been discredited by the journal following revelations of a conflict of interest.
It has been revealed that Mr Wakefield was being paid to find evidence to support possible legal action by a group of parents who claimed their children were damaged by the vaccine.
Ten doctors who co-authored the paper issued a statement in 2004 arguing there was insufficient evidence to draw the conclusion that the MMR vaccine was not safe.
Wakefield's research suggested not only that MMR was linked autism, but also to the bowel disorder Crohn's disease and it appears some children were involved in both studies.
But a plethora of major studies has since failed to find any evidence of such a link.
It is reported that Mr Wakefield is expected to face four charges: that he published inadequately founded research, failed to obtain ethical committee approval for the work, obtained funding for it improperly, and subjected children to "unnecessary and invasive investigations".
General Medical Council lawyers are apparently formulating detailed charges which will be presented in the autumn, with a public hearing expected next year.
If found guilty, Mr Wakefield could be struck off the medical register.
Mr Wakefield carried out his initial study while working at London's Royal Free Hospital but now works in the U.S.
The General Medical Council has been investigating Mr Wakefield since The Lancet issued its retraction in 2004.
The MMR jab was introduced in the U.S. during the 1970s and is now used in more than 90 countries around the world.
Experts have said the lack of confidence in MMR had caused great damage to public health.