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Controversial Autism Study Retracted by Medical Journal
Date:2/2/2010

1998 paper scared parents over possible link between MMR vaccine, developmental disorder

TUESDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The prestigious British medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday formally retracted a highly controversial study that had linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism and gastrointestinal problems.

The original article, published on Feb. 28, 1998, set off a worldwide furor, with many researchers condemning it as shoddy science. But parents of children with autism rallied around the main researcher, Dr. Andrew Wakefield of Great Britain, to condemn vaccines. The result: vaccination rates in both the United States and Britain plummeted while new cases of measles rose.

Ten of Wakefield's 13 co-authors renounced the study's conclusions several years ago, and The Lancet had previously said it should never have published the research.

"We fully retract this paper from the published record," the journal's editors said in a statement Tuesday.

The retraction came a day before a competing British medical journal, BMJ, was to publish a commentary urging The Lancet to retract the study, according to the Associated Press.

BMJ welcomed news of the retraction.

"This will help to restore faith in this globally important vaccine and the integrity of the scientific literature," Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor of BMJ, said in a news release.

The retraction was also applauded by pediatricians in the United States.

"We clearly welcome this -- this is another statement that the original studies done by Wakefield do not hold up to expert scrutiny," said Dr. Gwen Wurm, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "Measles still affects over 10 million people a year and is one of the major causes of vaccine-preventable deaths. The MMR vaccine is safe. Over 25 studies have
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