The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled today that thimerosal-containing vaccines do not cause autism, rejecting a second theory advanced by plaintiffs lawyers who blame the injections for contributing to the developmental disorder in children.
The rulings in three test cases mark the second defeat for the plaintiffs' lawyers who are litigating autism-related claims in the federal claims court in Washington. More than 5,500 families have filed claims in the Federal Vaccine Compensation Program.
In February 2009, the court in three rulings rejected the argument that measles, mumps and rubella vaccines and thimerosal-containing vaccines can combine to play a role in causing autism. The second theory advanced by the plaintiffs attorneys was that thimerosa, a mercury-based preservative, was alone responsible for causing autism.
“None of the causation hypotheses advanced were reliable as medical or scientific theories,” Special Master Denise Vowell said in her ruling in one of the cases. In another case, Special Master George Hastings Jr. found the evidence was “overwhelmingly contrary” to the plaintiffs’ claims.
A Justice Department spokesman issued a statement that said: "The overwhelming scientific evidence is that vaccines do not cause autism, and the Special Masters appropriately credited this evidence and rejected the vaccine-autism theory. The decision of the Special Masters reflects an exhaustive review of the medical and scientific evidence on this topic."