Professor Gijs Bleijenberg stated in the Reformatorisch Dagblad October 2nd that cognitive behavioral therapy and graded exercise therapy are effective in CFS: chronic fatigue syndrome. He reacted because recent further analysis showed that the biggest research ever in this area, the PACE trial, suffers from serious flaws (1). This research even shows that the treatment is not effective. The professor claims that the criticism is not properly substantiated. He is severely mistaken though. Based on the original research protocol, the research data has been re-analysed with the help of professors in statistics (2). This re-analysis showed that there is no relevant effect.
Next, the professor argues that Dutch research, to which he contributed a lot, also shows that the treatment is effective. But again the professor is mistaken. Recently, an article about FITNET, one of the Dutch researches, was published. The analysis showed that this study also suffers from serious flaws similar to the PACE trial. Recovery had been defined post hoc. Young people who were still seriously ill were considered improved or recovered.
Looking at the other Dutch researches, some of them mentioned in his comment, it is clear that they are severely flawed too. The shortcomings lead to the consequence that these studies can not be used as evidence to underpin the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy and graded exercise therapy. Frequently found flaws: the research group is mixed with other target groups, no objective measurements have been used or the adverse outcomes had not been reported, seriously ill people are counted as improved or recovered, there is no control group or the control condition is insufficient etc. etc.
The fatigue investigators have been telling fairy tales for years now. But this fairytale has come to an end. It looks as if the professor cannot believe it yet.