April 4, 2006

Conflict of Interest in Autism Rate Study from NAA

News Release
For immediate release

Wendy Fournier (Portsmouth, RI) 401.632.7523
Rita Shreffler (Nixa, MO) 417.818.9030

National Autism Association Points Out Possible Conflicts of Interest in New Study Denying Epidemic Rise in Autism Rates

New research relying on evolving diagnostic criteria to explain huge autism numbers fails to mention author’s potential conflicts

Nixa, MO - A study published today in Pediatrics, “The Contribution of Diagnostic Substitution to the Growing Administrative Prevalence of Autism in US Special Education,” suggests that autism diagnoses haven’t actually risen over the past two decades, despite growing and credible scientific evidence to the contrary. In addition to the study’s weak methods and erroneous conclusions, questions have now arisen over possible failure to disclose conflicts of interest and recent findings that data from previous autism projects with which current study author Paul Shattuck has been associated were fabricated.

Although he was not personally implicated, Dr. Shattuck’s former research partner, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin’s Waisman Center, was recently disciplined by the Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity for scientific misconduct due to fabrication of data. Dr. Shattuck and others published several articles and delivered scientific presentations using data from the project in question. “We need to know the ramifications of the falsified information,” said Ann Brasher, NAA Vice President. “The autism community demands that the University of Wisconsin clearly identify all published documents that potentially contain false information.”

Additionally, Pediatrics failed to disclose a potential or actual conflict of interest. Although the article states that Dr. Shattuck has indicated he has no financial relationships relevant to the article, NAA has learned that he was a Merck Scholar Pre-doctoral Trainee from 1999-2003, and in 2003-2004 he successfully applied for $530,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Given the rocky history of the CDC and the autism community, failing to mention the author’s ties to this agency is a glaring omission that requires an explanation,” commented NAA board chair Claire Bothwell. “Clearly, the CDC has a vested interest in deflecting attention from the possibility that children injured by mercury-containing vaccines ended up with autism diagnoses which fueled autism rates off the charts. It can’t come as a surprise to the Pediatrics board that any autism researcher’s relationship with the CDC is certainly noteworthy and should have been disclosed to readers. It’s unclear at this time whether the failure to disclose is on the part of the researcher or the journal, but these issues must be resolved.”

For more information, go to www.nationalautism.org

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This particular Merck fund is:
http://www.jmfund.org/about.html ... which says: "The late Serena S. Merck founded The John Merck Fund, a New York charitable trust named for her son, in 1970. For the first sixteen years, The Fund worked exclusively to support research into children’s developmental disabilities. Beginning in 1986, it added programs in other fields that also were of concern to Mrs. Merck and her late husband, George W. Merck. Currently, The Fund has five program areas: Developmental Disabilities, Environment, Reproductive Health, Human Rights and Job Opportunities."