Full text of ME Association response to Dr Max Pemberton’s article in the Daily Telegraph

September 1, 2011

‘Protestors have got it all wrong on ME' – Dr Max Pemberton, Daily Telegraph, Monday 29 August, 2011



Dr Max Pemberton does not understand the complex issues surrounding the need for biomedical research into ME/CFS – a condition which includes a wide range of clinical presentations – and has misrepresented the position of The ME Association.

The ME Association criticised the lack of government funded research into the underlying cause of ME/CFS and called for a change of policy at the Medical Research Council (MRC) The result, which Dr Pemberton ignores, was the setting up of an MRC Expert Group on ME/CFS research which went on to establish a list of biomedical research priorities, along with £1.5.million of ring fenced funding. Among the biomedical research priorities identified by the group are some of the possible causes and treatments – eg immune system dysfunction through viral infection, muscle (mitochondrial) pathology and cytokine inhibition – that Dr Pemberton has wrongly concluded are of no obvious value in this complex multisystem disease.

Despite all the money spent on ‘talking therapies' (ie cognitive behaviour therapy/CBT) and ‘supervised exercise' (ie graded exercise therapy/GET) the results just do not match his ‘gold standard' claims. In our survey of over 4000 people with ME/CFS, 55% reported that CBT made no difference and 19% reported that CBT made their condition worse. With GET, 56% reported it made their condition worse and 21% reported no change.

Having worked in hospital psychiatry I know that mental illness can be just as horrible as any physical illness and that physical and mental factors may well interact in long term conditions. However, The ME Association's criticism of psychiatric research has no relationship to a desire to stigmatise mental illness. We are simply pointing out that without biomedical research there will never be an effective form of treatment for an illness that is estimated to cost the country over £3 billion per annum in lost taxes, benefit payments and medical care.

Dr Charles Shepherd
Hon Medical Adviser, ME Association
Member of MRC Expert Group on ME/CFS Research

ME Association
7 Apollo Office Court
Radclive Road
Bucks MK18 4DF

8 thoughts on “Full text of ME Association response to Dr Max Pemberton’s article in the Daily Telegraph”

  1. Thank you – to Dr.Shepherd and all the team at the MEA for working so hard; it is greatly appreciated. The media coverage of ME over the past month has had terrible consequences but your response as always is brilliant – please keep up this much needed support.

  2. Thank you for writing that Dr shepherd.

    I hope they take note and write a decent article.. just one that actually contains the truth would be good.

  3. The recent news coverage on M.E. has been distressing and disheartening. But there is something we can do to make our voices heard. There is an e-petition for more biomedical research into M.E. Please sign it.

  4. Thankyou Dr Shepherd for a good response to the clear misunderstanding Mr Pemberton has of ME which often filter’s through to family & friends which has caused great distress amongst sufferers. Like you i have worked in Mental Health, athough it is abundantly clear it is a secondary condition & seperate to our physical illness ME, no doubt made worse through the very people who should know better.

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