Reason Freely

MMR-Autism Researcher Loses Medical License in UK

Posted in news by reasonfreely on May 25, 2010

Dr. Andrew Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in Britain yesterday.  Unfortunately, in addition to martyring him to his supporters, this decision has no impact on him.  He stopped practicing medicine in 2004, and has been running an autism recovery clinic since.

Some of the crap this guy pulled is just offensive.  To quote NYT:  “taking blood samples for his study from children at his son’s birthday party” and “the costs of Dr. Wakefield’s research was paid by lawyers for parents seeking to sue vaccine makers” and “he had shown “a callous disregard” for the suffering of children involved in his research…”  Ultimately they slapped him with 30 charges of professional misconduct.

The ban does not prevent him from continuing to do research and publish it, though at this point no professional medical journal will print his work.  Wakefield became  an alternative medicine practitioner since 2004, working in both the US and UK.  This goes to show you what value alternative medicine has — it’s the last refuge for quacks, hacks, greedy liars and cheats.

(I was recently alerted to this comic strip on the subject: )


7 Responses

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  1. lme said, on May 28, 2010 at 8:52 am

    “Someone needs to come along and say “take echinacea petals and grind them to medium-fine, measure two teaspoons of this tisane and steep them in 8oz of 180 degree water for about 5 minutes…..”

    Several people have done just that, actually. And by “people”, I mean “groups of actual licensed physicians who dedicated time to reviewing the literature, conducting clinical trials, and studying the chemical components and variability thereof within each plant substance.” If you want to read the published research, I recommend the German Commission E’s monographs,

    and our very own Physician Desk Reference Inc.’s PDR for Nonprescription Drugs, Dietary Supplements, and Herbs.

    There are plenty of other useful books out there, and if you want specific titles and reference information, I can pull it up for you at home. But rest assured, actual doctors and scientists have actually reviewed the material, actually rejected things which cannot be proven or which have been demonstrated to be harmful or more harmful than beneficial, and actually published. Further, actual dosage and preparation methods have been included in much of the literature, including the above-stated PDR.

    I have the two above books, albeit editions which are several years older than the ones listed, and many others. You can borrow them anytime.

  2. greymaiden said, on May 25, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I do wish you’d differentiate between alternative medecine that is supported by scientific evidence and alternative medicine that is not. There is, for instance, no evidence that homeopathy is effective. There is a lot of evidence that certain herbal medicines, such as Echinacea and St. Johns Wort, are effective for certain purposes. There are also plenty of studies that support acupuncture as a valid way to help people quit smoking.

    The entirety of complimentary and alternative medicine isn’t lacking in value for everyone except cheats and quacks. Some is, some isn’t.

    • reasonfreely said, on May 25, 2010 at 11:52 am

      To quote the Tim Minchin poem I posted earlier:

      “By definition”, I begin
      “Alternative Medicine”
      I continue
      “Has either not been proved to work,
      Or been proved not to work.

      You know what they call “alternative medicine”
      That’s been proved to work?


    • reasonfreely said, on May 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm

      It’s not that Echinacea doesn’t work. It’s that it barely works, and its proponents are slow or even reluctant to study how it works scientifically. I know Wikipedia isn’t the omnisource, but the article on Echinacea lays it out clear: we’re talking about a flower, with pollen, petals, leaves, stem, and roots — each of which can be prepared as a cold remedy in a tea or ground and swallowed as a pill. A research study linked off the Wikipedia article basically explains that “take Echnacea for colds” is poor advice, since only one preparation of the herb showed any effect, and then only for early intervention, and even then the effect was slight and not significant.

      My problem with herbal medicine is not that herbal medicine doesn’t work. It’s that it’s not treated scientifically. Someone needs to come along and say “take echinacea petals and grind them to medium-fine, measure two teaspoons of this tisane and steep them in 8oz of 180 degree water for about 5 minutes. Take this tea at least three times a day beginning at the onset of a rhinovirus cold and expect to see a reduction of one day in duration of infection and some slight alleviation of symptoms for 30 minutes following administration.”

      Instead what we get is an industry that makes money grinding up some amount of some parts of the plant, pilling it with whatever buffers etc. they want, and selling it for a big profit whether it works or not. All because it’s entirely unregulated.

    • ayb109 said, on May 26, 2010 at 9:04 am

      What is the difference between conventional and alternative medicine if not support by scientific evidence? If enough studies show that acupuncture helps people quit smoking, it becomes a conventional treatment for smoking addiction.

      • Reason Freely said, on May 26, 2010 at 9:40 am

        Yup! It’s still being researched, but preliminary evidence says acupuncture works for back pain, but under the name “nerve stimulation” not “chi realignment”.

        • ayb109 said, on May 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm

          I am unsurprised. People have pretty much always known the scientific method well enough to repeat what works and write it down. Our understanding of how and why it works is all that’s changed in this case.

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