Autism's False Prophets
Book Forum
About This Event

Few controversies in modern medicine are as emotionally charged as the one over the causes of autism and its possible cures. Journalists, celebrities, and a few medical researchers have claimed that some long-used vaccines cause autism and that various substances and procedures can cure it.

Wading into this controversy is Listen to Audio

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Paul Offit, M.D., the distinguished immunologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-inventor and co-developer of a rotavirus vaccine approved in 2006 to protect children against a potentially fatal infection. Offit’s 2005 book,
The Cutter Incident, recounted how litigation over the polio vaccine in the 1950s was transmuted into the dangerous legal environment that today threatens many useful pharmaceuticals. Last year, Offit’s Vaccinated provided a vivid intellectual biography of Maurice Hilleman, the extraordinary Merck researcher who developed many of today’s most valuable life-saving vaccines. Now, Offit digs into the autism controversy with his latest book, Autism’s False Prophets (Columbia University Press, September 2008). In unusually straightforward yet carefully argued prose, Offit explains how science has exonerated long-used vaccines from blame and why numerous putative cures for this devastating condition are ineffective or worse. Offit will be joined by Roy Richard Grinker, a professor at George Washington University and author of Unstrange Minds, a book about his daughter's autism. AEI’s John E. Calfee will moderate.

2:15 p.m.
Paul Offit, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Roy Richard Grinker, George Washington University


Event Materials
Autism's False Prophets
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AEI Participants


John E.
  • Economist John E. Calfee (1941-2011) studied the pharmaceutical industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the economics of tobacco, tort liability, and patents. He previously worked at the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Economics. He had also taught marketing and consumer behavior at the business schools of the University of Maryland at College Park and Boston University. While Mr. Calfee's writings are mostly on pharmaceutical markets and FDA regulation, his academic articles and opinion pieces covered a variety of topics, from patent law and tort liability to advertising and consumer information. His books include Prices, Markets, and the Pharmaceutical Revolution (AEI Press, 2000) and Biotechnology and the Patent System (AEI Press, 2007). Mr. Calfee wrote regularly for AEI's Health Policy Outlook series. He testified before Congress and federal agencies on various topics, including alcohol advertising; biodefense vaccine research; international drug prices; and FDA oversight of drug safety.

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