Trial By Error: My 2011 NY Times Exchange With the PACE PIs

David Tuller


By David Tuller, DrPH.


When the PACE trial was published in early 2011, my New York Times editor sent it to me, along with the press release. As a non-staff contributor to the Times, I had started covering the debate over the mouse retrovirus hypothesis and science, but I’d heard nothing about anything called PACE or graded exercise therapy. I got a few hours to whip something up for the next day’s news coverage. Knowing nothing, I reported the findings as best I could. Unfortunately, I took them more or less at face value.

As I learned more about the trial and read comments from patients and others, I realized I’d screwed up. A couple of months later I wrote another story—about case definition as a tool in epidemiology, and the complications that can arise when case definitions vary. The article discussed the Oxford criteria used in PACE but failed to mention subgroup analyses of trial participants also defined using the Fukuda criteria and a separate ME case definition. That omission prompted a request for a correction from the PACE principal investigators.


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