One more big strike against a pivotal 1998 study that linked autism with childhood vaccines and triggered parental alarms that continue today: The British Medical Journal is out with a scathing report that accuses lead researcher Andrew Wakefield of "elaborate fraud" and suggests he falsified data to earn a $674,000 paycheck from lawyers who wanted to sue vaccine manufacturers, reports CNN. The BMJ report follows last year's decision by the Lancet to retract Wakefield's study.
"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," says BMJ's editor-in-chief. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data." Investigators say Wakefield skewed the medical histories of all 12 patients in his study; they assert that five had developmental problems before receiving vaccinations and that three never had autism at all. No response yet from Wakefield, who still has legions of supporters. (Read more autism stories.)