Rehmeyer makes statisticians’ “jaws drop” over PACE

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Science writer Julie Rehmeyer presented a critique of the PACE trial to North America’s largest gathering of statisticians in Chicago earlier this week.

Her talk was titled, “Bad SJulie Rtatistics, Bad Reporting, Bad Impact on Patients: The Story of the PACE trial”. Rehmeyer explained to the 200-strong audience some of the problems with the trial, including the changes to the originally planned analyses of recovery rates. She showed how, with the new analyses, patients’ physical function could worsen and fall below the level required to enter the trial, and yet they would be considered to be recovered.

Rehmeyer said, “When I went through the slides showing the changes to the physical function criterion for recovery, I saw jaws drop.”

PACE was, she told the audience, “one of the most damaging cases of bad statistical practice that I have personally encountered in my years as a journalist.” It was, she said, an “object lesson in how our systems can break down. In this case there were serious breakdowns statistically, scientifically, journalistically, and in public health.” She added that patients were “being hurt by it to this day”.

The Chicago conference was held jointly with the International Statistical Institute and major national statistical associations such as the American Statistical Association (ASA) and the UK’s Royal Statistical Society. Before the talk, the ASA urged delegates to attend Rehmeyer’s talk and hear “how bad statistics harm patients and our profession”.

Rehmeyer said, “I was delighted by the response of the audience…. Quite a few people came and talked to me afterward, including a couple of folks with genuine influence.”

Rehmeyer is a contributing editor with Discover magazine and has written previously on ME/CFS in the New York Times and Slate.

The slides of her talk can be found here; her speaking notes maybe be viewed by clicking the “Notes” icon just above the comments section. The abstract of her talk is here.

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9 thoughts on “Rehmeyer makes statisticians’ “jaws drop” over PACE”

  1. Great Article!!! What is jaw dropping is not the statistical “mistake”, Nor the interpretation “mistake”, nor the attitude of offense when we questioned the trial, nor the name calling to patients/scientists for being outraged on the obvious issues.
    What is really jaw dropping, is how hard has been to get the paper to be corrected or retracted.
    How many professionals are needed to point out such obvious problems in a paper for it to be corrected/retracted?
    Offensive is the amount of the tax payers money spent to cover up all this.
    The nerve and the defiance to logic is the jaw dropping part.

    1. “What is really jaw dropping, is how hard has been to get the paper to be corrected or retracted.” To me as well, Seven. It does make one wonder what it would take to provoke a shift…

  2. When will the pseudo-scientists who mislead the public with the “pace study” be finally forced to retract it? When? How long does it take? Disgusting! If those “scientists” were working in a non-protected job (like most of the world does) they’d not only have their complete fabrication of a study revoked, they’d be fired.

    1. I doubt the researchers would pull their paper; The Lancet, who published the offending study, would retract it.

  3. Julie, thank you so much for your hard work. This is wonderful to hear!
    Sven, frankly, I think it’s all jaw-dropping.

  4. Can someone give me detailed instructions about how to access her Notes? I can get the slides, but can’t find any ikons above the slides, or a comments section….spent ages when this first appeared, asked for help, joined Slideshare…

    1. Sure, Nancy — go to the slides page where you were before; now scroll down. When you’re in the right place, the bottom of the slides themselves should still be visible at the very top of your screen.
      Right below the social media buttons you’ll see ‘Comments’. Going horizontally, there are also tabs that say ‘Likes’, ‘Statistics’, and ‘Notes’. Click on the notes tab and you will be able to see Julie’s notes. 🙂
      Hope this helps!
      -J

  5. For the first time since I was diagnosed with cfs/me,11 yrs ago( I suffered, undiagnosed,for 15 yrs before a diagnosis was forthcoming ) I see a glimmer of light at the end of the darkest of tunnels.If Lancet are forced to withdraw their support for this flawed research,upon which most GPs( at least those who even recognise the existence cfs/me),just maybe the establishment,including the NHS,will be shamed into action! I will not,however,be holding what little breath I have!
    A huge debt of gratitude is owed to all those who continue to advance our cause,and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

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