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What the CDC and FDA Don’t Want You to Know About Thimerosal and Autism--Part II

May 21, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

In 2005, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. published a lengthy examination of the history of Eli Lilly´s deadly mercury compound, thimerosal, in vaccines and its decades-long history of suppressed data about dangers to those receiving it.  Following is the second in a series of information from that piece, which described the outcome of a 2000 meeting—The Simpsonwood Conference—in which a group of government scientists and health officials met for a secret, highly-secluded meeting convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In the coming days, we will continue to provide more information from this important paper on this dangerous health issue.

The government ably handled the damage, with the CDC paying the Institute of Medicine to conduct a new study to minimize the risks of thimerosal, ordering researchers to "rule out" thimerosal’s link to autism.  The study withheld Verstraeten´s findings, despite the fact that the findings were scheduled for immediate publication.  The other scientists were told that the original data was “lost" and could not be replicated.  In an effort to hinder the Freedom of Information Act, it gave its enormous database of vaccine records to a private company, declaring it off-limits to researchers.  When Verstraeten finally published his study in 2003, he had gone to work for GlaxoSmithKline and edited his data to hide the thimerosal-autism link.

Vaccine manufacturers began to phase thimerosal out of injections given to American infants at that time but continued to sell off their remaining thimerosal-based vaccines until 2004.  The CDC and FDA also purchased the tainted vaccines for export to developing countries and allowed drug companies to continue using thimerosal in some American vaccines, including pediatric flu shots and tetanus boosters given to children.

Drug manufacturers also received significant assistance from some powerful Washington lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist who received $873,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry and worked to protect vaccine makers from liability in 4,200 lawsuits filed by the parents of injured children.  On no less than five separate occasions, Frist attempted to seal all of the government´s vaccine-related documents—including the Simpsonwood Conference transcripts—and “shield Eli Lilly, the developer of thimerosal, from subpoenas.”

In 2002, the day after Frist slipped a rider known as the "Eli Lilly Protection Act" into a homeland security bill, Eli Lilly contributed $10,000 to Frist’s campaign and bought 5,000 copies of his book on bioterrorism.  Although the measure was repealed by Congress in 2003, Frist slipped another provision into an anti-terrorism bill in 2005 that would deny compensation to children suffering from vaccine-related brain disorders. "The lawsuits are of such magnitude that they could put vaccine producers out of business and limit our capacity to deal with a biological attack by terrorists," said Dean Rosen, health policy adviser to Frist.

Representative Dan Burton (Republican-Indiana) oversaw a three-year investigation of thimerosal following his grandson’s diagnoses with autism.  "Thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is directly related to the autism epidemic," his House Government Reform Committee concluded in its final report.  "This epidemic, in all probability, may have been prevented or curtailed had the FDA not been asleep at the switch regarding a lack of safety data regarding injected thimerosal, a known neurotoxin."

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