Drug Safety

, Volume 30, Issue 10, pp 831–836

A Case Study of a Graphical Misrepresentation

Drawing the Wrong Conclusions about the Measles, Mumps and Rubella Virus Vaccine
Current Opinion

DOI: 10.2165/00002018-200730100-00002

Cite this article as:
Cox, A.R. & Kirkham, H. Drug-Safety (2007) 30: 831. doi:10.2165/00002018-200730100-00002


Graphs have been used in attempts to show a relationship between the measles, mumps and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine and autism. We examine the topic of graphical representation of data in general, and one of these graphs in particular: the one that appeared in a 1999 letter to The Lancet. That graph combined data from England and from California, USA. The author alleged that this graph illustrated a rise in autism rates linked to the use of the MMR vaccine. By examining the presentation closely, we are able to show how this graph misrepresented the data used. We give advice for both authors and publishers in the use of such graphical treatments of data.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.West Midlands Centre for Adverse Drug ReactionsCity Hospital, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS TrustBirminghamEngland
  2. 2.School of Pharmacy, School of Life and Health SciencesAston UniversityBirminghamEngland
  3. 3.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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