It took the press in the UK (BBC and Daily Mail) almost a week to pick up the Norwegian chemotherapy-helps-ME-patients story, which is remarkable because it was known for months that the study found a dramatic (if temporary) improvement of symptoms in ME patients who had received the chemotherapy drug Rituxan. It was also well known that this study was about to be published, so journalists cannot claim to have been surprised by the findings and even if they were, it’s not like the coverage added any material that took careful research; they basically just rehashed what has been all over the Internet for nearly a week.
The results of the £5 million PACE trial–which “found,” using fake science, that all ME patients need in order to be cured of their false illness beliefs is an attitude adjustment via cognitive-behavioral therapy and a regular trip to the gym–were touted by the British media immediately (as is every study that can’t confirm the finding of human gamma retroviruses in ME–no matter whether the studies’ methods followed the two studies that did find HGRVs in ME). No questions were asked about the fact that many studies, all much more credible than the PACE trial, had shown that exercise is extremely dangerous for ME patients. No mention was made about the fact that talk therapy can be beneficial for all patients with a serious chronic illness; but the implication of purported benefits of cognitive-behavioral therapy in the PACE trial is that ME is not real. The fact that people involved in the PACE trial had ties to disability insurance companies who stand to lose billions didn’t give any journalist pause. The way that the PACE cohort was selected, leading to many depressed people being part of the trial, did not bother the media. Depressed people experience a symptom improvement with exercise. The British media was not concerned over the fact that the few patients that did improve as a result of cognitive-behavioral therapy and graded-exercise therapy improved only marginally and were still sick enough to meet the entry criteria for the study. None of these significant problems that would get the attention of every credible researcher, and in fact did alarm every ME researcher and clinician without a blatant conflict of interst, did not bother the British media one bit. They simply regurgitated the PACE results over and over ad nauseum.
The coverage of the Norwegian Rituxan trial paints an entirely different picture. It’s again hugely biased–still remembering that the disease used be called yuppie flu (wouldn’t want anybody to forget) and mentioning never-proven death threats ME researchers are claimed to have received from some ME patients. How are these two “facts” relevant to the current findings? The yuppie-flu label was then, and still is, offensive. It serves no other purpose than to stigmatize patients. So why perpetuate it? And even if the death threats occurred (which is a big question mark), aren’t there deranged people in every patient population? How often do you see coverage of a new HIV treatment mentioning that of the many people who have ever threatened to hurt others, some were (most likely–statistically) HIV patients? Right: never!
In the meantime, Bjørn Guldvog, Deputy Director General of the Norwegian Directorate of Health, issued an apology to ME patients in Norway:
“I think that we have not cared for people with ME to a great enough extent. I think it is correct to say that we have not established proper health care services for these people, and I regret that.”.
Something like this has never happened before–ever!
Norway’s second largest TV channel’s coverage has been dominated by the Rituxan news and the apology. Why is there no mention of this apology at all in the British press? Could the reason be that the UK has the questionable honor of having been the leading country when it comes to abuse and neglect of ME patients? Could it be because the Rituxan ME study leaves, once again, no doubt that claims made by a few, but very influential British psychiatrists and repeated over and over by the British media that ME is a somatoform illness (imagined by the patients) are ludicrous? The British media has been complicit in wrongfully denying ME patients appropriate recognition, treatment and benefits. When are British journalists going to develop an conscience?