Trial By Error: Hey BJGP, Where’s That Correction about the Cost of MUS?

By David Tuller, DrPH

Earlier today (Sunday, June 9th, in San Francisco), I sent the following e-mail to Professor Roger Jones, the editor of the British Journal of General Practice. I first wrote to Professor Jones in early May, seeking a correction to a 2017 editorial about the cost of so-called “medically unexplained symptoms” to the National Health Service. After some back and forth, Professor Jones sent me a message on May 29th that the journal was correcting the error “now.”

I wrote him back and thanked him, including some suggestions about what the correction might include. As of this posting, the editorial remains uncorrected. The British Journal of General Practice is continuing to disseminate what it knows to be false information about an important public health policy issue.

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Dear Professor Jones–

On Wed, May 29th, you sent me an e-mail in which you indicated that the British Journal of General Practice was correcting a false statement that I had brought to your attention. That statement, about the cost to the UK National Health Service of “medically unexplained symptoms,” appeared in a 2017 editorial written by Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham and colleagues. Your e-mail noted that the correction was being made “now.” I interpreted “now” to mean that day–or certainly later that week, or perhaps the following week.

Yet so far no correction has appeared in the online version of the BJGP editorial. The editorial still states that “the annual NHS cost for MUS in adults of working age in England was estimated to be £2.89 billion in 2008/2009 (11% of total NHS spend).” As I noted, this is a misquotation of a key figure from Bermingham et al, a seminal study in the field. The study reported instead that these costs accounted for ten percent of NHS spending for that specific age group–a very different statistic with very different public health and public policy implications.

Can you please let me know when BJGP has made this correction and/or when it will be visible to online readers of the editorial?

Thanks again for your attention to this matter. I have cc-d the same group of interested parties.

Best–David

David Tuller, DrPH
Senior Fellow in Public Health and Journalism
Center for Global Public Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Couch Turnip 10 June 2019, 5:58 am

    12 days and counting. A very poor show, I’d say, and likely to undermine public trust in the medical profession if those at the top won’t quickly correct their mistakes.

    This Guardian article -https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/sep/05/publish-perish-peer-review-science from 2011 might be of interest. The author, a Professor of Pharmacology, appears to have been critical of the written Conclusion of a study (RCT) that was published in the BJGP that investigated the use of acupuncture as a treatment for MUS. Roger Jones’ response to the criticism is given below the article.

  • Richard Vallee 10 June 2019, 11:39 am

    Mistakes are quick and easy to fix. Everyone wants them sorted out ASAP.

    Deceit, however, that takes a bit longer.

    Looking a lot like option #2. As a sort of… pattern. Starting to think that the B in BPS stands for some biological matter of bovine origin.

  • jimells 10 June 2019, 4:04 pm

    Couch Turnip wrote: “the use of acupuncture as a treatment for MUS. ”

    This is too funny: a likely sham treatment for a likely sham illness. It’s not funny how much harm this rubbish causes, which they know about and are desperate to keep hidden. If *all* of the PACE data is ever carefully scrutinized by competent investigators, people will be shocked by the number of trial participants who were made worse by the PACE people.

    Recently I read a news report about someone who raised big money for a private prosecution of Boris Johnson. That option appears to be largely unavailable in the US, but may be still possible in the UK. It will take court orders to stop the harm. It appears no other state institution is powerful enough to rein in the Wessely School and their insurance industry paymasters.

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