#158 - Brian Deer: A tale of scientific fraud—exposing Andrew Wakefield and the origin of the belief that vaccines cause autism


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By Peter Attia, MD, Peter Attia, and MD. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
Brian Deer is an award-winning investigative journalist best known for his coverage of the pharmaceutical industry. In this episode, he and Peter discuss the content of his book, The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines, which exposes the complex and disturbing story behind the infamous 1998 Lancet paper by Andrew Wakefield linking the MMR vaccine and autism. Brian explains how doctors led by Wakefield, a lawyer, and an anti-vaccination parents’ group worked together on a study to validate their preconceived belief that the MMR vaccine caused autism. He reveals what happened behind the scenes as the study was carried out, explains problems in the lab, and discusses inconsistencies in the analysis. In the end, this is a story that serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of science driven by an agenda rather than by a spirit of open inquiry.

We discuss:

  • How Andrew Wakefield’s flawed approach to scientific research led to the belief that vaccines cause autism (3:25);
  • The importance of following the scientific method, and how Wakefield twisted the science to link measles virus to Crohn’s disease (14:15);
  • The backstory behind Andrew Wakefield’s infamous 1998 Lancet paper linking the MMR vaccine and autism (26:45);
  • The many flaws and disturbing aspects of Wakefield’s study: suffering children and failure to do strain-specific sequencing (45:15);
  • The epicenter of fraud: Bogus PCR testing furthering the belief that measles virus from the MMR vaccine caused autism (1:00:00);
  • Additional issues that contaminated the study results (1:22:15);
  • Discovering the misrepresented medical records for the kids involved in the study leading to the retraction of the Lancet paper and Wakefield losing his license (1:31:00);
  • The resurgence of the anti-vaccination movement, Brian’s motivation to write the book, and parting thoughts (1:36:45); and
  • More.

Learn more: https://peterattiamd.com/ Show notes page for this episode: https://peterattiamd.com/BrianDeer Subscribe to receive exclusive subscriber-only content: https://peterattiamd.com/subscribe/ Sign up to receive Peter's email newsletter: https://peterattiamd.com/newsletter/ Connect with Peter on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

196 episodes