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I have just read the review of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in the October issue of the JRSM.1 It included my study, but some of the details were inaccurate and the overall judgement was unfair and potentially misleading.
In the original ‘York’ review of the various treatments for CFS, my study received a validity score of two. However, after clarification regarding the statistical analysis, this was changed to three (Kleijnen, personal communication). Chambers et al. were clearly not aware of the ‘correction’ and published the original score. It's a minor issue, but it wasn't the only one.
Another example relates to the assessment of the results. According to the table (p. 511), the programme had no overall effect—but as the authors noted in their recent review for NICE (http://www.nice.org.uk/page.aspx?o=368933, appendix 1, p. 423), there were ‘significant differences between groups for fatigue... and somatic symptoms’. They would also have been aware that 82% of the patients rated themselves as ‘better’ or ‘much better’ and that 23% had improved to such a degree that they were discharged.
To summarize, patients reported less fatigue, fewer somatic symptoms, less anxiety and depression after six months compared to the controls, and the improvements were maintained at follow-up. Yet the authors judged the treatment had ‘no overall effect’.
My study is one of the few which has assessed an alternative to the CBT-based programmes. It's also one of the few controlled trials to include pacing, a strategy which many patients regard as a particularly helpful way of managing their limited energy. In my opinion, it deserved an accurate evaluation and a fair summary of the outcome. It didn't get that.
Competing interests None declared.