Brian Deer is a British investigative reporter, best known for inquiries into the drug industry, medicine and social issues for the Sunday Times of London.
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. In the 1980s, under Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil, he was the UK's first social affairs correspondent, and between 1990 and 1992 reported from the United States.
One of Deer's early investigations caused uproar in the drug industry when in 1986 he revealed that research into the safety of the contraceptive pill was fabricated at Deakin University, Australia, by scientist Professor Michael Briggs, employed by the German company Schering AG. In 1994, his investigation of The Wellcome Trust led to the withdrawal in the UK of a blockbuster antibiotic, Septrin, Bactrim, and the sale of the trust's pharmaceutical subsidiary Wellcome Foundation. In 2005, the withdrawal of the Merck painkiller Vioxx was followed by an investigation by Deer into the British medical chiefs behind the drug's introduction. In 2008, a celebrity psychiatrist, Raj Persaud, was suspended from practising medicine and resigned his academic position after being found guilty of plagiarism following a Deer investigation.
MMR vaccine controversy
In a series of reports between 2004 and 2010, Deer investigated concerns over the MMR vaccine, their publication in The Lancet medical journal in February 1998, and their chief proponent Andrew Wakefield. Deer's investigation led to the longest-ever inquiry by the UK General Medical Council. In January 2010, the GMC judged Wakefield to be "dishonest", "unethical" and "callous", and on 24 May 2010, he was struck off the UK medical register. Responding to Deer's findings, The Lancet partially retracted Wakefield's research in February 2004, and fully retracted it in February 2010 following the GMC findings. In 2011, Deer published his findings in the BMJ with an endorsement by the editors.
Deer's television documentary: "MMR: What they didn't tell you", a one-hour Dispatches documentary for Channel 4, first broadcast 18 November 2004, became the core subject of a libel case. Wakefield, who initiated the case, eventually dropped it, becoming liable for the costs incurred by Deer and the other defendants. Deer's documentary "The drug trial that went wrong", nominated for a Royal Television Society journalism award, investigated the experimental monoclonal antibody TGN1412.
Working for The Times and The Sunday Times Deer received several awards, including a British Press Award for his investigations.
Deer was the 2009 Susan B Meister lecturer in child health policy at the University of Michigan.
In February 2011, he was nominated for two further British Press Awards, 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.
In October 2011, Deer won the annual HealthWatch award, previously awarded to Sir Iain Chalmers, Professor David Colquhoun, and other prominent British medical campaigners.