The Lancet has retracted from the public record a research paper which triggered concerns over a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

The journal said that parts of the 1998 paper were incorrect after the judgement of the General Medical Council fitness to practise panel.

Dr Andrew Wakefield, one of the authors of the paper, was criticised by the panel for describing the study in a misleading and irresponsible way. It also said Dr Wakefield had “abused his position of trust” as he researched the possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

The number of children given the MMR vaccine dropped sharply in the wake of the research.

The Lancet’s editors said they understood parts of the paper were incorrect - despite the findings of an earlier investigation.

“In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were ‘consecutively referred’ and that investigations were ‘approved’ by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.”

The fitness to practise panel ruled that Dr Wakefield “showed a callous disregard” for the suffering of children and subjected some youngsters to unnecessary tests.