Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Medical Research

Dangers of research into chronic fatigue syndrome

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 22 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3780

Research into CFS/ME

There is an obvious paradox in wanting more research in CFS/ME, but
then rejecting research that one does not like, with claims that it is
unscientific. "Science" is the application of the scientific method, and
the sound rebuttals by both the MRC and Lancet to allegations that the
PACE trial was in some way improper should be proof enough. That cognitive
behavioural therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET) have been
shown by the PACE trial to be safe whilst moderately improving outcomes
for CFS/ME would ordinarily be a cause of considerable satisfaction to
both doctors and patients. Certainly it would be so in any other branch of
medicine. Entry criteria to the trial were broad, but subgroup analysis on
more narrowly defined CFS/ME still produced the same results. Whilst these
treatments do not resolve the problem for everyone, undoubtedly they do
benefit some. It is precisely for these reasons that we have trials, in
which treatments and outcomes can be standardised. By all means let us
have research into other aspects of this condition, but let us also
acknowledge the good intentions of researchers and doctors involved in all
aspects of this field.

Competing interests: Specialist medical care doctor, PACE trial;Member of guideline development group for National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) CFS/ME guidelines

04 July 2011
Alastair M. Santhouse
Consultant in Psychological Medicine
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, SE5