Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure

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A London researcher was the first to assert that the combination measles-mumps-rubella vaccine known as MMR caused autism in children. Following this "discovery," a handful of parents declared that a mercury-containing preservative in several vaccines was responsible for the disease. If mercury caused autism, they reasoned, eliminating it from a child's system should treat the disorder. Consequently, a number of untested alternative therapies arose, and, most tragically, in one such treatment, a doctor injected a five-year-old autistic boy with a chemical in an effort to cleanse him of mercury, which stopped his heart instead.

Children with autism have been placed on stringent diets, subjected to high-temperature saunas, bathed in magnetic clay, asked to swallow digestive enzymes and activated charcoal, and injected with various combinations of vitamins, minerals, and acids. Instead of helping, these therapies can hurt those who are most vulnerable, and particularly in the case of autism, they undermine childhood vaccination programs that have saved millions of lives. An overwhelming body of scientific evidence clearly shows that childhood vaccines are safe and does not cause autism. Yet widespread fear of vaccines on the part of parents persists.

In this book, Paul A. Offit, a national expert on vaccines, challenges the modern-day false prophets who have so egregiously misled the public and exposes the opportunism of the lawyers, journalists, celebrities, and politicians who support them. Offit recounts the history of autism research and the exploitation of this tragic condition by advocates and zealots. He considers the manipulation of science in the popular media and the courtroom, and he explores why society is susceptible to the bad science and risky therapies put forward by many antivaccination activists.

Customer Reviews:

  • Autism's False Prophets
    Dr. Offit's book is a much needed resource to help people understand that there is no scientific proof that vaccines cause autism. The energy, time and money spent to continue the myth that there is a connection, robs the research needed to help us understand and make changes that will truly improve lives. ...more info
  • Information a parent of autistic child need
    This book contains information which every parent of an autistic child should read. As a father of an autistic girl I am really grateful to have this thorough go-through of false hopes. It is too easy to thrust a false hope and even damage your child if you do not have enough good information. No matter how you think now. Read this book, I recommend it....more info
  • Walk in my shoes and then talk!
    Why is it that people who have never experienced Autism firsthand feel so compelled to disprove alternative approaches to healing autism? Your children are healthy and vaccinated, yet you want to kick the parents of children with autism while we are down? Count your blessings and leave us alone. Don't you think we WANT to vaccinate our kids? We did vaccinate our kids and look what happened! We were just like you all, until autism changed out lives. We brought our babies to doctors who told us, "Sorry your child has autism. You will reciever your bill in the mail and don't let the door hit you on the way out." No medicine. No help. No Hope. That's it. 1 in 150 children (by the way a very outdated statistic) are diagnosed and no one is helping us. That is no one in the allopathic community. Instead it is a community of parents who have been forced to read, research, study and learn about the human body, neurology, bacteria, viruses, nutrition, food allergies, gastrointestinal issues, sensory integration disfunction, hypotonia, and on and on and on. Yes, we use Google and thank God for it! What would you do if your baby was perfect and healthy and then one day they were severely sick and no one would believe you or help you. Well it is fine to write a book and call us all quacks because science hasn't caught up with us (although the Autism Research Institute has over 60 years of well documented studies.) The truth is we don;t have time to sit around and wait fro the medical world to help us. Our kids our sick and need help now! That said, there is help! I recovered not one but 2 of my children in 1 year using medical diets, supplements, herbs and homeopathy. So go ahead and write a book trying to disprove these methods. But ask yourself a question, with autism being the number 1 childhood disorder, are you really helping anyone? Maybe you should come visit some families who have lived through this hell and overcome it and then maybe you will open your mind enough to see that our kids can get better, no thanks to "modern medicine." And for all of you who are so passionate about us quacks trying to recover our kids, God bless you that you are in a position to judge because your kids are healthy and you haven't had to make the tough choices we have had to make. Count your blessings you haven't had to walk in my shoes. Then again with numbers on the rise, sadly, maybe one day you will. ...more info
  • Excellent account of the mechanisms behind False Prophets and the people who fall for them
    I had been waiting for this book for a while (indeed, due to the long delivery times, I waited longer than anticipated). Paul Offit's Autism's False Prophets was absolutely worth the wait, and as it is with such books, did not last very long after I received it, since it is so unputdownable. Offit takes us through a journey through the various hypotheses of the etiology of autism. He gives a detailed, well researched, accurate account of the associated history of autism "therapies" and their protagonists. I knew all that - had read about each "wonder drug/treatment" in blogs, parents' accounts, scientific manuscripts. It still shocked me to see all the different, sometimes highly invasive approaches that autistic children have to endure in one book. It is important to read such an analysis though, because otherwise you would remain gullible. The book is an important read, not only for parents/relatives/friends of children/adults with autism, but for any patient. It is "normal" to be desperate, it is "normal" to be wanting a powerful remedy. It is important not to fall for False Prophets.

    2008 was a good year for books empowering patients, teaching them to tell woo from right (Suckers by Rose Sharpiro, Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, Bad Science by Ben Goldacre all fall into the category of the "Woo Enlightenment", each in their own style). Autism's False Prophets has its place in this list - get it for Christmas, or give one away.

    Postscriptum: I cannot fail to notice that the postive reviewers have all read the book, whereas most of the negative reviewers have not and have simply added their ad hominem to artificially pull down the overall customer score for this book. Can we say "boooo"...more info
  • Finally! The whole story...
    If you read the negative reviews they are people who had clearly already made up their mind before reading the book. I am so greatful to have found the answers to my questions between these covers. I hope those with open minds find this as interresting and informative as I did. This book provides the details behind the controversy. In the press it is hard to know what is fact and what is hype. Dr. Offit does a great job of clarifying the issues in an easy to understand, straight-forward, and very interesting book. I recommend without reservation....more info
  • What is science?
    This detailed book does an excellent job of explaining the history of autism. The supposed cures and down side of not vaccinating our children is explained.

    One thing for sure our politicians, both democrats and republicans, should not be put in a position of deciding scientific matters. John Kerry, Joe Liberman, Robert Kennedy Jr., Henry Waxman, as well as, Dan Burton all created more choas and did contribute to understanding what causes autism.

    The media fans the flames, as usual, does not help to explain the controversial issues.

    The pharmaceutical companies are criticized for making a profit from vaccines, however, I don't hear the same criticism about the so called experts that give people false hope and make a tidy profit from parents who only wish the best for their children.

    For an opposite view point I would suggest Jenny McCarthy's book.
    Another book which does a humorous job in explaining science is Dr. Kary Mullis's book.

    Even after reading this book I am not sure what causes autism, but this book will offer a different perspective. In a perfect world we would have unbiased research. Our children deserve the best we can offer them.
    ...more info
  • "Autisms False Prophets" helpful for professionals and parents alike
    Not at all as difficult to read as some other books of this genre. This book is a well researched and scientifically based study of the power of money, wishful thinking, celebrity, and the media to direct opinion and research. It goes well beyond autism.
    I bought several copies of the book to give to collegues in the medical profession as well as patients declining immunizations.Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure...more info
  • Detailed, Readable Account of the Rise of the Vaccine-Autism Controversy
    Offit provides a readable narrative of the genesis of the most recent anti-vaccination movement. More importantly, he takes on the errors that prop up this house of cards in a way that manages to be accessible to non-scientists without being condescending.

    He also offers his perspective on the social context that permitted the the anti-vaccination and defeat autism movements to gain traction and flourish.

    Offit writes compassionately of parents of autistic children, who are understandably angry, and sometimes desperate for a cause and a cure, and he is justifiably angry at those he believes take advantage of these parents.

    He saves his harshest criticisms, though, for his fellow scientists. Starting with Andrew Wakefield, who set the anti-vaccination ball rolling with bad (and possibly fraudulent) science, coupled with an appetite for media grandstanding, and continuing with Neal Halsey, former head of the AAP vaccine advisory committee, who pushed the FDA to mandate the removal of thimerosol from childhood vaccines (as well as a moratorium on the birth-dose of Hepatits B vaccine, resulting in 7 neo-natal Hep B. infections, and one death) before policy-makers had good scientific data on which to base the decision. The result was a public-relations firestorm that severely shook the public's confidence in vaccine safety, and further set the stage for the growth of anti-vaccinationism.

    Anyone who is interested in the story--and the science--behind the debate over autism and vaccines should read this book....more info
  • great book
    Understanding your child's challenges and special gifts can help your child be the best they can be
    A Moment of Peace: Relaxation for Parents AudiobookA Moment of Peace: Relaxation for Children...more info
  • Excellent
    Literally from the first sentence, this book hooks you and it's hard to put down. An important topic, and well executed....more info
  • Paul Offit Won't Proft from Me
    Paul Offit is at it again ... defending vaccines because vaccines are his livelihood. He knows nothing about parenting or treating autism, yet the fact remains that hundreds of parents and physicians have recovered (notice I did not use the word 'cure') or greatly improved symptoms of autism in their children. I'm guessing that Paul Offit fails to mention that autism continues to rise despite the reduction of mercury in vaccines (notice I did not say 'elimination' of mercury) because the CDC strongly encourages pregnant women to get the flu shot ... 90% of which still contain a whopping 25mcg of mercury. And by the way, study results are difficult to replicate simply because autism is an astoundingly complex disorder and it is very difficult to control for all variables. While I'm curious to see what Paul Proffit has to say, I'll be borrowing this book from the library, rather than having him profit by another purchase of this book....more info
  • How did the author become an autism expert?
    What I would like to know is, how did the author, Paul Offit, become an expert in what causes autism and how best to treat it (or not), when he has neither ever parented nor treated a child with this disorder. The fact that he is himself a vaccine patent holder should be enough of a reason to skip this book due to the apparent conflict of interest.
    I'm still confused about how he became an expert in the area of facilitated communication, as well.

    ...more info
  • Amazing, informative book - a must read!!
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and found it very interesting. As a student who just learned about autism, I wanted to learn more about the vaccine-autism theory, especially after our child psychiatrist lecturer so quickly and forcefully dismissed it. To be honest, I had always been skeptical of any link, as much as I am skeptical of people who claim to have gotten the flu from a flu shot. But despite my prior opinions, I thought this was a good book on autism.

    Yes, this book dismisses the notion that autism is caused by vaccinations, which angers many parents of autistic children that cling to this idea as the cause of their child's illness (and the reason for so many 1-stars). But that is not a valid reason to bash this book, or refuse to read it. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it cannot be ignored. With so much attention being placed on Jenny McCarthy (the most attention she's ever received in her career, I suppose), it is nice to get the other side of the argument.

    People all have their own views on autism, but I hope that whether you agree with the author or not, you read this book, if only to get a new perspective on autism. Hopefully, out of this argument will come research that will show the causes of autism (whether vaccine-related or not) and what can be done to prevent its onset in the beginning. ...more info
  • A remarkably effective overview of the Vaccine/Autism Issue
    A brief look at the reviews of "Autism's False Prophets" on Amazon will show the hallmarks of a contentious issue; at the time I'm posting this review (Oct 26) its Amazon reviews are all 5-star or 1-star, at 19 and 13. Which raises the rather important question of whether the book - Paul Offit's coverage of the vaccine/autism issue - can avoid being caught up in the stridency.

    It mostly does; while Offit does develop to his position - the evidence says neither Thermisol nor MMR causes cancer, and the vaccine/autism link is false - he narrates the other side effectively, and at first lets his opponents hang themselves. The dishonesty of Andrew Wakefield is particularly galling. The man falsified his research assistant's data, and failed to disclose he was paid by trial lawyers suing vaccine manufacturers - and then claimed it was only $50,000 until the real amount was revealed as $800,000. Offit does get more emphatic but it never descends into raw viciousness; which is nice when the publisher is so spooked a book tour is considered too dangerous for the author. Offit has mentioned elsewhere that there is plenty of reason to be angry, but I prefer the approach he does take.

    I have a few bones to pick with his presentation, though. He chooses a sort of rise and fall format for the early parts - first MMR/autism and then thermisol/autism. So he builds up the anti-vaxers and then breaks them down; the problem is the narrative strikes me as slightly false. The evidence against thermisol, for example, started hitting well before the "high" of Hollywood calling in 2006, and comments like "But the next few years would reveal that it was all a mirage" don't fit the accumulation of evidence already there. None of this undermines the science, but a more general chronological narrative not only would have fit better, but would have reinforced the point of how evidence and public consciousness become disjointed. Offit has defended this choice elsewhere as suggesting the "public" awareness of the issue, but I don't think this quite works.

    The later passages are smoother, though Offit doesn't seem quite sure how to integrate the pro-vaccine autism bloggers into the book. Much of the coverage of how the science is abused by the media and legal system is nothing new, but it is solid and gains some strength by resting on the case made earlier in the book. More on the issue of how casting the debate as over "damaged" kids reverberates among the actual autistic - both its insulting nature to the kids themselves, and the harm it does in getting resources to allow society to integrate them - would have been nice, but the former of the two does get handled somewhat.

    The anti-vaccine contingent tied the goalposts to their truck and hit the gas some time ago, as David Kirby's bizarre November 2006 blameshifting - plumes of smoke from China, forest fires, and cremated dental filings as the new source of mercury for autism - show. But for its history and capable discussion of science's imperfect integration into the public domain, "Autism's False Prophets" is a good choice for people who haven't already made up their mind.


    (I received a copy of this book via the Scienceblogs Book Club)...more info
  • Me thinks he doth protest to much.

    Another millionaire vaccine producer attacking anyone and anything that might jeopardize the sacred cash cow. The guy is going way out of his area of expertise to attack anyone and everyone attempting to fix a problem that he has been instrumental in making worse.-the autism epidemic. He's feeling a little guilty I guess....more info
  • An important book
    I am the mother of two children with autism, and so I get a lot of questions from people about the causes of autism, and about vaccines, special diets, and alternative and complementary medicine, too. I'll be recommending this book to the people who ask me those questions from now on. The book lays out in a compelling, highly readable way the history of the various vaccine scares with regard to autism, and the numerous studies that have been done on vaccines and autism, the results of which have not been communicated effectively to the general public. It is also fascinating to read about the vitriol which the anti-vaccine movement heaps on those who disagree with them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!...more info
  • Disappointed
    I was highly disappointed in this book. The author was stating opinions and one sided results from flawed studies. I am a mom of a child who has autism and I am undecided if his autism was due to vaccinations, however, I do believe it can cause it in some children. The author mentions Jenny McCarthy and "her degree in Google". This is similar to what I recently went through by seeing various doctors (including an allergist) to determine a source of my itching from head to toe. I finally found the simple answer on my own by searching the internet. If you want to read an informative, unbiased book about vaccination benefits vs. risks, read The Vaccine Book, by Robert Sears....more info
  • I have a recovering child who proves Offit wrong
    What a pack of lies this book is. I am proud to say that I have a mostly recovered autistic son about to loose his diagnosis thanks to the Defeat Autism Now! doctors that this doctor is slandering. Look at Offits professional history and his conflict of interests and it is not hard to see why he came up with this book. What else are you gonna do when you are as responsible as he and his industry are for the autism epidemic. Don't waste your money on this poor excuse for a book. Research for yourself the whole autism story. If you want to know about autism ask a parent of a child with autism, not a vaccine patent holder and pusher. Don't forget to check out our Defeat Autism Now! doctors recovered kids stories and videos....more info
  • Why I won't be buying this book
    I have two autistic children, and I am not an anti-vaxer. I don't believe my children's autism was caused by vaccines. In fact, the day my daughter was diagnosed by our pediatrician, she was age 2 and then AFTER his diagnosis, she received her MMR. So I agree--vaccines are not the cause. And most vaccines are not full of mercury anymore, and yet the rise of autism continues. Why? Because there are many kids today who are genetically prone to autism, and in those few kids, the huge load of vaccines received can push them over. I personally advocate a much lower push of antibodies and spreading the vaccines out, if you're not placing your child in a huge daycare. If they're home with Gramma or a friend, they can probably do okay without Hep A and a few others all at once. But that's what decision I came to. I hate Jenny McCarthy. Sorry. Her kid is NOT CURED--there IS no cure, only coping. I'm living it 24/7, and I'm coping. Good luck to the author and all who read his book. I hope we have fewer kids dying of measles and whooping cough this year....more info
  • Thank you for writing this book!
    I encountered Dr. Offit on Sirius Doctor Radio and heard about this book there. This book clears up all the falsehoods and bad PR about vaccines and it's a fast and interesting read. I only wish that I had this book when my children were infants and receiving their vaccines as it would have removed any lingering doubts that were floating around in my head at that time. Any parent expecting their first child or with young children should read this book and you too will realize that vaccines are not controversial with regard to autism. The studies have delivered consistent and definitive results that MMR and thimerosol do not cause autism. If only Dr. Offit could get as much coverage as Jenny McCarthy, many more people would be enlightened. ...more info
  • Thank You - From the Mother of 2 with Autism
    I now have a book to give all the important people in my sons' lives. This is a powerful book based on real science and fact, not opinions. Thank heavens there are people like Dr. Offit strong enough to weather the storm of popular opinion.

    I mourn for a generation of our children not being protected from harmful illnesses due to a misguided attempt to protect them. I have sympathy for the parents like me who have had to struggle to come to terms with their children's autism. I have nothing but scorn for the politicians, lawyers and corrupt doctors who have taken advantage of my fellow parents for their own personal gain. I am sickened by the media who continue to give the spotlight to minor celebrites as if they were experts in this field.

    But I am thankful for Dr. Offit, Amanda Peet and all the others out there trying to protect our children. The people who are not making a penny on this but are saying what needs to be said from concern (those of you who have cried out against Dr. Offit may not know he is donating the porceeds of this book to Autism research). I thank you Dr. Offit and my two sons with autism thank you.
    ...more info
  • Finally a clear voice
    After thirty years as a pediatrician I have read volumes of literature on the controversies in health care and do so with a cautious optomism. Dr. Offit has authored an enjoyable summary of a complex subject.I read it overnight. I've passed my copy on to another in my group and will order more for my loaner library. ...more info
  • Brought back lots of memories...
    I really enjoyed this book (though I enjoyed his biography of Maurice Hilleman more). I started going to online discussion groups when we got our first modem over fourteen years ago (I still chuckle at the responses about "dyslexia" I got when I asked about "dyspraxia", which is what my oldest child was diagnosed with in 1991). As I moved around on Compuserve, briefly on Usenet, and on the Apraxia-Kids listserv, I saw these events unfold.

    At first I could simply say "No, vaccines are not the cause of apraxia/dyspraxia, my kid had his seizures before any vaccine"... and it would be accepted and we would go on discussing insurance and school issues. Then "they" came, and "they" would not take "no" for an answer. "They" would send nasty-grams if anyone challenged anything they wrote. One tried to get me booted from the listserv just because I tried to explain that the MMR vaccine never contained mercury (a sure sign that someone does not know the issues is when he/she says "the thimerosal in MMR").

    Also "they" started to promote all sorts of cures. I spoke against craniosacral and essential oils, and received nasty-grams that I had a closed mine (in frustration I told her to go bother the writers of paper saying that BC Health should not fund craniosacral therapy). Then I wrote an email to the group trying to explain that chelation was a "bad idea"... lots of nasty grams, including one telling me I was dangerous!

    I found out from someone else that one of "them" was actually employed by a prominent DAN! doctor who sold the stuff she was promoting. So I left.

    Just a couple of months later Roy Kerry killed a kid through chelation just because he was autistic. The interesting thing is that the owner and the moderator of the listserv do not live far from where that happened.

    I was tempted to sign back up to see what the reaction was, but I resisted. I went on with my life. That support group had nothing that I needed. Since my kid was older all I could do was explain what we had gone through and suggest books. I decided to stick with my local folks who I could talk to in reality.

    This book shows exactly who "they" are... they are the ones who want to blame the vaccines, they are the ones who want to skew science to their own conclusions, they are the ones that want to take advantage of desperate parents, they are the ones who want to divert scarce public funds from educational therapies to some phantom cause/cure... especially for there are kids like mine with OTHER disabilities!

    If you are interested in how special interests have taken over an issue and caused more harm than good... get this book!...more info
  • A Very Important Book
    Paul Offit's writings and his behavior have consistently reflected his strong commitment to both children's health and to science. This book underscores the many problems that can occur when emotion-driven rather than science-driven actions impact: treatments, resource allocations, policies, and ultimately health outcomes. "Autism's False Prophets" is well written and I couldn't put it down. Recognizing that Dr. Offit is donating all royalties from the sale of this book to autism research, I just ordered four more copies to give to friends....more info
  • Easily understood, valuable overview of the data
    Critics of the book have claimed here that epidemiological studies are what the tobacco industry used to back their claims that cigarette smoking was safe, and also have criticized Dr. Offit because his specialty is infectious diseases, not neurology.

    First, epidemiological studies are extremely sensitive when properly conducted; if a large enough population is studied, adverse effects down to the level of one event in 100,000 or even smaller can be detected. Several large-scale studies have been conducted and have found no evidence of a link between autism and vaccinations.

    Second, though Dr. Offit is not a neurologist, vaccination is one of the things an infectious-disease specialist knows more about than the average M.D. Several reviewers have made much of Dr. Bernadine Healy's recommendation for further study; it should be pointed out that Dr. Healy's specialty was neither neurology nor infectious diseases, but cardiology. Furthermore, she was a member of the advisory board of The Advancement of Sound Science Center, an advocacy group which was funded by Philip Morris, and operates out of the home of Steven Milloy, whose efforts on behalf of the tobacco industry are well-known. Ah, irony.

    One of the cornerstones of sound science is reproducibility. Just like cold fusion, the isolated studies purporting to demonstrate a link between vaccines and autism have not proved repeatable by other scientists, yet Wakefield and others are still believed by many despite this. That's not science, it's faith.

    Yes, Galileo was a rebel, but not every rebel is a Galileo....more info
  • Courageous and Timely Book
    Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure
    Dr. Offit makes a stand for the Scientific Method. He reminds readers what it consists of, what it can prove and what it cannot refute. He contrasts it with faith, andecdotal evidence, strong hunches, compelling stories, and emotional appeals. He demonstrates how iconoclastic science can be, as it's results can come up against received wisdom and entrenched interests. He shows how the media's job is often to entertain, above informing. He shows how parents of children with incurable diseases can be vulnerable to hope peddlers. This book is about Autism, but it could be a used as a sociological study on how different aspects of society as a whole takes a concerned parent through the journey of trying to improve the life of a child with any incurable disease today. I am a Child Psychiatrist and a mother of a child with severe autism. I applaud Dr. Offit for this effort and his courage....more info
  • Science has spoken
    Very well written and researched with lots of details about the history of the alleged evils of vaccines preached by the false prophets, and the real science behind each controversy. It also sheds light on all the damage created by these false campaigns. I would highly recommend it....more info
  • The Truth about Vaccines
    This is an extremely valuable book on a topic of major importance in the field of public health. Dr Offit makes many valid points. Vaccines do not cause autism. Courts of law and the Halls of Congress are not the best places to determine scientific facts. It is deplorable when medical experts sell out to trial lawyers. I am a pediatrician. I always tell my patients that there are 2 main reasons people are healthier now than 100 years ago, clean water and vaccines. Books like Dr Offit's will go a long way to help the general public regain their trust in vaccines in particular and medicine in general. ...more info
  • A must read for any parent
    Thank you Dr. Offit! I hope every parent in my practice reads this book.
    A pediatrician in Charlotte NC...more info
  • Can't fight the truth.

    This book is very well written. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has any doubts about autism. After reading this book, I can't see how anyone can't listen to the other side. This book is based on facts; has a full index of references. Really intelligent. Go Dr. Offit!...more info
  • science, culture, and the media
    Well written and highly readable, this book isn't just about whether vaccines cause autism (they don't) but about the dynamics between science, culture, and the media in the US and UK. It's difficult to counter sound bites with sound explanations of science. Despite his sometimes overwhelming passion for the topic, the author does a very good job of deconstructing a number of complex issues. For one thing, in the US we have a tendency to want to "be fair" and "present both sides" on every issue, but that's not really as brilliant as it seems. Just like with statistics, one must weight the sides appropriately, and if you have 100 scientists with reproducible research showing one thing and one person who claims otherwise and whose research is NOT reproducible, it's wise to consider how much value to place on the outlier. It may ultimately be proved correct, but the key word there is "proved" correct. That's the beauty of the scientific method: it's self-correcting. It's not glamorous, but it will do the job right, given time and good methodology.

    This book provided a lot of food for thought and gave insight into the vaccine/autism issue as well as many other alleged medical controversies. I recommend it. ...more info
  • The Truth about Vaccines and Autism
    I urge all parents to read this book! Dr. Offit explains how come so many people associate vaccines with autism when all the research indicates that there is no connection. ...more info
  • Autism's False Prophets
    An amazing read; I couldn't put it down. Also extremely frustrating to read how badly people misinterpret science, jump to conclusions about cause and effect and in particular, base their opinions on anecdotal cases and emotion. Once upon a time the anecdotal case report was all there was and it drove all of medicine - of course that time was the Middle Ages and we are quickly descending into that level of quackery. Dr. Offit, a scientist with knowledge of the statistics needed to interpret scientific reports, lets you hear from the most published, respected, and undoubted actual experts in the fields. Also to hear from an adult with autism was really interesting - no one seems to include them and their feelings about being called "poisoned", "damaged" etc. In retrospect I think my father had the mild form of autism sometimes referred to as Asperger's synd. (not to use anecdotal cases to make science) but he certainly considered his unusual way of looking at the world as quite superior to all else. He was a successful, brilliant man as long as he had my mother to negotiate the social contacts with the entire world.
    Dr. Offit's personal story, that he places right at the front of the book, makes it clear what drives him in his chosen field. He discusses his work to make the vaccine against Rotavirus (which never had Thimersal and has never been associated with autism) is clear and lets you know he has experience in the area. Bad associations with Rotatec vaccine and intususception (a real side effect of a vaccine but not statistically recognizable till given to enough patients) led to its prompt withdrawal from the market. Which puts the lie to the idea that vaccines are unmonitored....more info
  • I'm outraged!
    Let me start by saying that when I wrote this review, I was forced to rate it from 1 to 5 stars. There was no choice for 0, or I would've rated it with 0 stars.

    My grandson developed autism after receiving a series of rabies vaccines almost three years ago. He was a perfectly normal, almost four-year-old, little boy before the shots. A few weeks after the vaccines, he stopped talking, feeding himself, holding his sippy cup, and pottying. He played with one or two toys for hours, lining up his cars and becoming hysterical if my daughter or I tried to move one. He flapped his hands, walked on his toes, and had meltdowns over everything. At times, he could barely walk. HE HAD AUTISM.

    NOBODY has ever said that what happened to Jake was a coincidence. I SAW what happened to him. I watched him disappear before my eyes. Interestingly, the rabies shot that he got didn't contain mercury. But it DID contain some of the same ingredients that are in childhood vaccines.

    For anyone to believe that vaccines have nothing to do with autism is ludicrous. Wake up, America. The incidence of autism (along with ADHD, asthma, allergies, tic disorders, etc.) is rising as the number of vaccines increases. When are the AAP, CDC, and our government going to get a clue?

    A couple of specific points. One, Dr. Offit claims that vaccines do not harm children. That you could give 100,000 in one day, no problem. Has anyone read his book that was published in 1999 about antibiotics, Breaking the Antibiotic Habit? Check out the product description on Amazon:

    Product Description
    Protect your child. Leading pediatric experts answer all your questions about reducing the risks of antibiotic overuse. "An important book for parents...the best source I have seen about the dangers of antibiotic resistance and the risks of antibiotic overuse." --Scott Dowell, M.D., M.P.H. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Finally, a book that discusses the problem of antibiotic overuse in a readable way, combining daily experiences in pediatric practice with scientific explanations." --S. Michael Marcy, M.D., American Academy of Pediatrics If your child has a cough, cold, ear infection, or sore throat, will antibiotics help? The answer may surprise you. Overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, or "superbugs." Antibiotics are increasingly ineffective because they are often prescribed inappropriately to treat viral infections, such as colds, bronchitis, and sore throats. Natural supplements may offer more relief. Clearly organized and packed with vital information, Breaking the Antibiotic Habit covers all the key issues, including:
    Distinguishing between strep throat and sore throat, sinus infection and the common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis, and ear infections and ear fluids
    Helping children with viral infections feel better--without antibiotics
    Getting the most from over-the-counter remedies and natural supplements--which are best for specific symptoms, and which to avoid altogether

    Don't get me wrong--I agree with Dr. Offit about antibiotics and the benefits of homeopathic remedies. If only he had the same concerns over vaccines, which are INJECTED IN UNSAFE AMOUNTS into our children's tiny bodies for years AND CONTAIN ANTIBIOTICS. Jake's rabies vaccines contained three antibiotics.

    Two. For Dr. Offit to claim that he doesn't get paid to discuss vaccines is also ludicrous. Last I heard, he held a patent for a rotavirus vaccine that was eventually taken off the market because of the problems it caused in some children. Are we really going to rely on the word of someone who has an obvious financial interest in the outcome? As Jim Carrey asked the CDC at the Green Our Vaccines rally last June in DC, "How stupid do you think we are?"

    Three. Some of the reviews really put down Jenny McCarthy. She is an amazing mom who watched her son disappear after a vaccine and who, "against all odds," recovered him. She refused to give up, and she has the courage and compassion to speak out and try to help other children with autism and their families. I am very grateful for her and all that she has done.

    In closing, my grandson is recovering. You'll be able to read his entire story soon in my book, Unlocking Jake. If you happen to be one of the many people who take Dr. Offit's opinions on vaccines as Gospel, I think my story will change your mind, or at least make you stop and think. I can only hope that the day will come--and it better be soon--when professionals will stop seeing parents as crazy and start listening to us. As long as the AAP's recommended vaccine schedule prevails and new shots continue to be added, autism is going to continue to rise. Of that I have no doubt.

    ...more info
  • Autism's false prophets
    This book is excellent! Well researched, clearly presented and fully documented with references. This is one of the better documents to lay to rest the mistaken idea that a terrible genetic malady (autism) is caused by something in vaccines. The author debunks and exposes most of the crackpots who have been selling "snake oil" cures to parents who are desperate for a cure (there is no cure).

    I was surprised at the number of newscasters and Senators who were taken in by the vaccine propaganda (mainly by lawyers who want to make a killing off the poor children with this affliction). Maybe now research funds can be directed to finding the true cause, and then maybe a cure for Autism - now that the manufacturers do not have to be spend large sums on legal defenses....more info
  • A great and much-needed book
    I have a six year old son with autism and I found this book to be a great relief. I spend my days in the car, driving my son to speech therapy, occupational therapy, a special playgroup, Floortime therapy, and preschool, but I'm always dogged by the worry that I'm not doing enough and I should be doing more. Should I be pursuing hyperbaric oxygen tank treatments for him?

    Jenny McCarthy dominates the public discussion on autism. She's beautiful, she's dating a movie star, and she has a great story -- she has "cured" her son. But her story is not my story. I appreciate Dr. Offit describing the epidemiological studies that show there is no link between MMR and autism, nor betweeen thimerosol and autism. Oprah Winfrey, with her audience of millions, has done a terrible disservice by presenting McCarthy's take on autism as the correct one.

    Dr. Offit describes the poor job the media do of covering science stories. And before my son was born, I went to journalism school, so I am sympathetic to the media.

    My one quibble with the book is that Offit writes that the only proven treatment is behavioral therapy. Our son goes to a clinic that subscribes to the Floortime philosophy, and it has been great for him. ABA is not the only way to go....more info
  • Good for opening dialog-
    I read this book and now feel like I have a better understanding of why we have such a huge divide in the autism community. As the parent of a child who has classic autism this book was beneficial in helping me to understand how the process works for vaccines. As a man who has recieved numerous death threats and harrassing phone calls I believe this book was worth Dr. Offits time and effort to explain "why" he chose the work he did and "why" this work has lead to healthy productive lifes of those who may have died or worse in our society. Worth the read and the price to understand the passion on both sides of the story....more info
  • A Must Read Book for Any Parent Concerned About Vaccines and Autism
    Paul Offit's book is a masterful treatise on the scientific facts behind the alleged link between vaccines and autism. In portraying this story, Dr. Offit exposes the cabal of trial lawyers, untrained "journalists" and attention-seeking scientists that have caused this "link" to have a far greater life than otherwise would have been possible. Unfortunately, it's the parents of autistic children who have been the major victims of this sea of misinformation.

    The story is told with humor, compassion and a focus on actual scientific data (rather than hearsay) that makes it a pleasure to read. ...more info
  • thanks, dr offitt, for debunking misinformation
    There is no editor on the internet and parents are so easily frightened. Paul Offitt is one of the voices of sanity in the wilderness of misinformation and false hope. I was particularly moved by his prologue in which he recounts how he has had to have armed guards for himself and his family because he expounds evidence that contradicts parents' beliefs - as if he were an antichrist.
    Every parent with any misgivings about vaccines owes it to his or her children to read this. Vaccines are the best public health measure since clean water and we would hate to see people die of tetanus or measles in a few years because their parents refused immunizations....more info
  • Science, not emotion
    Those who think Dr Offit is writing this book for his own profit should consider the threats against his life and his children's lives he's had to hear for writing this book--all because there are people who want to expose children to preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough in the name of a disproven conspiracy theory....more info
  • Between the Darkness and the Light Walk the Grey
    I can't tell who is the darkness and who is the light.

    Dr. Offit's book vilifies anti-vaccine activists to the same degree that anti-vaccine activists vilify vaccine makers and distributors. In Dr. Offit's world, vaccine companies, doctors and politicians who endorse or condone vaccination practice with velvet gloves and clear consciousness, while evil trial lawyers prey on them in search of a share of the court award. The millions of dollars made by vaccine producers and distributors is the price they pay and the burden they carry for making the world safe for the rest of us.

    The book offers two main premises: first, that since their is no evidence of epidemiological link between the MMR vaccine and autism, all vaccines are safe. All of the harmful ones have been identified and removed from the shelf. His supposition is that the child's autism was already developing, and just happens to manifest itself at the same time as after the MMR injection. This is a leap in logic that defies rational thought. This book summarizes, and many epidemiological studies have demonstrated (not proved), that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and the onset of autism.

    What is clearly missing (and this is the deception point) is the he implies that since there is no connection between MMR and autism, then there is no connection between [ALL VACCINES] and [ALL SIDE EFFECTS] emphasis added. A reader can walk away from this book with a conclusion that was never stated.

    The Second main premise is that all current non-conventional treatments for autism are quackery. He supports this claim with the same arguments made by anti-vaccine activists, citing negative outcomes (including death).

    Perhaps Dr. Offit has never had in incurable disease. I have a supposedly incurable autoimmune disease. Is it genetic, environment or vaccine induced? I'll never know. I do know that by stepping outside the allopathic box and changing my diet to one of those "quack" diet regimes, I no longer manifest symptoms of the disease and enjoy much better health.

    All treatments are experimental until a sufficient number of people have had them tried on them to draw conclusions. Even then, the conclusion is often a spectrum of results, ranging from it might kill you to it might heal you.

    He presents several vaccine proponents who have autistic children who are just as positive that vaccines did not cause the autism as those who believe it did. Indeed, some of these people are profiting from vaccination, and yet by demonstrating that they exposed their own children to the vaccine, it is intended to demonstrate that they are above reproach and ethical.

    I actually do believe this. Most of us view ourselves as "good." Adolph Hitler believed himself to be a good person. The problem is that we disagree with their definition of goodness. Indeed, if Herr Hitler's view of "good" had triumphed, I would probably not have been born because my parents would have been murdered.

    He ultimately claims that autism is genetic, and while it's induction can be potentiated by drugs such as thalidomide, vaccination does not affect the risk factors.

    There is a huge leap in logic here. I'm still looking up the studies he cites to see if the twins who are being studied have one twin who received all vaccinations and the other twin is completely unvaccinated. We also know nothing of other environmental or dietary factors that may be contributing to the genetic expression.

    The book does have citations, but they are at the end and it is difficult, if not impossible to link any particular citation to a claim he makes. Most of the articles referenced are only available for a fee, so it is difficult for a lay person to read the entire article.

    Indeed, Dr. Offit bemoans the fact that the Internet has made information and miss-information so readily available to the general public. He seems to mourn the fact that we no longer have to turn to the injecting physician for what we now know is biased information.

    I was unable to locate any study cited that compared autism rates and chronic illness rates of vaccinated vs unvaccinated children. That would have been the gold standard by which I could have evaluated his claims. But to use his own argument against him, I can't find it because it wasn't there.

    If you have read and are walking away from this book with the thought that all current vaccinations are safe, then Dr. Offit has succeeded in deceiving you with apparently rational arguments.

    Dr. Offit claims that he will only present to professional medical audiences due to fear of hecklers and violence. I believe that he is afraid of rational criticism of his work.

    When my child is sick, I pray that it is not one of the [deadly] diseases that has a vaccination; and am thankful that it is not the onset of a vaccine side effect.

    Bottom Line: I walk between the darkness and the light. I am Grey and I still don't know whether or not to vaccinate my child, and I still do not know whom trust for information about the topic....more info
  • Extremely one sided pro-vaccine book
    I have read this book in its entirety and I agree that Dr. Offit does a very good job at discrediting most of the anti-vaccine advocates, particularly those who still believe it causes autism. Where he discredits himself is by never acknowledging that there are valid reasons why the public does not trust the medical establishment, pharmaceutical companies, and yes the U.S government. How many times have we seen pharmaceutical companies pay researchers for their clinical trials and then obfuscating these conflicts of interest? When Glaxo started lobbying to make the vaccine Gardisil a requirement for girls clearly they were jumping the gun (because of very limited trials) to maximize profits because lets face it, vaccines make these companies money. Thank goodness once it became public that they were lobbying state legislatures they backed off from the bad publicity. Talk about putting money ahead of science. Somehow in Dr. Offits book all the researchers and parents who are anti-vaccine are greedy or delusional and the pharmaceutical industry only wants what is best for our health (yeah right, maybe their bottom line health is more like it). All they want to do is save lives. All the others do is make money from alternative therapies. Well, the truth is somewhere in the middle, there are well meaning people on each side, there are very unethical people on each side.

    As a parent of a toddler who has given him some vaccines and not others I look at vaccines individually, each vaccine and each disease has a different risk profile, some diseases are deadly some are not, some are riskiest for infants some are not. I discussed the limited schedule (I highly recommend Dr. Sears book for this) with my doctor and she agreed with me Let me end with this, the vaccine that my doctor said their office did not recommend (and it is also not on the list of required vaccines for schools here) because of too many reported side effects is the Rotavirus vaccine, the very one Dr.Offit has a patent on. I am sure he would love nothing more than putting this vaccine on the required list. How ironic. ...more info
  • When science is not on your side, don't shoot the messenger
    Having read Dr. Offit's book cover to cover (okay, I didn't read all the footnotes), I can tell you it is sound. Having intimately observed this topic for over a decade, I can tell you he is accurate. Unfortunately, scientists who speak an unpopular truth are often punished. How unkind that the scientist trying to rescue parents and children from false hope is the focus of threats and hatred. Truth is not a democracy, and science is merciless in its ability to disprove false beliefs. If only vaccines were the cause of autism, doctors the world over would rejoice in being able to stop most autism by altering vaccination. Unfortunately, it is simply not true. As I watch parents of autistic children suffer and grasp for hope, I have nothing but lothing for the snake oil salesmen who offer false hope for whatever money the parents have. Autistic children are frequently beautiful, sometimes wonderful, and often difficult. Autism is complicated and mostly genetic. Who appointed Jenny McCarthy to represent these children and parents? They deserve better. They deserve the best science we have. If you want the real science, read all 20 articles that deal with vaccines and autism (very boring indeed). If you prefer not to read the original articles, the science to date is summarized in this book....more info
  • Borrowed this book from the library
    I have a few issues with Dr Offits book:

    1) If you are an infectious disease specialist and do NOT work with children affected by autism - what allows you to publish a book of this title?

    2) Full disclosure of his vaccine patent(s) and paid consulting work with MERCK were not full apparent to the reader. I truly think this clouds specific chapters written as it relates to vaccines. All readers should be aware of these facts.

    3) There are over a dozen factual errors in this book with incorrect dates, times, speakers, and content. If mistakes like this are made on basic facts one should question the rest of the content.

    Finally - as a parent of a child affected by autism this author provides no positive alternatives for treatment for those affected by autism. With autism affecting 1 in 150 children - wouldn't we want to investigate and share some of the American Academy of Pediatrics best practices including: alternative diets, gastro-intestinal evaluation and treatments, seizure evaluation and treatments and other related items?

    There are plenty of other books that offer REAL help and hope. This is not one of them. This book appears to be written by someone with a grudge based on his paycheck(s).
    ...more info
  • Thorough, Well-Researched, and Convincing!
    I have been looking for a book that traced the history of autism treatments in a manner that didn't conveniently omit major aspects of the so-called "vaccine debate." While Offit clearly has an opinion, it is a respectable one informed by good science and good intentions. After reading this book, I can't imagine anyone aside from staunch conspiracy theorists believing that vaccines have anything to do with autism. ...more info
  • Excellent well thought out book
    Dr. Offit explains the overwhelming, indisputable evidence that vaccines don't cause autism. Some older studies (One published in Lancet) were suggestive of a link but it turns out that they were secretly funded by trial lawyers or simply fraudulent.

    Offitt reviews the history of autism treatment including "facilitated communication," a method where trained facilitators "helped" children use a keyboard to communicate. It was eventually proven that the facilitators were effectively creating the messages while supposedly guiding the child's own movements. The autism activist community,of course, attacked the studies and the motives of the researchers.

    This is about all they have to offer to counter the arguments in this book. Conspiracy theories linking Dr. Offitt, drug companies, the CDC, the Institute of Medicine and similar agencies in other countries.

    I was surprised to learn that Robert F Kennedy Jr. who had written an article in support of the cause is affiliated with a law firm involved in class action lawsuits.

    I think this is a good book for people concerned about vaccines who want more information. The anti-vaccine crowd, in general, is not open to examining evidence so it is unlikely to have much effect there. I read a few of the one star reviews- one person was quite proud to have not even bothered to read the book.

    Autism is a difficult problem for families and emotional reactions are understandable. I hope that the professionals treating autism are not too distracted by the thoroughly disproven vaccine issue. Clearly better treatment and a better understanding of the condition is needed. ...more info
  • Autism & Immunization: No Connection
    "Autism's False Prophets" is a thorough and insightful discussion of the alleged link between vaccines, gastrointestinal disorder and autism, by a true expert in children's immunizations. He sets the matter to rest. There is no link. The book is exceptionally readable,despite the technical nature of the topic. My favorite part of the book discusses the multitude of reasons the hypothesized link between autism and immuizations has received so much attention and unjustifiably led parents to be wary of having their children vaccinated. Offett gives the news media a bit of boxing about the ears for promoting misinformation and ignoring scientific facts. Kudos. A great job....more info
  • Absolutely needs to be read by everyone
    This book is truly indispensable. A friend of mine recently found out her 2 year old will be autistic; I told her you must read Autism's False Prophets. The frauds and quacks who have demagogued the issue are exposed. Offit shows that people like Andrew Wakefield (and many other supposed "experts" are doing great harm to children in the name of helping them. Using empirical evidence, scientists have concluded MMR vaccines and thermosal do not cause autism. Whether this fact gets out to the public remains to be seen.

    But this book is more than just a review of the autism controversies. Offit takes on the media for its shallow handling of scientific issues. Journalists, Offit believes, make two tremendous mistakes covering scientific issues: 1.they want very much to be on the side of the "underdog" in a controversy, and 2. present both sides of an issue when there aren't two sides. Junk science is dangerous to the health and safety not only of autistic children, but to all of us. The example he uses is chilling: after the false claims of MMR causing autism became public, kids started missing their vaccinations and dying of measles. This is a must-read book. ...more info
  • RN mommy
    First and foremost people should know that Dr. Offit invented a vaccine for rotavirus and is associated with Merck pharmaceuticals. He is not unbiased in his opinions.
    I do believe that a vaccine may have pushed some children over the edge and into autism. I believe children become at risk through allergies, environmental toxin exposure, overuse of antibioitics and medications, and being born prematurely. An overstressed or immature immune system results. They may also have a decreased ability to detoxify their system naturally. You add a vaccine on top of that and it may just be the fateful straw that broke the camel's back. For other children, autism may develop over time but I believe it is still due to the above factors that put children at risk and a vaccine may just add insult to injury for these children instead of pushing them completely over the edge.
    I believe Dr. Offit should be spending his time finding ways to help these poor children instead of writing books against parent's who are just looking for some hope and answers to why their child no longer says "Mommma" or "Dada" or anything else for that matter. I do agree that the more intensive therapies and interventions for autism should be under doctor's supervision and carefully monitored. He does make a point there but that is about all I can find useful from this book. I think all Dr. Offit does here is possibly send more children down a road to autism instead of finding the reason it is happening for so many American children. Until they get ALL the toxins(aluminum, antifreeze, formaldehyde, aborted human fetus cells, chick embryos, monkey kidney cells, fetal bovine serum)out of vaccines, I feel they could still be a contributing factor. (By the way, the flu vaccine still contains the mercury based preservative-beware!) After all the number of autistic children is going up, not down. I am not anti-vaccine, we just need them to be safe, take out ALL the toxins. And let's identify the children who could be at risk for autism through testing before we have more children develop the heartbreaking disorder.
    Until Dr. Offit is able to provide the cause for autism, in my estimation, he is not qualified to tell us what does not cause it. The fact is he doesn't know....more info
  • Vaccine Safety
    An absolute MUST BUY for any parent who is concerned about vaccine safety. It's important to see both sides of an issue before we can give INFORMED consent and this books does an amazing job discussing the people and organizations that are involved in what has become a confusing and somewhat controversial issue today....more info