Times article, by Tom Whipple, 1 Aug 2017: Scientists trade insults over myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) study

An acrimonious scientific row has broken out after a £5 million publicly funded study investigating treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome was condemned as “deeply flawed” and a “textbook example of a poorly done trial”.

The dispute led to mass resignations and an exchange of insults so intense that in emails seen by The Times one scientist referred to another as a “disgusting old fart neoliberal hypocrite”.

An entire edition of a health journal was devoted yesterday to attacking a landmark study called the Pace trial, published in The Lancet in 2011. It claimed to show that people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) could improve their condition with simple lifestyle changes.

This has formed the basis of treatment of the condition, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), in Britain, but provoked a backlash among some sufferers who feared that it implied the illness had a psychological rather than physiological origin. Others said that exercise, far from helping, made them worse. Academics have criticised the trial too, particularly after a freedom of information request revealed all the patient data. Some have argued that it showed the statistical methods were flawed, and that the criteria for deeming the trial a success were changed midway through.

The editors of the Journal of Health Psychology said it was clear that “the results are, at best, unreliable, and at worst manipulated to produce a positive-looking outcome”. They did not justify the “extraordinary sum” charged to taxpayers.

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See also:

The Times article, by Oliver Moody, Tom Whipple, 1 Aug 2017: Behind the story – A battle of prescriptions

One lot of scientists is mocked as stooges of a free-market conspiracy to dismantle the welfare state. The other stands accused of marshalling a bloody-minded and ideologically driven “witch-hunt”.How did an argument about a clinical trial become so personal?

The first thing to understand is that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a very real and traumatic illness affecting about a quarter of a million Britons.

Mail online article, by Stephen Matthews, 1 Aug 2017: ‘Disgusting old fart, neoliberal hypocrite’: Angry scientists throw insults at each other over the results of a £5 million taxpayer-funded study into chronic fatigue syndrome

  • One journal dedicated its August edition to ripping apart the ‘unreliable’ trial
  • The PACE study was published in The Lancet in 2011 – but was ridiculed by many
  • It claimed to show those affected could improve with simple lifestyle changes
  • The Journal of Health Psychology launched a scathing attack on the British study
  • Three editors resigned before its ‘unacceptably one-sided’ issue was published
  • But a co-editor hit back and called one ‘disgusting’ and told him to f*** off

Science media centre blog post, 31 Jul 2017: expert reaction to Journal of Health Psychology’s Special Issue on The PACE Trial

Prof. Malcolm Macleod, Professor of Neurology and Translational Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh, said:

“The PACE trial, while not perfect, provides far and away the best evidence for the effectiveness of any intervention for chronic fatigue; and certainly is more robust than any of the other research cited. Reading the criticisms, I was struck by how little actual meat there is in them; and wondered where some of the authors came from. In fact, one of them lists as an institution a research centre (Soerabaja Research Center) which only seems to exist as an affiliation on papers he wrote criticising the PACE trial.

“Their main criticisms seem to revolve around the primary outcome was changed halfway through the trial: there are lots of reasons this can happen, some justifiable and others not; the main think is whether it was done without knowledge of the outcomes already accumulated in the trial and before data lock – which is what was done here.

“So I don’t think there is really a story here, apart from a group of authors, some of doubtful provenance, kicking up dust about a study which has a few minor wrinkles (as all do) but still provides information reliable enough to shape practice. If you substitute ‘CFS’ for ‘autism’ and ‘PACE trial’ for ‘vaccination’ you see a familiar pattern…”

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inews blog post, by Paul Gallagher, 1 Aug 2017: ‘You’re a disgusting old fart neoliberal hypocrite’ – scientists in furious row over ME study

A furious row has erupted between scientists after a medical journal dedicated its entire August edition to ripping apart a “deeply flawed” £5m taxpayer-funded study investigating treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

The dispute led to three editors at the Journal of Health Psychology (JHP), who are all scientists, resigning. Professor George Davey Smith resigned before this month’s issue of the journal, which criticised the “extraordinary sum” of the study, was published. It is unsure how long the clinical epidemiologist, based at Bristol University, had been on the board for before leaving his post.

He said the journal displayed “unacceptable one-sidedness”, but an upset co-editor of the journal hit back. James Coyne told Professor Davey Smith to “f*** off” for his “attempted bullying”, leaked emails obtained by The Times show.

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