The British Medical Journal has the first (fantastic) article in a planned series on the now retracted Lancet journal article first drawing the (now demonstrated to be fraudulent) connection between the Measles-Mumps-and-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. It's a crackling must-read.

Wakefield was working on a lawsuit,7 for which he sought a bowel-brain “syndrome” as its centrepiece. Claiming an undisclosed £150 (€180, $230) an hour through a Norfolk solicitor named Richard Barr, he had been confidentially 8 put on the payroll two years before the paper was published, eventually grossing him £435 643, plus expenses.

Curiously, however, Wakefield had already identified such a syndrome before the project which would reputedly discover it. “Children with enteritis/disintegrative disorder [an expression he used for bowel inflammation and regressive autism] form part of a new syndrome,” he and Barr explained in a confidential grant application to the UK government’s Legal Aid Board before any of the children were investigated. “Nonetheless the evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology.”

The two men also aimed to show a sudden-onset “temporal association”—strong evidence in product liability. “Dr Wakefield feels that if we can show a clear time link between the vaccination and onset of symptoms,” Barr told the legal board, “we should be able to dispose of the suggestion that it’s simply a chance encounter.”

What follows is a detailed break down of how Dr. Wakefield carefully manufactured these temporal associations, in order to bolster the bogus lawsuits he and others were planning to profit from. You must read this article. At the end is a TL;DR summary of the fraud at the center of the MMR -> Autism bullshit that continues today:

The Lancet paper was a case series of 12 child patients; it reported a proposed “new syndrome” of enterocolitis and regressive autism and associated this with MMR as an “apparent precipitating event.” But in fact:

* Three of nine children reported with regressive autism did not have autism diagnosed at all. Only one child clearly had regressive autism

* Despite the paper claiming that all 12 children were “previously normal,” five had documented pre-existing developmental concerns

* Some children were reported to have experienced first behavioural symptoms within days of MMR, but the records documented these as starting some months after vaccination

* In nine cases, unremarkable colonic histopathology results—noting no or minimal fluctuations in inflammatory cell populations—were changed after a medical school “research review” to “non-specific colitis”

* The parents of eight children were reported as blaming MMR, but 11 families made this allegation at the hospital. The exclusion of three allegations—all giving times to onset of problems in months—helped to create the appearance of a 14 day temporal link

* Patients were recruited through anti-MMR campaigners, and the study was commissioned and funded for planned litigation

This fraud is infuriating on so many levels, none more central to me than the enormous waste of pediatric research dollars and subjects. There is a grave paucity of data available on a wide spectrum of medications now commonly used on children: antibiotics, anti-seizure, anti-nausea, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, pain medications, sedatives, appetite stimulants and on and on and on. Running a clinical trial on children is even more expensive and more difficult than on adults. Huge sums of money were wasted trying to reproduce the fraudulent connection between MMR vaccination and autism. Hundreds of children were recruited and run through clinical trials—having their health endangered for this fraud. All of this risk and money could've gone to testing all of these other medications we don't know about—medicines we use on children, and legitimately cannot prove are safe. You should be furious.

Updated: Anthony beat me to it. Consider my take from the perspective of a scientist and physician.