Tom Jefferson Concealed Glaxo Consultancy from Lawsuit-Killing Paper
In a 2003, Tom Jefferson led a systematic review published in Vaccine mere days before legal aid funding was cut from MMR vaccine litigation in the UK. The review purported to exonerate the vaccine of causing autism and several gastrointestinal disorders. His sole disclosure in the review was that he “acted as an ad hoc consultant for a legal team advising MMR manufacturers” in 1999. He did not disclose what he would reveal in other publications, namely that he “acted as a consultant for…GSK (2001–2002).” GlaxoSmithKline was one of the manufacturers of MMR being sued. Jefferson concealed this from his Vaccine review and in his later Cochrane Review that drew similar conclusions in 2005.
Meanwhile, he was disclosing his GSK consultancy elsewhere including a 2004 article in BMJ about influenza.
Later on, Jefferson began playing down his ties to GlaxoSmithKline as simply owning “shares” in the company. In his 2006 BMJ article critical of influenza vaccines, he disclosed that “he owned shares in Glaxo SmithKline” for an unspecified time. He made the same disclosure in a 2005 letter to The Lancet that included some of his fellow Cochrane coauthors, published the month before his Cochrane Review.
In the 2018 HPV vaccine critique he coauthored with Peter Gøtzsche, Jefferson’s “shares” had since morphed back into a paid consultancy.
The bottom line is that Jefferson was disclosing his ties to GlaxoSmithKline in publications where disclosure was convenient for him to do so. When he made the disclosure, he was critiquing influenza or HPV vaccines. When he didn’t, he was defending the MMR vaccine.
The problem is that these selective disclosures really show that Jefferson is influenced by his industry ties. He is so influenced by them that he will disclose them some places but not others depending on how they affect the perception of his publications.
Just as bad is the impact his earlier non-disclosures had on vaccine-injured children’s litigation. The cutting of legal aid from the UK’s Legal Services Commission effectively doomed their chances of justice. The disclosure of GlaxoSmithKline’s connection was particularly important, in light of the fact that the company thwarted the litigation in more ways than one.
Yet now Tom Jefferson is a “deputy director” of Peter Gøtzsche’s group ironically named the “Institute for Scientific Freedom.” Jefferson should never be trusted on issues of vaccine safety or academic freedom ever again.
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