SNP MP secures debate on controversial DWP-funded ME trial

An SNP MP has secured a debate on a controversial medical trial into treatments of ME which was partly funded by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Carol Monaghan, MP for Glasgow North West, will lead the debate on the PACE Trial and its impact on people with ME in Westminster Hall on 20 February at 11am, and has urged anyone affected to get in touch.

The PACE trial aimed to establish whether cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise therapy are effective forms of treatment for ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, concluding that these could even result in full recovery.

Sir Mansel Aylward, a former Chief Medical Adviser to the DWP and an architect of the Work Capability Assessment, sat on the trial’s steering committee.

The results have been widely criticised, in particular for asserting the value of biopsychological interventions, whilst simultaneously using the biopsychosocial model of disability – that disability has a social and psychological dimension – to help justify cuts to disability spending.

The ME Association called the trial “unreliable at best, manipulated at worst”, and a Freedom of Information Request in 2011 revealed that this was the first such trial to be funded by the DWP, leading to further questions with regard to this focus by the government department on ME.

Monaghan, the SNP’s only representative on the Science and Technology Committee, previously demanded that conflicts of interest be exposed when she questioned Professor Jonathan Montgomery, Chair of the Health Research Authority, during an inquiry into Research Integrity on 30 January.

Monaghan queried the process by which economic or political conflicts of interest of those who conduct trials and author reports are identified and scrutinised, and called for this information to be made publicly available.

Commenting ahead of the debate, Carol Monaghan MP said:

“I am pleased to have secured this important debate on 20 February, and would urge anyone who has been affected to get in touch with me.

“The PACE trial considered how interventions such as exercise benefited people suffering from ME. Its results have since been discredited for a number of reasons, including changing the parameters and success criteria midway through the study.

“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 ME.

“ME is classified as a neurological condition and exercise can produce physiological responses such as increased blood pressure, debilitating muscular and rheumatic pain and memory loss.

“In the Science and Technology Select Committee’s inquiry into Research Integrity, I asked about the declaration of interests from authors of research papers. 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.”

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