Jump to content

Brian Deer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brian Deer
Deer in 2020
EducationUniversity of Warwick
OccupationInvestigative journalist
Notable credit(s)Investigative reporting on medical issues and the pharmaceutical industry

Brian Laurence Deer is a British investigative journalist, best known for inquiries into the drug industry, medicine and social issues for The Sunday Times. Deer's investigative nonfiction book The Doctor Who Fooled the World, an exposé on disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield and the 1998 Lancet MMR autism fraud, was published in September 2020 by Johns Hopkins University Press.[1][2]


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.[3] In the 1980s, under then Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil, Deer was the UK's first social affairs correspondent,[4] and between 1990 and 1992 reported from the United States. On 9 November 2022, Deer received Irish citizenship.[citation needed]

Deer has also reported for other British newspapers, including The Guardian,[5] and The Daily Telegraph.[6]


In 1986, one of Deer's early investigations exposed research by British scientist Michael Briggs at Deakin University, Australia into the safety of the contraceptive pill. Deer's reports revealed that several of Briggs's studies were fabricated so as to give a positive profile for the products' cardiovascular safety. The research was largely financed by the German drug company Schering AG.[7][8]

In 1994, his investigation of the Wellcome Trust led to the withdrawal in the UK of the antibiotic, Septrin (also sold under the name Bactrim)[9] and the sale by the Wellcome Trust of its drug company subsidiary. In 2005, the withdrawal of the painkiller Vioxx was followed by an investigation by Deer into the people responsible for the drug's introduction.[10]

In 2006, Deer's Dispatches documentary, "The drug trial that went wrong",[11] investigated the experimental monoclonal antibody TGN1412. It was nominated for a Royal Television Society journalism award.[12] In 2008, the media psychiatrist Raj Persaud was suspended from practicing medicine and resigned his academic position after being found guilty of plagiarism following an investigation by Deer.[13][14]

MMR vaccine controversy[edit]

In a series of reports[15] between 2004[16] and 2010,[17] for The Sunday Times, Deer investigated and helped debunk controversial claims linking the MMR vaccine to autism that had first emerged with the publication in 1998 of a fraudulent research paper in the medical journal The Lancet written by Andrew Wakefield, and his colleagues.[18] Deer revealed that Wakefield had multiple undeclared conflicts of interest,[19][20] had manipulated evidence,[21] and was responsible for what the BMJ later called "an elaborate fraud".

Deer's investigation[22] led to the longest-ever inquiry[23] by the UK General Medical Council (GMC), lasting 217 days. In January 2010, the GMC judged Wakefield to be "dishonest", "unethical" and "callous",[24] and on 24 May 2010, Wakefield was removed ("struck off") from the UK medical register. Responding to Deer's findings, The Lancet partially retracted Wakefield's research in February 2004,[25] and fully retracted it in February 2010 following the GMC findings.[26][27] In January 2011, Deer published his findings in the BMJ[28][29][30] which in a signed editorial stated of the journalist, "It has taken the diligent scepticism of one man, standing outside medicine and science, to show that the paper was in fact an elaborate fraud."[31]

On 18 November 2004, UK Channel 4's Dispatches series broadcast Deer's television documentary: "MMR: What they didn't tell you".[32][33] Television critic Nancy Banks-Smith wrote in The Guardian: "After a year of rebuffs, Deer ran Dr Wakefield to ground at an Indianapolis conference on autism. The camera took a bit of a buffet and Dr Wakefield left with Deer following, shouting: 'We have very important questions to ask you about your research and your commercial ambitions, sir! Will you stand your ground and answer?' If this was hounding, and it was, Dr Wakefield had only himself to blame for running away".[34] In response to the documentary, Wakefield initiated a libel suit against Deer. The case was later dropped and Wakefield became liable for the costs incurred by Deer and the other defendants.[35]

In January 2012, Wakefield sued Deer and the BMJ, this time in Texas, but the case was thrown out in both district and appeals courts, with Wakefield again ordered to pay costs.[36][37]

In October 2014, in an article published in The Sunday Times, Deer reported on a ruling from the Court of Protection, then recently made public but with the identities of the parties redacted. In the ruling, Justice Baker wrote, "The critical facts established in this case can be summarised as follows. M has autistic disorder. There is no evidence that his autism was caused by the MMR vaccination. His parents' account of an adverse reaction to that vaccination is fabricated."[38]

In July 2015, Deer gave a lecture at The Amazing Meeting titled "Vaccines: The Vanishing Victims".[39]

The Doctor Who Fooled the World[edit]

In September 2020 Johns Hopkins University Press published in North America Deer's investigation of Andrew Wakefield and the origins of the anti-vaccine movement in his book, The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines. This was simultaneously published in the United Kingdom and Australasia by Scribe. Reviews included The Times Book of the Week where columnist David Aaronovitch wrote, "This is a remarkable story and this is a remarkable book… helping to explain the political and social predicament that now afflicts so many of us — the crisis in truth and its exploitation by people without scruple."[40] Reviewing for the leading science journal Nature, Saad Omer praised the book as "riveting… a compelling portrait of hubris and the terrible dark shadow it can cast."[41]

Among other reviews, Michael Shermer in The Wall Street Journal wrote, "Exposing researchers who lie, cheat and fake their data often requires the work of courageous whistleblowers or tenacious investigative journalists. Enter Brian Deer, an award-winning reporter for The Sunday Times of London."[42] Publishers Weekly also described the book as "riveting,"[43] and the Big Think website said, "Every chapter drops your jaw".[44] According to Foreword Reviews, "This stunning work sounds an urgent message and demonstrates the essential role of investigative journalism in uncovering the truth."[45]


Working for The Times and The Sunday Times, Deer received several awards, including two British Press Awards for his Sunday Times investigations.[3][46] 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.[47][48][49]

In October 2011, Deer won the annual HealthWatch award, previously awarded to Sir Iain Chalmers, Professor David Colquhoun, and other prominent British medical campaigners.[50] Deer was the 2009 Susan B. Meister lecturer in child health policy at the University of Michigan,[51] and the 2012 Distinguished Lecturer in Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.[52][53]

On 17 November 2016, Deer was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (D Litt Hon) by York St John University.[54]

In May 2021, Deer's book, The Doctor Who Fooled the World, won the Eric Hoffer Award for nonfiction,[55] and a gold medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs).[56]


  1. ^ Deer, Brian (29 September 2020). The Doctor Who Fooled the World. JHUP, Baltimore. p. 75. ISBN 9781421438009. Retrieved 10 May 2020. …On Wednesday, May 4, 1955. I was fifteen months and twelve days old.
  2. ^ Deer, Brian (2020). The Doctor Who Fooled the World: Science, Deception, and the War on Vaccines. USA: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-1421438009.
  3. ^ a b Flanagan, Padraic (25 March 1999). "The Guardian Takes Two Top Newspaper Awards". PA News via briandeer.com. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  4. ^ Deer, Brian (30 May 1988). "Social whirl sets reporting trends". UK Press Gazette via briandeer.com. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  5. ^ Deer B (12 January 2011). "The medical establishment shielded Andrew Wakefield from fraud claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  6. ^ Deer, Brian (20 December 2019). "Samoa's perfect storm: How a collapse in vaccination rates killed more than 70 children". The Telegraph. London, UK. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019.
  7. ^ Maslen, Geoff; McIntosh, Philip (30 September 1986). "Whirlwind Rise and Fall of a Pill Scientist". The Age. Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  8. ^ Deer, Brian (28 February 1986). "Exposed: the bogus work of Professor Briggs". The Sunday Times via briandeer.com. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  9. ^ Deer, Brian (27 February 1994). "Top selling drug may have killed hundreds in Britain". The Sunday Times via briandeer.com. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  10. ^ Deer, Brian (21 August 2005). "Investigation: Victims of a drug that took a hidden toll". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Deer's Dispatches on TGN1412 disaster – briandeer.com".
  12. ^ Deer, Brian. "The Drug Trial That Went Wrong". Channel 4. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  13. ^ Wainwright, Martin (18 June 2008). "Persaud's blatant cribs were flabbergasting, professor tells tribunal". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  14. ^ Deer, Brian (16 April 2006). "Persaud told to withdraw book in new copycat row". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  15. ^ Nick Miller, "Debunking the link between vaccination and autism," Sydney Morning Herald 4 February 2010
  16. ^ "Ruling on doctor in MMR scare". National Health Service. 29 January 2010. Archived from the original on 6 September 2020. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  17. ^ "Andrew Wakefield: the fraud investigation – briandeer.com".
  18. ^ Aitkenhead, Decca (30 August 2020). "Anti-vax fraud: Brian Deer on how he exposed Andrew Wakefield". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 30 August 2020. (subscription required)
  19. ^ The Sunday Times 2004:
  20. ^ 2004 BBC documentary:
  21. ^ Deer B (8 February 2009). "MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism". The Sunday Times. London. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
  22. ^ Parikh, Rahul K. (5 February 2010). "The autism-vaccine lie that won't die". Salon.
  23. ^ Brian Deer, The Truth of the MMR vaccine scandal, The Sunday Times, 24 January 2010
  24. ^ Deer, Brian (9 March 2024). "'Callous, unethical and dishonest': Dr Andrew Wakefield" – via www.thetimes.co.uk.
  25. ^ "Retraction of an interpretation - The Lancet".
  26. ^ "Retraction—Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children - The Lancet".
  27. ^ Harris, Gardiner (3 February 2010). "Journal Retracts 1998 Paper Linking Autism to Vaccines". The New York Times – via NYTimes.com.
  28. ^ Deer B (2011). "How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed". BMJ. 342: c5347. doi:10.1136/bmj.c5347. PMID 21209059. S2CID 46683674.
  29. ^ Deer B (11 January 2011). "How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money". The BMJ. 342 (jan11 4): c5258. doi:10.1136/bmj.c5258. PMID 21224310. S2CID 37724643.
  30. ^ Deer B (18 January 2011). "The Lancet's two days to bury bad news". The BMJ). Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  31. ^ Godlee F, Smith J, Marcovitch H (2011). "Wakefield's article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent". BMJ. 342: c7452. doi:10.1136/bmj.c7452. PMID 21209060. S2CID 43640126.
  32. ^ "Brian Deer's 2004 film on Andrew Wakefield - full film". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  33. ^ Carey, Matt (5 October 2014). "Brian Deer's original 2004 Channel 4 report on Andrew Wakefield: MMR: What they didn't tell you". Left Brain Right Brain. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  34. ^ Banks-Smith, Nancy (19 November 2004). "Let them eat cake". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  35. ^ "MMR Doc drops libel case versus Channel Four Press Gazette". Archived from the original on 17 May 2011.
  36. ^ 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
  37. ^ 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)
  38. ^ Deer, Brian (12 October 2014). "A warrior mother lost to MMR lies". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 20 March 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  39. ^ "Vaccines: The Vanishing Victims". Lanyard. Archived from the original on 9 January 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  40. ^ Aaronovitch, David (4 September 2020). ""The Doctor Who Fooled the World" by Brian Deer review — the father of anti-vaxxer lies". The Times. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  41. ^ Omar, Saad (27 October 2020). ""The discredited doctor hailed by the anti-vaccination movement."". Nature. 586 (7831): 668–669. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-02989-9. S2CID 225099435. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  42. ^ Shermer, Michael (27 September 2020). ""The Doctor Who Fooled the World. Review: Vax Populi"". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  43. ^ ""The Doctor Who Fooled the World."". Publishers Weekly. May 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  44. ^ Beres, Derek (30 September 2020). ""How the media helped fuel the anti-vaxx movement."". The Big Think. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  45. ^ Rabe, Kristen (May 2020). ""The Doctor Who Fooled the World."". Foreword Review. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  46. ^ Brian Deer wins a second British Press Award |accessdate=28 September 2013
  47. ^ "Dominic Ponsford, The Press Awards: the Times leads with 18 nominations, Press Gazette, 25 February 2011". Archived from the original on 28 February 2011.
  48. ^ "British Press Awards 2011: full list of nominees". The Guardian. 25 February 2011.
  49. ^ "Press Awards". Archived from the original on 11 April 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  50. ^ "Healthwatch UK Awards". Archived from the original on 14 June 2013.
  51. ^ "University of Michigan Health System, Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit". Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  52. ^ "University of Wisconsin, La Crosse". Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  53. ^ Brogan, Stacy (4 October 2012). "British journalist to speak at UW-L about false vaccine autism link". WXOW. La Crosse, Wisconsin. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  54. ^ "2016". York St John University.
  55. ^ "Eric Hoffer Book Award Winners". www.hofferaward.com.
  56. ^ Independent Publishers Book Awards | date= May 2021

External links[edit]