Doctor Defends Discredited Autism-Vaccine Link Study

(CNN)

A physician accused of an "elaborate fraud" in a now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines is defending himself, telling CNN his work has been "grossly distorted."

Speaking on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Dr. Andrew Wakefield said Wednesday he has been the target of "a ruthless, pragmatic attempt to crush any attempt to investigate valid vaccine safety concerns."

An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes Wakefield misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.

The medical publication says the study has done long-lasting damage to public health.

"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."

Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license in May.

"Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession," BMJ states in an editorial accompanying the work.

Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association defended Wakefield in a CNN interview.

"I cannot imagine for a second that Dr. Wakefield would have any reason to falsify data," she said. "He's a man of integrity and honesty and truly wants to find the answers for millions of children who have been affected by autism."