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Our CEO responds to Prof Paul Garner

January 28, 2021

Action for M.E. CEO, Sonya Chowdhury, responds to Prof Paul Garner.

This morning, Prof Paul Garner appeared on BBC Breakfast to talk about his recovery from Long Covid. Building on his latest BMJ blog on the same topic, published on Monday, the experience he shared sadly confuses anecdote with statistical significance, and opinion with fact, causing significant distress to people with M.E. It is this that I wish to address here.

Prof Garner’s recovery from Long Covid is of course positive news. But it undermines the principles of quality research to presume that a sample of one person (a person saying he improved because he exercised and thought differently about this illness) can be extrapolated for all people living with Long Covid – or M.E./CFS, for which Prof Garner says he fit the criteria, and was referred to an M.E./CFS specialist. For some people who are already on the trajectory of getting better, it’s logical that they may start to do more and think differently but correlation is NOT causation.

By conflating the two, and drawing conclusions that are both statistically invalid and scientifically unsound, Prof Garner has perpetuated an outdated and harmful view of people with chronic illness. We are deeply saddened to see this still happening.

Through our extensive work with the medical profession, the research community and expert patients, in the UK and internationally, we emphatically refute the view that exercise leads to recovery; this is reflected in the evidence carefully considered by NICE in producing its new draft guideline for M.E., advising against physical activity as a cure.

Working collaboratively with other charities, scientists and people with M.E., we are devoting capacity and resources to better understanding M.E./CFS, with the ultimate aim of finding effective treatments, through DecodeME, and further work to be announced soon.