FITNET trial

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FITNET, in relation to CFS/ME, "will investigate whether FITNET-NHS (online CBT) is effective in the NHS, and whether it offers value for money compared to Activity Management."

Professor Esther Crawley is head of this study. Association of Young People with ME (AYME) and Professor Stephen Holgate support the FITNET trial.[1]

Funding[edit | edit source]

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme are funding this research.[2]

Controversy[edit | edit source]

David Tuller has written that although the PACE trial has been publicly discredited when a court-ordered release of key trial data which confirmed PACE authors "weakened their outcome criteria mid-stream in ways that allowed them to report dramatically better results for “improvement” (in The Lancet in 2011) and "recovery" (In Psychological Medicine in 2013)" they "continue to defend the indefensible study" and push forward with CBT with Dr. Esther Crawley promoting FITNET and wants to enroll more than 700 adolescents.[3]

He wrote in Trial By Error, Continued: A Follow-Up Post on FITNET-NHS

"As part of her media blitz for the FITNET-NHS launch, Dr. Crawley was interviewed on a BBC radio program by a colleague, Dr. Phil Hammond. In this interview, she made some statements that demonstrate one of two things: Either she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and her misrepresentations are genuine mistakes, or she’s lying. So either she’s incompetent, or she lacks integrity. Not a great choice." Dr. Crawley either made an "unfortunate mistake" or a "deliberate untruth" when she convoluted two comparison groups in the study; one group went on with FITNET and the other did not yet she put the groups together as all going on with FITNET. She also stated: "Now, you know, you can pick and choose how you redefine recovery, and that’s all very important research, but the message from the PACE Trial is not contested; the message is, if you want to get better, you’re much more likely to get better if you get specialist treatment." Dr. Tuller notes this is at serious odds with the facts.[4]

Excerpt of Dr. Tuller explaining facts of PACE trial data[5]

In reporting their findings in The Lancet in 2011, the PACE authors presented “improvement” results for the two primary outcomes of fatigue and physical function. They reported that about 60 percent of participants in the CBT and GET arms reached the selected thresholds for “improvement” on both measures. In a 2013 paper in the journal Psychological Medicine, they presented “recovery” results based on a composite “recovery” definition that included the two primary outcomes and two additional measures. In this paper, they reported “recovery” rates for the favored intervention groups of 22 percent.
Using the raw trial data that the court ordered them to release earlier this year, the PACE authors themselves reanalyzed the Lancet improvement findings, based on their own initial, more stringent definition of “improvement” in the protocol. In this analysis, the authors reported that only about 20 percent “improved” on both measures, using the methods for assessing “improvement” outlined in the protocol. In other words, only a third as many “improved,” according to the authors’ own original definition, compared to the 60 percent they reported in The Lancet. Moreover, in the reanalysis, ten percent “improved” in the comparison group, meaning that CBT and GET led to “improvements” in only one in ten participants—a pretty sad result for a five-million-pound trial.


The Countess of Mar wrote a November 3, 2016 open letter to the BBC in reference to its media coverage with Esther Crawley and FITNET. The BBC responded on November 21, 2016 and the Countess again wrote to the BBC on December 8, 2016 finding their response unsatisfactory.

  • Nov 3, 2016, the Countess wrote to the BBC to complain about the coverage of the FITNET ME/CFS paediatric trial run by Esther Crawley.[6]. She said the reporting was "was neither accurate nor impartial" and that information on the BBC website, news bulletins & news channel were misleading.
  • Nov 21, 2016, The BBC replied to the Countess's letter stating that "We are aware that research about CFS has been controversial and we try to ensure that this is reflected in our coverage....I accept that the original headline for the article by James Gallagher which referred to people being ‘cured’ was incorrect. In fact it was published in error and was corrected very shortly after the original version was first posted....we decided to make reference to [the controversy] by including a clip of Jane Colby from the Tymes Trust."[7]
  • Dec 8, 2016, the Countess wrote again to the BBC about the FITNET coverage where she stated "I regret that I find your response far from satisfactory." She referenced David Tuller's Trial By Error articles on FITNET, FITNET and the NHS, and flawed Dutch studies of GET/CBT and Esther Crawley.[8]

Notable studies[edit | edit source]

  • August 2107 - Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Is Ineffective and May Impede Natural Recovery in Adolescents with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. A Review by Simin Ghatineh and Mark Vink
    Abstract: The Dutch Fatigue In Teenagers on the interNET (FITNET) study claimed that after 6 months, internet based cognitive behaviour therapy in adolescents with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), led to a 63% recovery rate compared to 8% after usual care, and that this was maintained at long term follow up (LTFU). Our reanalysis shows that their post-hoc definition of recovery included the severely ill, the unblinded trial had no adequate control group and it used lax selection criteria as well as outcomes assessed via questionnaires rather than objective outcomes, further contributing to exaggerated recovery figures. Their decision not to publish the actometer results might suggest that these did not back their recovery claims. Despite these bias creating methodological faults, the trial still found no significant difference in recovery rates (“~60%”) at LTFU, the trial’s primary goal. This is similar to or worse than the documented 54–94% spontaneous recovery rates within 3–4 years, suggesting that both FITNET and usual care (consisting of cognitive behaviour and graded exercise therapies) are ineffective and might even impede natural recovery in adolescents with ME/CFS. This has implications for the upcoming costly NHS FITNET trial which is a blueprint of the Dutch study, exposing it to similar biases.[9]

Learn more[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


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From MEpedia, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia of ME and CFS science and history