May 30, 2000
The Hon. Dan Burton
Dear Congressman Burton:
During the April 6, 2000, committee hearing on autism, Brent Taylor was asked whether he would make available the data from the study on MMR and autism published in the June 12, 1999, issue of the Lancet. His answer was equivocal.
Enclosed is a copy of his response to my letter.
This is an unacceptable response. The findings of this paper cannot be taken as credible as long as the data are shielded from independent review. Under U.S. law, federally funded studies must make data available for independent analysis. As a condition for publication in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the author must agree that "any reasonable request for materials and methods necessary to verify the conclusions of the experiment must be honored." Rules of Evidence require that no conclusion may be drawn from data that are not available lest the court or the committee be led down the path of speculation and subterfuge.
The only firm conclusion that I can draw from studying the paper is that the age of onset of autism is not significantly different in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. This is not at all surprising: the vaccine is administered at the time when this condition generally manifests itself.
The title of the article is misleading ("Autism and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological evidence for a causal association"). Analysis of the data might well show a significantly higher incidence of autism in vaccinated children; the authors did not make a comparison of the incidence in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children.
We believe that the flaws in argumentation based on this article need to be highlighted in a future hearing. Please let us know if we may be of any assistance.
Jane M. Orient, M.D.