There’s very little that science knows definitively about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disease characterized by often debilitating physical and mental exhaustion — researchers still haven’t been able to identify a cause, let alone a cure. But in 2011, a study published in The Lancet claimed that it had done exactly that: The data, the authors declared, showed that a combination of exercise and talk therapy could significantly alleviate the symptoms of the disease, and even cure it fully in up to 20 percent of cases. Immediately, the study was both hailed as a great leap forward and criticized as bad science.
And now, definitive proof has emerged that the latter camp was correct. In a column published in Stat today, writer Julie Rehmeyer — herself a CFS patient — explained how a supposed breakthrough blew up so spectacularly.
Soon after the study was published, Rehmeyer wrote, she and other CFS patients, skeptical of the study’s claims, began to examine it more closely. What they found looked a lot like manipulated data.