Trial By Error: A Few Interesting Studies

By David Tuller, DrPH

I’m always highlighting dodgy research from the CBT/GET ideological brigades. These studies are fun to tear apart (metaphorically and sometimes literally), but it’s also nice to be able to recommend some decent research. Below are a few recent papers that I have found to be of interest. All of them were published by the journal Work.

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Documenting Disability in Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)

In the Documenting Disability in Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)US (not to mention other countries!), it can be very challenging to obtain disability with a diagnosis of ME or CFS. A couple of years ago, Northwestern University law professor Steve Lubet and I wrote about a major legal victory in a private disability case. A new paper examines the situation with federal benefits—the difficulties in proving disability and strategies for successfully pursuing claims.

The paper’s stated goal is “to summarize the approaches used by experienced clinicians and lawyers in successful ME/CFS disability claims.” It can be accessed here.

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Research Update: The Relation Between ME/CFS Disease Burden and Research Funding in the USA

Jason et al have compared the disease burden for ME/CFS and other illnesses to the amount of funding they receive from the National Institutes of Health. This is a follow-up from a 2016 study. Here are their results and conclusions:

“We find the disease burden of ME/CFS is double that of HIV/AIDS and over half that of breast cancer. We also find that ME/CFS is more underfunded with respect to burden than any disease in NIH’s analysis of funding and disease burden, with ME/CFS receiving roughly 7% of that commensurate with disease burden…To be commensurate with disease burden, NIH funding would need to increase roughly 14-fold. 

The study can be accessed here.

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Graded Exercise Therapy Doesn’t Restore the Ability to Work in ME/CFS. Rethinking of a Cochrane Review

Vink and Vink published a paper last year challenging the claims of Cochrane’s review of exercise therapies for CFS. Since then, Cochrane has published an amended version. Vink and Vink have again subjected the claims to scrutiny, focusing in particular on ability to work. Now they have analyzed the new version and have provided their findings.

Here’s what they say: “GET not only fails to objectively improve function significantly or to restore the ability to work, but it’s also detrimental to the health of≥50% of patients, according to a multitude of patient surveys. Consequently, it should not be recommended.”

The study can be accessed here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt, PhD 30 June 2020, 12:44 pm

    A worthy endeavor – encouraging the good behaviors.

  • Charles 30 June 2020, 1:03 pm

    Thank you for the tips. Took a look at them and it makes me glad to see that there is solid and important research being done out there by good people!

  • Sara Finn 1 July 2020, 3:04 pm

    This review of a Cochrane Review is refreshing. A definitive rebuke of the sloppy selection criteria for subjects in the studies in question would seem to require an independent study but funds to replicate PACE or GET studies will not be forthcoming. In fact, these studies cannot be replicated, due to vague patient selection criteria. We all have benefited from Cochrane Review but the publisher may need to adjust its own inclusion criteria to forbid studies that are impossible to replicate due to poor design. Studies which are impossible to replicate fall on a spectrum far outside the sphere of science.