DOCTOR GIVEN LEGAL AID THOUSANDS
Sunday Times (London) December 31 2006
ANDREW WAKEFIELD, the former surgeon whose
campaign linking the MMR vaccine with autism caused a
collapse in immunisation rates, was paid more than
£400,000 by lawyers trying to prove that the vaccine
payments, unearthed by The Sunday Times, were part of
£3.4m distributed from the legal aid fund to doctors
and scientists who had been recruited to support a
now failed lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.
this weekend voiced amazement at the sums, which they
said created a clear conflict of interest and were
the financial engine behind a worldwide
alarm over the triple measles, mumps and rubella
figures are astonishing, said Dr Evan Harris,
Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.
lawsuit was an industry, and an industry peddling
what turned out to be a myth.
to the figures, released under the Freedom of
Information Act, Wakefield was paid £435,643 in
fees, plus £3,910 expenses.
work for the lawyers began two years before he
published his now notorious report in The Lancet
medical journal in February 1998, proposing a link
between the vaccine and autism.
suggestion, followed by a campaign led by Wakefield,
caused immunisation rates to slump from 92% to 78.9%,
although they have since partly recovered. In March
this year the first British child in 14 years died
The Lancet retracted Wakefields claim and
apologised after a Sunday Times investigation showed
that his research had been backed with £55,000 from
lawyers, and that the children in the study used as
evidence against the vaccine were also claimants in
the time Wakefield denied any conflict of interest
and said that the money went to his hospital, not to
him personally. No disclosure was made, however, of
the vastly greater sums that he was receiving
directly from the lawyers.
bulk of the amount in the new figures, released by
the Legal Services Commission (LSC), covers an eight
to 10-year period. All payments had to be approved by
who received money include numerous Wakefield
associates, business partners and employees who had
acted as experts in the case.
of his former colleagues at the Royal Free hospital,
north London, under whose aegis The Lancet paper was
written, received a total of £183,000 in fees,
according to the LSC.
now runs a business in Austin, Texas, two of whose
employees are listed as receiving a total of
£112,000 in fees, while a Florida physician, who
appointed the former surgeon as his director of
research, was paid £21,600, the figures show.
have appeared in media reports as apparently
confirming Wakefields claims.
understood that the payments for writing
reports, attending meetings and in some cases
carrying out research were made at hourly
rates varying between £120 and £200, or £1,000 a
was a huge conflict of interest, said Dr John
March, an animal vaccine specialist who was among
those recruited. It bothered me quite a lot
because I thought, well, if Im getting paid for
doing this, then surely its in my interest to
keep it going as long as possible.
who the LSC allowed almost £90,000 to research an
aspect of Wakefields theories, broke ranks this
weekend to denounce both the science of the attack
and the amount that the case had cost in
lawyers and experts fees.
ironic thing is they were always going on about how,
you know, how weve hardly got any money
compared with the other side, who are funded by large
pharmaceutical companies. And Im thinking,
judging by the amounts of money youre paying
out, the other side must be living like
millionaires, he said.
among those named as being paid from the legal aid
fund was a referee for one of Wakefields
papers, who was allowed £40,000. A private GP who
runs a single vaccines clinic received £6,000, the
The Sunday Times investigation, immunisation rates
have risen and the General Medical Council launched
an inquiry. This is due to culminate in a three-month
hearing next summer, where Wakefield faces charges
which he denies of dishonesty over his
LSC is also unlikely to escape criticism. Three years
ago the commission, which administers a £2 billion
budget to give poor people access to justice,
acknowledged that the attempt to make a case against
MMR with taxpayers money was not
effective or appropriate.
total cost for the attack on the vaccine was
£14,053,856, plus Vat.
media campaigning, lawyers eventually registered
1,600 claimants in the lawsuit. None received any
weekend Earl Howe, a Conservative party health
spokesman, called for a parliamentary inquiry.
Its astonishing, he said.
This is crying out for select committee
said in a statement that he had worked on the lawsuit
for nine years, charged at a recommended rate, and
gave money to charity.
work involved nights, weekends and much of my
holidays, such that I saw little of my family during
this time, he said. I believed and still
believe in the just cause of the matter under
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