Neurasthenia Milkshake on Ben Goldacre and ME Pseudoscience

Yesterday I put up Florence’s comments about the government-approved nonsense now being peddled about ME, which conclusively showed that it was drivel. Florence herself also had experience examining the corporate influence on science, which she concluded was corrupting it, just as Stalin’s ideological and personal preferences disastrously corrupted science in the former Soviet Union.

In the article I mentioned Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science as an example of a book on spurious doctrines passed off a science. In response I received the comment below from Neurasthenia Milkshake. They liked the article, but wanted to point out that there is evidence that Goldacre himself supports the kind of rubbish the government is now trying to foist on the rest of us about the disease. They also gave further links to sites disproving the ‘all in the mind’ theory of the origin of the disease.

Here’s their comment.

Thank you for covering this. There is one issue I want to raise–Ben Goldacre, who to my knowledge has never said much about PACE, or ME/CFS for that matter. However, there has been speculation that he studied, apprenticed, or otherwise worked with, in some capacity, Simon Wessely, who in recent years has accumulated numerous honors. Obviously one can not damn Goldacre on that basis; but that there may well be a connection there is worth taking into consideration. Wessely has authored papers with members of the PACE team, has published extensively on CFS, especially CBT as a treatment modality, and praised PACE for its scientific rigor. Although Goldacre pretty much severed ties to the forum that was attached to his Bad Science website, that forum hosted vigorous debates on CFS and PACE. It almost seems odd that Goldacre would not have ever commented on PACE, but to my knowledge, again, he has not. He is not viewed with admiration amongst many ME patients due to the purported (though not necessarily substantiated) connection with Wessely, who is viewed by quite a few as a villainous figure.

Here are links to an extremely detailed deconstruction of PACE:

Installment 1: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/21/trial-by-error-i/

Installment 2: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/22/trial-by-error-ii/

Installment 3: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/23/trial-by-error-iii/

Coverage in Science: http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2015/10/criticism-mounts-long-controversial-chronic-fatigue-study

James Coyne weighs in: http://blogs.plos.org/mindthebrain/2015/10/29/uninterpretable-fatal-flaws-in-pace-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-follow-up-study/

PACE Trial authors respond to David Tuller: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/30/pace-trial-investigators-respond-to-david-tuller/

David Tuller responds to PACE Trial authors: http://www.virology.ws

I have to say, I included Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science simply because it was one of the most recent and popular treatments of the subject, having been reviewed in the Groaniad amongst other newspapers, I believe. I really wasn’t aware of his own possible bias in this issue. I’m very happy, however, to put up Neurasthenia Milkshake’s comments on this, along with their further information on the pseudoscientific nature of the theory that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is purely psychological in origin.

The idea that it is somehow all in the mind, and that CBT can cure, is pure corporate bullsh*t and should be discarded as such, along with the scientific hacks that repeat it.

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3 Responses to “Neurasthenia Milkshake on Ben Goldacre and ME Pseudoscience”

  1. Florence Says:

    Further to the comment I made about the corrupting effect of money & medical research, is a timely article in the Grauniad today.
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/01/drugs-pharma-doctors-patients
    Quotes of note include
    “Medical journals and the media can also be manipulated to serve not only as marketing vehicles for the industry, but also be complicit in silencing those who call for more independent scrutiny of scientific data.”
    “Earlier this year, the editor of the Lancet, Richard Horton, wrote that possibly half of the published medical literature may simply be untrue and that science had “taken a turn towards darkness”.”

    “Corporate greed and systematic political failure have brought healthcare to its knees. There are too many misinformed doctors and misinformed patients. ”
    Well worth a read, and following through the links to the Lancet and other journals quoted.

  2. neurasthenia milkshake Says:

    Why, thank you for this–what a pleasant surprise to find. This is a big story, though it never has been ,and, fortunately, it only seems to be growing. We may be coming at it from slightly different angles, but I believe firmly that there is an enormous story even beyond PACE, and if all the pieces are put together the right way by good people, it amounts to a medical scandal the likes of which I’m fairly sure nobody has ever seen. But that’s speculation, for another day, hopefully.

    A last word on Ben Goldacre–this is a professional who has indeed spent a lot of his time working to expose poor science. It seems therefore a bit curious that he has never really said much about ME, or PACE, or related topics. I suppose it’s to his credit that he never lauded PACE, though it was vigorously defended on his forum.

    (The backstory behind why that forum is no longer attached to his website is ugly and most definitely ME/CFS related, but with the relevant info no longer available, not provable. Let’s just say some commenters got out of hand, though in a most vicious manner ,and if I were Goldacre there would have been a time when I would have been concerned with legal action–but the ‘evidence’ has conveniently been lost. I can elaborate further, but only if requested, and specifically with the proviso that I can only describe what I know and saw, but not prove it, and Goldacre himself would almost certainly not have tolerated it, had he been aware, which I would guess he wasn’t.)

    One might ask, then, why didn’t he speak up one way or another? Going on the assumption that he is indeed a crusader, I would suggest that he has connections, if not specifically to the PACE researchers (which is actually quite possible), then to their colleagues. It’s more than possible that he was not comfortable speaking up against these people. I’m sure this is not unique to this particular environment, but I have certainly heard tales of treatment of colleagues who do not share their views, and that’s not a pleasant matter, either. It’s especially frustrating, because one would hope that medical science would be devoid of such environments, all the more so when people are suffering horribly, and are treated poorly based on admittedly flawed perceptions of publications like PACE (i.e. that ME is psychological, in spite of the protests of the PACE team that this may not be so).

    I apologize again for offering opinion when I would prefer to offer facts. There is a possibility Goldacre has been somewhat negligent if he spotted the flaws identified by Tuller and Coyne–but a large number of other researchers, physicians, and, importantly, journalists, never have, either. Do I point a finger at the PACE team? Yes. I point a finger at Sir SImon Wessely as well, although, with his formidable eloquence, he typically sidesteps efforts to paint him as a malevolent, all-powerful puppet master.

    He is affiliated with the Science Media Centre, however. And the history of some of those folks–Revolutionary Communist Party, Living Marxism, Spiked…is something I expect someone will take a good, long look at. Someday.

    Last word: you know about the DT–and you’ll know about some of the following from Tuller’s blogs.

    Naturally, the NHS is still promoting CBT and GET for ME:

    http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/10October/Pages/Exercise-and-therapy-useful-for-chronic-fatigue-syndrome.aspx

    In the US, so is the CDC:

    http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/management/quality-of-life.html

    http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/management/managing-activities.html

    Although earlier this year the US Institute of Medicine issued a report saying the disease is definable by the relapse caused by exertion…

    http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2015/ME-CFS.aspx

    While in Norway, reseachers are actually publishing studies showing success with a chemotherapeutic agent, Rituximab (not that they or anyone else find it easy to secure funding):

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27813-antibody-wipeout-found-to-relieve-chronic-fatigue-syndrome/

    So: CBT and GET…or…a cancer/RA drug?

    How is this even possible?

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