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PACE trial to be debated at Westminster

February 08, 2018

A Westminster Hall debate about the PACE trial, and its impact on people with M.E., will be held on Tuesday 20 February.

Leading the debate, Carol Monaghan, SNP MP for Glasgow North West, has raised concerns around about the methodology and conduct of the trial, and its clinical value – something highlighted by a new reanalysis and evaluation of PACE, which raises “serious concerns about the robustness of the claims made about the efficacy of CBT and GET.”

Ms Monaghan also has a keen interest in any potential conflict of interests around PACE, which was in part funded by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

On her website, Ms Monaghan says: “Key PACE investigators have had longstanding relationships with major insurance companies, advising them on how to handle disability claims related to ME, and one of the authors was an advisor to the DWP. The results of the PACE trial have been used by the DWP to sanction those suffering from M.E. […] Conflicts of interest such as this must be exposed, and transparency is important to ensure research is credible. If research is tainted by these outside interests, the public must know.”

She has asked anyone affected by these issues to get in touch in advance of the debate. While Westminster Hall debates do not lead to a vote, they can be an effective way to raise awareness about a specific issue, and prompt a response from a government minister.

Last month, an article in the journal Nature about M.E. research highlighted that “many patient advocates say that UK government agencies have essentially treated M.E./CFS as if it were a strictly psychological condition, a conclusion that they argue was bolstered by the PACE trial’s findings that exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy relieve symptoms. The NHS recommended these interventions, even after many patients complained that exercise dramatically worsens their condition.”

Responding by letter, PACE trial authors countered that the article “underestimate(s) the benefits of current treatments” and that “there is no place for stigmatizing any avenue of research or therapy that might help us to improve the lives of people with this long-term debilitating illness.”