Paul Offit's Mythical Millions (v. 2) by David N. Brown

Paul Offit's Mythical Millions (v. 2)

By David N. Brown

This is a PUBLIC DOMAIN document (dated 8/18/09). It may be copied, forwarded, cited,

circulated or posted elsewhere. The author requests only that it not be altered from its current


As I have written elsewhere, proponents of “vaccine-caused autism” and other dubious claims of

vaccine injury have long since come to rely on the doubtful premise that vaccines make their creators

rich, and that said creators thus have a financial motive and means to cover up vast numbers of vaccine

injuries. They have concentrated these allegations on Paul Offit, who has been especially vocal in

denying a link between vaccines and autism. He has been particularly condemned for allegedly

making a personal fortune of tens of millions from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's 2007 sale

of its rights to the patent on the Rotateq rotavirus vaccine. Most versions of this claim, mainly

circulating on the internet, either directly copy or cite (frequently inaccurately) a single article from the

blog Age of Autism. Written by Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmstead, it was provocatively (one may easily

say libelously) headlined, Voting Himself Rich: CDC Vaccine Adviser Made $29 Million Or More

After Using Role to Create Market. This article, and even less accurate and responsible secondary

literature, have created a large pool of disinformation, the sum total of which does not just to attack

Offit's credibility, but to present him as somehow powerful and sinister, and by extension reinforce

suspicion against vaccines and, for that matter, orthodox medicine in general Here are the major

myths, and the facts that refute them:

Myth 1: The inventor's share from the CHOP's sale was at least $29 million, and as high as $45M or


Facts: I) Offit reports that the share was $18M, consistent with 10% gross as prescribed by

CHOP policy at the time the patent was filed (Bedside to Bench (in-house CHOP publication),

January 2007).

II. The $29M figure was suggested by Blaxill and Olmstead, based solely on the fact that the

hospital reported revenue of $153M rather than $182M. The difference is more likely to

represent the expense of arranging the sale.

III. The $45M figure, also suggested by AoA, was calculated as 30% of net ($153M) based on a

policy introduced in 2006. But there was apparently no attempt to apply the new policy to the

considerably older patent. Also, a significant theme in the 2006 revised policy is to broaden

eligibility for payment from the “inventor's share”. Hence, its application in the present case

might conceivably have reduced payment to the patent holders.

IV. The $55M figure, not endorsed by AoA, is undoubtedly calculated from 30% of the gross of the

sale. No past or present CHOP policy supports calculating the share on this basis.

Myth 2: Offit was paid the entirety of the inventor's share.

Fact: Offit is one of three inventors to put their names on the original patent, the others being Stanley

Plotkin and H. Fred Clark. AoA has denied that the other two patent holders were eligible for the

CHOP share, based on the fact that they previously received payment from the 2005 sale of the Wistar

Institute's rights to Rotateq. But Clark and Plotkin did hold positions at CHOP while Rotateq was

under development, and so had entirely valid claims to a part of the CHOP inventor's share. Offit has

confirmed that he and his coinventors received equal portions of the share, for a total of $6M each.

It deserves to be noted that, even if AoA's account had been accurate as far as the letter of patent policy,

it leaves a gaping hole in explaining how Offit could have exercised his claim without having to fight

for it in court. As it is, there would still seem to be ample grounds for a lawsuit against those who

received payment from many who did not, like the thirty-plus coauthors of Offit's pre-patent papers on

rotavirus. Two lessons can be learned: One is that patent laws and other policies centered on the

“individual inventor” are completely useless in addressing the realities of modern research science.

The other is that scientists are less litigious and “greedy” than typical members of the general public

might be under similar circumstances.

Myth 3: As CDC adviser, Offit voted for rotavirus vaccination to create a market for his own vaccine.

Fact: AoA maintains that it was inappropriate for Offit to participate in two votes related to rotavirus

vaccination. (See “Myth 4”.) This is a valid objection to his conduct. But any allegation that he was

influenced by conscious expectation of financial gain can be easily dismissed. From the perspective of

ca. 2000, any commercial success of Rotateq would have seemed a most improbable development. At

the time, the vaccine Rotashield was in position to dominate any market that might arise. If Rotashield

had not failed in trials, Rotateq might never even have been considered for commercial production. A

development which would have been even more unexpected was that annual Rotateq sales would be

over half a billion ($665 M in 2008) where decades of experience showed that even sales of very

important vaccines were relatively trivial.

Myth 4: As a CDC adviser, Offit voted to approve his own vaccine.

Fact: The vaccine on which Offit holds a patent, Rotateq, was never up for approval while Offit was

on the ACIP. The council did make three votes of long-term significance: the recommendation to

vaccinate against rotavirus, the approval of the Rotashield vaccine for that purpose, and the withdrawal

of approval for Rotashield. As duly noted by AoA, Offit voted in the first two votes, but recused

himself (while continuing to act in an advisory capacity) in the third.

Myth 5: Offit collects royalties on Rotateq.

Fact: As acknowledged by AoA, the 2007 transaction waived future royalties for CHOP and its staff in

exchange for a lump sum.

Myth 6: Offit denies vaccine-caused autism because of his financial interest in vaccines.

Fact: The vaccines alleged to cause autism are MMR and various ones containing thimerosal. Offit

has no financial or academic stake in these vaccines. In fact, he wasn't even alive when thimerosal was

introduced to vaccines (1942). Thus, he has nothing to gain or lose through any contribution to the


David N. Brown is a semipro author, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as an adult. Previous works

include the novels The Worlds of Naughtenny Moore, Walking Dead and Aliens Vs Exotroopers, and the

nonfiction ebook The Urban Legend of Vaccine-Caused Autism. This and other articles related to

autism are available free of charge at evilpossum.weebly.com.


kathleen said...

If you go to AoA right now-you will see they are moderating comments-so that they can slander Dr. Offit. I think that our best bet is to go to "Dateline" and send them the AoA post-I am sick over this.

Mom26children said...

I think what you have done here is very wrong. This 'story' is a paid-for press release, presumably paid for by the NAA or by Thoughtful House, which was issued by PR Newswire. Many organizations harvest PR Newswire Press Releases.

You have taken the PR Newswire and press release references off the file - evidently carefully deleting them - and I think that really does raise issues of integrity at AoA.

I think you should promptly put the record straight, and apologize for any confusion. This is not a Reuters report, and you should not have claimed that it was. It is a paid-for press release, and I find it difficult to believe that you don't know that.

Thank you, Tina

Posted by: Tina | September 08, 2009 at 04:22 PM


kathleen said...

Holy crap-I just said liar liar pants on fire..This was so much better...but typical of them-now they can claim that people were told it was a paid for press release. Hey hey AoA how many lies have you told today!

Mom26children said...

I am getting a really strange feeling that the Dateline story did not do as well as the Thoughtful House or the AoA folks had hoped it would.
This is my only guess as to why they are shoving the propaganda crap down the throats of those who will actually listen to them.
People who rely on facts, don't generally fall for such crap...
Just sayin'

kathleen said...

have you gone back? They of course attacked Tina on her "integrity"..as if they knew the definition

davidbrown said...

The claim that Offit has a financial conflict of interest related to MMR is nonsense: Merck is only one of several companies manufacturing MMR in some form. Interestingly,Christopher Booker and Richard Noth have made this comment: "It is impossible to generate a full-blown scare around a specific named product, such as a brand of chocolate." (Scared to Death, 165)

kathleen said...

Most, if not all of their claims are based in nonsense..they have their agenda-doesn't matter(to them) how they complete it.

Mom26children said...

so, by what AoA is saying...every dentist that ever practiced dentistry is "crazy" because of mercury and they all produced Autistic children.
That is so stupid....you could never, ever prove such a point because the majority of American's visit the dentist and most adults my age have fillings with Mercury.
The same number of people probably eat chocolate too....so, by their reasoning....
OMG, Chocolate causes Autism.....
who knew???

KWombles said...

It just blows my mind that AoA could do this yet again, and yes, Jeanette, the dental article was beyond stupid. Wanna write it up and I'll post it here? :-)

I'm beyond disgusted. Of course, my comment on AoA was censored. I told them they were lying and they knew it. Sigh.