Health Buzz: Autism Study Was an 'Elaborate Fraud'

How to be a better parent in 2011; tips for overcoming a hangover.


Study Linking Childhood Vaccine to Autism a "Fraud," Charges British Journal

A British doctor committed an "elaborate fraud" by faking data in a since-retracted 1998 study that linked autism to childhood vaccines. That's according to a report published Wednesday by the British Medical Journal that accuses Andrew Wakefield of misrepresenting or altering the medical histories of the 12 children he studied. Published in the journal Lancet, Wakefield's study, which linked the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, prompted thousands of parents to skip the shot. Some experts say immunization rates have never fully recovered. Reported U.S. measles cases hit a 12-year peak at 140 in 2008, and the majority of sick children were unvaccinated, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings were later renounced by 10 of the 13 study authors and retracted by Lancet. In the new BMJ analysis, British journalist Brian Deer compared the 12 children's diagnoses to their hospital records and found that facts about all 12 had been altered. Wakefield claimed, for example, that the 12 children he studied were normal until they were vaccinated, but in fact, five had previously documented developmental problems. "Who perpetrated this fraud? There is no doubt that it was Wakefield," BMJ journal editors wrote in a commentary, adding that the work "was based not on bad science but on a deliberate fraud." But Wakefield, who was stripped of his medical license in May, protested the allegations. "The study is not a lie. The findings that we have made have been replicated in five countries around the world," he told reporters on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.

  • Fighting the Autism-Vaccine War
  • Autism Called Urgent Public Health Concern; 1 in 100 Children Affected
  • How to Be a Better Parent in 2011

    If getting kids back in the groove after the holidays has you about to tear your hair out, you're not alone. U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute took heart from David Palmiter, a clinical psychologist and father of three children in Clarks Summit, Pa., whose new book, Working Parents, Thriving Families: 10 Strategies that Make a Difference (Sunrise River Press, $16.95), focuses on how hectic parents with limited time and energy can do better by their kids in 2011.

    Palmiter emphasizes parenting strategies that have been scientifically tested and proven effective. He tells U.S. News that the biggest is "one-on-one time with the kids. It's not 'quality time.' It's really paying attention to your child, and praising him or her. It's the difference between bowling and spending an hour looking your child in the eyes and telling her why she is important to you." But that's not all parents can do to keep their family glued together. "One of the best gifts you can give your children is your own peacefulness," Palmiter says. "It's incredibly important in terms of promoting kids' wellness. And it's also very hard for many parents to pull off, because they're so stressed about work, the economy, and jobs." [Read more: How to Be a Better Parent in 2011.]

    • Two Simple Ways to Be a Happier Parent
    • Praise a Child Right, and You'll Get Results
    • Hangover Cure? Hah. But These Tips May Help

      When it comes to hangovers, everyone has a swear-by-it remedy, from bingeing on cheeseburgers and fries (grease supposedly lines the stomach and slows alcohol absorption) to gulping spiked orange juice or a Bloody Mary (hair of the dog). Hundreds of others are free for the taking online, so why not pick one and get moving the day after you've had a few too many?

      Because "in terms of anything that's proven to, quote, cure a hangover, there isn't anything," says Michael Fingerhood, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. In 2005, researchers scoured studies as far back as the 1950s that addressed preventing or treating hangovers. They unearthed just eight that were worth a closer look, none of which could convincingly demonstrate success for their hangover tricks (such as taking a supplement of prickly-pear cactus or a yeast-vitamin pill), according to the report published in the British Medical Journal. That doesn't mean you have to be miserable all day, though. Experts say some old standbys will at least take the edge off a hangover and end it a little faster, U.S. News's Kurtis Hiatt reports. [Read more: Hangover Cure? Hah. But These Tips May Help.]