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HomeEditor's PickBig Pharma admits it lied over MMR vaccine

Big Pharma admits it lied over MMR vaccine

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THE pharmaceutical giant which threatened to ‘destroy’ doctors expressing concerns about one of its drugs is in court again for allegedly lying about the efficacy of its measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.

Merck ranks third on the list of most-fined drug manufacturers with $10.7bn fines to date, and by 2009, had paid over £2billion compensation to 44,000 US citizens because its arthritis drug Vioxx increased the risk of heart attacks. Now, in a shocking case brought under the False Claims Act, a 200-year-old law introduced to protect the US government from fraud, it admits falsifying data relating to the mumps component of its measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

Merck*, which annually sells $100million (£78million) MMR doses in the US, told the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US public health body who purchase it, and the Food and Drug Administration, (FDA) who licensed it, that it provided children with 95 per cent protection against mumps. That figure could be as low as 50 per cent or even zero.

From 2000, increasing mumps outbreaks amongst the fully vaccinated and boosted prompted the FDA to instruct Merck to prove the 95 per cent protection claim, otherwise they would lose their licence. Merck re-ran the numbers and fell way short. They designed a test to measure effectiveness – Protocol 7 – that included rabbit’s blood in the hope it would falsely enhance the sensitivity of it. They also swapped the wild measles virus for the weakened vaccine strain in the test. Nothing improved the figures enough and they stood to lose millions in revenue. Investigating the alleged fraud, Dr Andy Wakefield said: ‘At that stage they simply decided to cross out the numbers and change them for numbers that gave them the result they wanted.’

Despite overwhelming evidence, first highlighted in 2010 by Merck whistleblowers, virologists Stephen Krahling and Joan Wlochowski, last July Judge Chad F Kenney ruled in favour of the drugs giant who claimed that doctoring the data did not matter because the US government knew and continued to buy their MMR jab anyway. The government’s defence was that they had no choice as they had to protect children against measles. Merck hold the US monopoly for MMR, and measles was targeted for global eradication using the vaccine. An appeal is expected to be heard next month.

The convoluted case is the subject of an award-winning feature film Protocol 7, being premiered today. It follows the story of a mother and lawyer, played by Rachel Whittle, who discovers the fraud while trying to find reasons for her adopted son’s autism. Actors Matthew Marsden and Eric Roberts (Julia Roberts’s brother) also star.

It is directed by Andy Wakefield, the much-maligned British doctor struck off after he raised concerns about the MMR vaccine’s links to bowel disease and autism. Dr Wakefield, who has read thousands of pages from court documents relating to the mumps scandal, said: ‘The judge did not rule in favour of Merck on the basis of fraud. Merck have not effectively denied the efficacy problems.

‘Merck’s lawyers argued that the government went on purchasing the vaccine and if the evidence about the mumps component was valid, they would have stopped. Lawyers for the whistleblowers said number one, the CDC as the purchaser of the vaccine was defrauded, and they did not know what Merck had been up to. Number two, because it is a triple vaccine, they had to go on providing children with immunisation against measles and rubella. There was no choice.

‘You would think they were pretty sound arguments, but the judge still ruled that because the government went on purchasing it that the issue of materiality won the day.’ (The legal term ‘materiality’ means important or significant.)

Protocol 7’s legal adviser Jim Moody said: ‘There are many studies that show the mumps component doesn’t work at all to around 50 per cent of the time. It’s a plain vanilla false claims case like if you’re selling a defective piece of hardware to the military.’

The terrible irony is that the US did not want the mumps component, developed by American vaccinologist Maurice Hilleman in the 1960s.

Dr Wakefield said: ‘Somehow it got on to the market. Merck combined it with measles and rubella because they own mumps and put all their measles competitors out of business.

‘Measles was the market because it was targeted for global eradication using the vaccine. That’s where the money was. Suddenly Merck owned the monopoly in the US on MMR and measles.’

Millions of children have potentially been harmed because of the alleged fraud. Dr Wakefield said: ‘Mumps as a child is trivial. Mumps as a teenager and beyond puberty is not trivial; there’s a much higher rate of testicular inflammation and sterility, ovarian inflammation and meningitis. So, a vaccine that does not work makes a trivial disease a more serious disease. That’s why safety and efficacy are inextricably linked with the mumps vaccine. The vaccine failed or wore off and children became susceptible when they were far more vulnerable to permanent damage. Merck knew this, they knew they were dealing with a potential timebomb.’

The MMR was introduced in the US in 1971 (1988 in the UK) but most infectious disease had declined by 98 per cent before any vaccinations were introduced. Mumps cases rose again in 2006, most of them in vaccinated children or adults. The CDC admitted that as many as 94 per cent of those who contracted the illness had been vaccinated. They failed to recall the jab, patients were not warned, and Merck failed to mention that although they claimed their product had a 24-month shelf life, the mumps component only lasted only 12 months.

Merck are known to play rough, and their dirty tricks first came to light in 2009. During the Australian Vioxx trial, emails showed they had made a ‘hit list’ of doctors criticising them and their drug Vioxx. Their communications used words such as ‘neutralise’ and ‘discredit’ next to the names of various doctors. One particularly shocking memo said: ‘We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live.’

Dr Wakefield’s career was destroyed for questioning the MMR. A senior lecturer, liver transplant surgeon, and paediatric gastroenterologist at the Royal Free Hospital in north London, his case study series, published in the Lancet in 1998, looked at 12 children with bowel disease and autism, eight of whom developed both issues after receiving the MMR, their parents said. The study concluded they needed further investigation to prove the link. This never happened as the following furore saw Dr Wakefield struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council (GMC) in 2010.

He was immediately cancelled by the British media, which served as a warning to all doctors and scientists questioning vaccines. He said: ‘It’s a very different world now, everybody understands cancel culture, but then there was just me. I don’t mean that to sound poor old Andy Wakefield, it’s just a historical fact of life. We didn’t have the systems in place to take people down: the prototype was developed through my experience.’

Covid vaccines and the resulting deaths and injuries have changed many doctors’ opinions of him, as Dr Ahmad Malik’s podcast discusses. The public’s experience of covid vaccines, capable of causing permanent disability and death, have made them wonder if childhood vaccines can also cause considerable harm.

Dr Wakefield agrees. He said: ‘The whole covid saga will turn out to be one of the greatest mistakes that science and experts and carpetbaggers and the pharmaceutical industry have ever made. It has led to almost a complete loss of trust in public health and the pharmaceutical industry.

‘This is why these films are so important. You can provide a series of facts that make people think. There is a silver lining.’

Merck, the CDC, the FDA and GlaxoSmithKline were all contacted for comment. None has been received.

NOTE: If the whistleblowers’ appeal is successful the likelihood is that Merck will settle out of court, not with any children or adults damaged by their product but with the US government. Mr Moody said: ‘These kinds of cases always settle because the damages are too big, three times the size of the purchase. They’ll probably end up settling for $100million or more. Merck will never risk a jury.’

*NOTE: GlaxoSmithKline sell the MMR jab in the UK.

Interested in hosting a screening? Please contact Protocol 7.

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Sally Beck
Sally Beck
Sally Beck is a freelance journalist with 30 years of experience in writing for national newspapers and magazines. She has reported on vaccines since the controversy began with the MMR in 1998.

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