Monday, 22 February 2010

Magical Medicine: How to make a disease disappear (3)

Letter from Malcolm Hooper to Sir Michael Rawlins, Chairman of NICE

19 February 2010

Dear Sir Michael,

I am a ‘blast from your past’. I was at Sunderland School of Pharmacy and you were at Newcastle in Clinical Pharmacology when the M.Pharm course in Pharmacokinetics was developed. Congratulations on your eminent status and knighthood.

Since 1997, when I retired as Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, I have been involved with the emerging and widespread complex chronic multi-system illnesses (Gulf War Syndrome/Illness, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ME/CFS, multiple chemical sensitivity, MCS, Aerotoxic Syndrome, organophosphate and other pesticide poisonings) that are of growing concern and are medically challenging -- writing and lecturing, locally, nationally and internationally.

This letter is linked to my concerns about ME which involves some 240,000 people in the UK with varying degress of disability. Some 25% are housebound or bed bound and have formed their own group,

The 442 page report “Magical Medicine, how to make a disease disappear”, copy attached with the press release, together with a copy of my letter to the Minister, Lord Drayson, currently the Minister responsible for the MRC, brings together an extensive and fully referenced review of the literature on ME.

It provides the evidence supporting my complaint about the MRC PACE Trial to Lord Drayson.

The entire report, the press release and the letter of complaint have now been circulated worldwide on the internet and have received much acclaim and support from the major ME organisations in various countries and numerous individuals, as well as academic institutions. The report is to be discussed by the International Association of CFS/ME at its next board meeting in early March, as confirmed by the President, Professor Fred Friedberg from the US.

Despite the vast amount of biomedical literature (some 5000 papers) going back to 1934 and the classification of ME as a neurological illness by the WHO (ICD-10 G93.3) since 1969, the official UK attitudes as demonstrated by the MRC, DWP, Department of Health, and to some extent your own organisation NICE:

a.ignore all this evidence an ideological commitment to a psychosomatic/behavioural model of the illness which is no longer tenable

c.recommend only cognitive restructuring techniques (CBT and GET) that are "not remotely curative" and have been shown to be of no lasting value and in the case of GET to be positively harmful (Peter White's assertion that this is because the interventions have been incorrectly administered has been shown to lack credibility)

d.proscribe any investigative tests to identify the disorder, leading to missed diagnoses and misdiagnosies cruel, even vicious, actions that lead to patients being wrongly sectioned and parents, particularly mothers, accused of Munchausens’-Syndrome-by-Proxy, MSBP.

f. the result is that essential benefits and insurance payments to support patients and their families have not been paid or have been granted only after protracted and expensive legal action. All this adds to the burden of the illness for patients and for those who care for them.

The psychiatrists’ argument that what they refer to as “CFS/ME” is substantially different from past epidemics of ME does not withstand scrutiny in the light of current knowledge. It is beyond question that ME is associated with a severely disrupted immune system which renders patients more susceptible to both further viral and chemical challenge and reactivation of latent viruses and persistent viral-specific symptoms.

For the psychiatrists to amalgamate 25 different disorders (Holgate, RSM July 2009) and to focus on “medically unexplained fatigue” whilst i
gnoring cardinal symptoms of ME is a travesty of medical science.

Of special concern and relevance are the legal and ethical requirements facing doctors today, in particular, the legal requirement for doctors to keep up to date with developments in medicine and medical science (as clearly set out in “Good Medical Practice: Duties of a doctor. The duties of a doctor registered with the General Medical Council: 'Keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date' and 'Never abuse your patients' trust in you or the public's trust in the profession' (

Ignoring vast swathes of evidence is not keeping up to date. For any registered medical practitioner – consultant or GP - to dismiss or ignore this widely available evidence which invalidates the behavioural model of “CFS/ME”, together with the prescription of inappropriate interventions, is in clear breach of the GMC regulations and consequently raises issues of medical indemnity.

As noted in the report: “since the general body of knowledge known about by other clinicians and researchers working in the field of ME/CFS is now so great, the question repeatedly asked is: at what point will that body of scientific knowledge be so great that it will be considered serious professional misconduct to ignore it and to continue to deceive patients by pretending that it does not exist?”.

The recommendation not to carry out appropriate investigative tests is inconsistent with the Hippocratic Oath in its ancient or modern form.

The offering of treatment that is known even by its proponents to be ineffective is a betrayal of doctors’ responsibility to their patients. Merely to pronounce that the onus is on the individual doctor, when adherence to NICE Guidelines is to become compulsory, is unacceptable.

Inappropriate sectioning of patients and false diagnoses such as MSBP represents a further betrayal.

To rely on only a few studies, showing very modest efficacy, all of which having been shown to have very serious flaws (as is the case with the PACE Trial) and enshrine this inadequate information in official directions, publications and statements from authorised bodies, including NICE, is utterly unacceptable and dishonours the name of medicine as well as being destructive of lives of sick people and those who care for them.

I draw to your attention the commissioned editorial in last week’s BMJ by Alistair Santhouse, who you will be aware was a member of the CG53 GDG. Please read the attached eBMJ response submitted by Horace Reid, a former long-serving NHS clinician. It was rejected for publication, a fact that is revealing in itself, given that it is impeccably accurate.

I would ask you in your role as Chairman of NICE to engage fully with our report and act accordingly to right the long standing wrongs that people with ME have suffered for the last 20 years.

With best wishes

Malcolm Hooper.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Magical Medicine: How to make a disease disappear (2)


12th February 2010

A formal complaint has been lodged by Professor Malcolm Hooper with the Rt. Hon The Lord Drayson, Minister of State with responsibility for the Medical Research Council (Science and Innovation) about the "PACE" Clinical Trial of behavioural modification interventions for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

PACE is the acronym for Pacing, Activity, and Cognitive behavioural therapy, a randomised Evaluation, interventions that, according to one of the Principal Investigators, are without theoretical foundation.

The MRC's PACE Trial seemingly inhabits a unique and unenviable position in the history of medicine. It is believed to be the first and only clinical trial that patients and the charities that support them have tried to stop before a single patient could be recruited and is the only clinical trial that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has ever funded.

Since 1993, the giant US permanent health insurance company UNUMProvident has been advising the UK DWP about the most effective ways of curtailing sickness benefit payments. The PACE Trial is run by psychiatrists of the Wessely School, most of whom work for the medical and permanent health insurance industry, including UNUMProvident. These psychiatrists insist - in defiance of both the World Health Organisation and the significant biomedical evidence about the nature of it - that "CFS/ME" is a behavioural disorder, into which they have subsumed ME, a classified neurological disorder whose separate existence they deny. Their beliefs have been repudiated in writing by the World Health Organisation.

In 1992, the Wessely School gave directions that in cases of ME/CFS, the first duty of the doctor is to avoid legitimisation of symptoms; in 1994, ME was described by Professor Simon Wessely as merely "a belief"; in 1996 recommendations were made that no investigations should be performed to confirm the diagnosis and in 1999 patients with ME/CFS were referred to as "the undeserving sick".

The complaint is supported by a 442 page Report which addresses areas of major concern about the PACE Trial.

These include apparent coercion and exploitation of patients, flawed methodology, apparent lack of scientific rigour, apparent failure to adhere to the Declaration of Helsinki, the unusual personal financial interest of the Chief Investigator, the vested financial interests of the Principal Investigators and others involved with the trial and the underlying non-clinical purpose of the trial.

The psychiatrists' unproven beliefs and assumptions are presented as fact and trial therapists have been trained to provide participants with misinformation; therapists have also been trained to advise participants to ignore symptoms, a situation that may in some cases result in death.

There are some extremely disquieting issues surrounding the MRC PACE Trial and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act allow the full story to be told for the first time.

People with ME/CFS do not seek any special consideration; they simply wish to be treated equally to those who suffer from other classified neurological disorders. As shown in the Report that accompanies the complaint, the MRC PACE Trial clearly demonstrates that people with ME/CFS are not treated equally to those with other chronic neurological disorders.

The Report can be accessed at

File Size 6Mb Adobe Acrobat format

(Please see also: and


Letter of complaint to the Rt Hon The Lord Drayson
Professor Malcolm Hooper Ph.D.,B.Pharm.,C.Chem.,MRIC
Sunderland SR3
11th February 2010
The Rt Hon The Lord Drayson
Minister of State (Science and Innovation)
1, Victoria Street

Dear Minister

re: Complaint about the Medical Research Council

It is with deep concern that I lodge this formal complaint about the Medical Research Council with you in your capacity as Minister with responsibility for the MRC.

You will doubtless be aware of the serious problems at the MRC that were documented in the 2003 Report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology (HC 132) in which MPs issued a damning judgment on the MRC, lambasting it for wasting funds and for introducing misguided strategies for its research. MPs found evidence of poor planning and of focusing on “politically-driven” projects that have diverted money away from top-quality proposals. The unprecedented attack was the result of a detailed probe into the workings of the MRC.

Sadly, very serious problems continue to exist at the MRC, with disastrous results for patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The attached 442 page Report addresses the background to the MRC “PACE” Trial on “CFS/ME”, the biomedical evidence that disproves the assumptions of the MRC trial Principal Investigators, the many extremely disturbing issues surrounding the PACE Trial, and illustrations from the Manuals used in the trial.

The unproven beliefs and assumptions of the MRC Investigators are presented as fact; trial therapists have been trained to provide participants with misinformation, and therapists have also been trained to advise participants to ignore symptoms arising from the interventions, a situation that may in some cases result in death.

Patients with ME/CFS do not seek any special consideration; they simply wish to be treated equally to those with other classified neurological disorders. As shown in the commissioned Report that accompanies this complaint (a bound copy of which will follow), the MRC Trial clearly demonstrates that people with ME/CFS are not treated equally to those with other chronic neurological disorders.

Given the long-standing recognition that at least one of the interventions used in the trial is contra-indicated for people with ME/CFS, an intervention that is already known to have adverse effects on 50% of those who have already undertaken it, there is international concern about the MRC PACE Trial.

I urge you to read the attached Report and to respond to it with due attention and alacrity. You may wish to know that the Report is already on international academic websites.

Yours sincerely