Eastern Daily Press report on outcome of Judicial Review

March 13, 2009

Report by Sarah Brealey

A graduate from Norwich and his fellow ME sufferer have lost their battle for different types of medical treatment to be available on the NHS.

Kevin Short, 47, a former engineer from Norwich, has had his complaints dismissed as misconceived by a High Court judge. He was fighting alongside Douglas Fraser, a former professional concert pianist from London.

Mr Short has had myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME, since the 1980s and has problems with mobility. He has been campaigning for years to end the misconception that it is “yuppie flu”, and says that it is a physical not a psychological condition.

Mr Short and Mr Fraser had argued that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) had made “irrational and perverse” restrictions on treatments available for ME sufferers. It recommends cognitive behaviour therapy and graded exercise treatment for those with mild to moderate forms of the illness, which some sufferers say makes them worse. They want to see alternatives such as adrenal support supplements, antiviral treatment, diet modulation and vitamin and mineral supplements.

But today the judge rejected argument on behalf of two victims of the debilitating illness that decisions made by a panel of experts were tainted by bias or the appearance of bias.

In a strongly-worded postscript to his judgment, Mr Justice Simon said the allegations made against panel members were not only damaging to them but “may cause health professionals to hesitate before they involve themselves in this area of medicine”.

He said: “A perception that this is an area of medicine where contrary views are not to be voiced, and where scientific inquiry is to be limited, is damaging to science and harmful to patients.”

Such allegations might deter people from serving on the Guideline Development Group, the panel which reports to Nice, he said.

A spokesman for the ME Association said: “People with ME and chronic fatigue syndrome now face a situation where doctors will continue to recommend two forms of treatments that many people with the illness find ineffective or even harmful.

“The ME Association believe that the two people with ME who took up the legal challenge were fully justified in seeking a court hearing into the processes used by NICE to draw up the guideline…We shall continue to ask NICE to review the contents of what we maintain is a seriously flawed and unhelpful guideline.”

Mr Short did not wish to comment today.

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