Brian Deer

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Brian Deer
Brian Deer.jpg
Brian Deer at a Westminster Skeptics meeting
Nationality British
Education University of Warwick
Occupation Investigative journalist
Notable credit(s) Investigative reporting on medical issues and the pharmaceutical industry

Brian Deer is a British investigative reporter, best known for inquiries into the drug industry, medicine and social issues for the Sunday Times of London.


After graduating in philosophy from the University of Warwick, he became editor and press officer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and was a member of The Leveller magazine collective. Subsequently he joined The Times, then The Sunday Times, first as a business news subeditor and then as a staff news reporter and feature writer.[1] In the 1980s, under Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil, he was the UK's first social affairs correspondent,[2] and between 1990 and 1992 reported from the United States.


One of Deer's early investigations caused uproar in the drug industry when in 1986 he revealed that research into the safety of the contraceptive pill was fabricated at Deakin University, Australia, by scientist Professor Michael Briggs, employed by the German company Schering AG.[3] In 1994, his investigation of The Wellcome Trust led to the withdrawal in the UK of a blockbuster antibiotic, Septrin, Bactrim, and the sale of the trust's pharmaceutical subsidiary Wellcome Foundation.[4] In 2005, the withdrawal of the painkiller Vioxx was followed by an investigation by Deer into the people responsible for the drug's introduction.[5] In 2008, a celebrity psychiatrist, Raj Persaud, was suspended from practising medicine and resigned his academic position after being found guilty of plagiarism following a Deer investigation.[6][7] Deer's documentary "The drug trial that went wrong",[8] nominated for a Royal Television Society journalism award, investigated the experimental monoclonal antibody TGN1412.

MMR vaccine controversy[edit]

In a series of reports[9] between 2004[10] and 2010,[11] Deer investigated concerns over the MMR vaccine, their publication in The Lancet medical journal in February 1998, and their chief proponent Andrew Wakefield. Deer's investigation[12] led to the longest-ever inquiry[13] by the UK General Medical Council. In January 2010, the GMC judged Wakefield to be "dishonest", "unethical" and "callous",[14] and on 24 May 2010, he was struck off the UK medical register. Responding to Deer's findings, The Lancet partially retracted Wakefield's research in February 2004,[15] and fully retracted it in February 2010 following the GMC findings.[16][17] In 2011, Deer published his findings in the BMJ[18] with an endorsement by the editors.[19]

Deer's television documentary: "MMR: What they didn't tell you",[20] a one-hour Dispatches documentary for Channel 4, first broadcast 18 November 2004, became the core subject of a libel case. Wakefield, who initiated the case, eventually dropped it, becoming liable for the costs incurred by Deer and the other defendants.[21] In January 2012, Wakefield sued Deer and the British Medical Journal, this time in Texas, but the case was thrown out in both district and appeals courts, with Wakefield again ordered to pay costs.[22][23]


Working for The Times and The Sunday Times Deer received several awards, including two British Press Awards for his Sunday Times investigations.[1][24]

Following his first British Press Award in 1999, in February 2011 he was nominated for two more, in the categories of news reporter of the year and specialist journalist of the year, the latter of which he won on 5 April 2011.[25][26][27]

In October 2011, Deer won the annual HealthWatch award, previously awarded to Sir Iain Chalmers, Professor David Colquhoun, and other prominent British medical campaigners.[28]

Deer was the 2009 Susan B Meister lecturer in child health policy at the University of Michigan,[29] and the 2012 Distinguished Lecturer in Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.[30][31]


  1. ^ a b Flanagan, Padraic (25 March 1999). "The Guardian Takes Two Top Newspaper Awards". PA News via Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Deer, Brian (30 May 1988). "Social whirl sets reporting trends". UK Press Gazette via Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Maslen, Geoff; McIntosh, Philip (30 September 1986). "Whirlwind Rise and Fall of a Pill Scientist". The Age (Melbourne, Australia). Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  4. ^ Deer, Brian (27 February 1994). "Top selling drug may have killed hundreds in Britain". The Sunday Times via Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  5. ^ Deer, Brian (21 August 2005). "Investigation: Victims of a drug that took a hidden toll". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Wainwright, Martin (18 June 2008). "Persaud's blatant cribs were flabbergasting, professor tells tribunal". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  7. ^ Deer, Brian (16 April 2006). "Persaud told to withdraw book in new copycat row". The Times (London). Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  8. ^ The drug trial that went wrong Dispatches Channel 4 television (September 2006)
  9. ^ Nick Miller, "Debunking the link between vaccination and autism," Sydney Morning Herald 4 February 2010
  10. ^ Ruling on doctor in MMR scare, Yorkshire Evening Post, 4 February 2010[dead link]
  11. ^ Nailed: Dr Andrew Wakefield and the MMR vaccine fraud
  12. ^ Dr Rahul K Parikh, The autism lie that won't die, Salon 4 February 2010
  13. ^ Brian Deer, The Truth of the MMR vaccine scandal, The Sunday Times, 24 January 2010
  14. ^ Brian Deer, Callous, unethical and dishonest, The Sunday Times 31 January 2010
  15. ^ Simon H Murch, Andrew Anthony, David H Casson et al, Retraction of an interpretation, The Lancet, 6 March 2004
  16. ^ The editors of The Lancet, Retraction—Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children, The Lancet, 6 February 2010
  17. ^ Gardiner Harris, Journal Retracts 1998 Paper Linking Autism to Vaccines The New York Times 2 February 2010
  18. ^ Deer B (2011). "How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed". BMJ 342: c5347. doi:10.1136/bmj.c5347. PMID 21209059. 
  19. ^ Godlee F, Smith J, Marcovitch H (2011). "Wakefield's article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent". BMJ. 342:c7452: c7452. doi:10.1136/bmj.c7452. PMID 21209060. 
  20. ^ MMR: What they didn't tell you
  21. ^ MMR Doc drops libel case versus Channel Four Press Gazette
  22. ^ Wakefield v British Medical Journal Publishing Group Ltd, Brian Deer and Dr Fiona Godlee (Judgment) Texas Court of Appeals, Third district, at Austin, 19 September 2014
  23. ^ Dr. Andrew J. Wakefield, MB, BS v. The British Medical Journal Publishing Group, Ltd.; Brian Deer; and Dr. Fiona Godlee Appeal from 250th District Court of Travis County (Opinion)
  24. ^ Brian Deer wins a second British Press Award |accessdate=28 September 2013
  25. ^ Dominic Ponsford, The Press Awards: the Times leads with 18 nominations, Press Gazette, 25 February 2011
  26. ^ Press Awards: full list of nominees, The Guardian, 25 February 2011
  27. ^ Press Awards
  28. ^ Healthwatch UK Awards
  29. ^ University of Michigan Health System, Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit[dead link]
  30. ^ University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
  31. ^ Brogan, Stacy (4 October 2012). "British journalist to speak at UW-L about false vaccine autism link". WXOW (La Crosse, Wisconsin). Retrieved 5 October 2012. 

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