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You are here News Health Autism and Vaccines Researcher for CDC, Indicted for Fraud and Money-Laundering

Autism and Vaccines Researcher for CDC, Indicted for Fraud and Money-Laundering

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Poul Thorsen, the principal coordinator of multiple studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used to deny a vaccine/autism link was indicted on April 13th on 13 counts of fraud and 9 counts of money-laundering.  The charges relate to funding for work he conducted for the CDC, which claimed to disprove associations between the mercury-based vaccine preservative, thimerosal, and increased rates of autism.

SafeMinds first voiced concerns in 2003 regarding a series of epidemiology studies out of Denmark and under the jurisdiction of Thorsen that provided the basis for the Institute of Medicine's claim that there was no association between thimerosal and autism.  That claim has been responsible for the continued unsafe use of mercury in influenza vaccines in the United States and infant vaccines around the world.

"The quality of this epidemiological research has always been questionable," states Sallie Bernard, SafeMinds president.  "Many biological studies support a link between mercury and autism, but these Danish studies have been used to suppress further research into thimerosal.  With clear evidence of Dr. Thorsen's lack of ethics, it is imperative to reopen this investigation."

From August to October of 2003, three articles on the autism-mercury controversy were published in close succession, all of which used data from a Danish registry for psychiatric research to assess the relationship between autism trends and the use of thimerosal. SafeMinds accessed the registry at the time and reported that a large percentage of diagnosed autism cases are lost from the Danish registry each year and that most of those lost cases were older children. Since the studies were  based on finding fewer older thimerosal-exposed children than younger unexposed children, the validity of their conclusion exonerating thimerosal in autism was questionable and likely a result of missing records rather than true lower incidence rates among the exposed group.  

In addition, internal emails obtained via FOIA document discussion between the Danish researchers and Thornsen which acknowledge that the studies did not include the latest data from 2001 where the incidence and prevalence of autism was declining which would be supportive of a vaccine connection.

The emails also include requests from Thornsen to CDC asking that the agency write letters to the journal Pediatrics encouraging them to publish the research after it had been rejected by other journals.

A top CDC official complied with the request sending a letter to the editor of the journal supporting the publication of the study which they called a "strong piece of evidence that thimerosal is not linked to autism."  

As fraud charges regarding Thorsen surface, and as we believe the registry was unreliable, SafeMinds is calling for an independent federal investigation of these studies for data manipulation and scientific misconduct.  Further background information on these studies, the charges against Dr. Thorsen, and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that support SafeMinds' concerns are available at www.safeminds.org.


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