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Dr David Tuller: Professor David’s Third Mis-Citation of Seminal Study of “Medically Unexplained Symptoms”


Senior Member

Trial By Error: Professor David’s Third Mis-Citation of Seminal Study of “Medically Unexplained Symptoms”
26 April 2021 by David Tuller 5 Comments

By David Tuller, DrPH

*April is crowdfunding month at Berkeley. I conduct this project as a senior fellow in public health and journalism at the university’s Center for Global Public Health. If you would like to support the project with a donation to Berkeley (tax-deductible for US taxpayers), here’s the place: https://crowdfund.berkeley.edu/project/25504

I have recently blogged about the multiple mis-citations of a seminal study involving so-called “medically unexplained symptoms” (MUS). The 2010 study, Bermingham et al, found that the amount spent by the National Health Service on working-age people who were assessed as “somatising” accounted for around 10% of what was spent on that population. Since the study was published more than a decade ago, experts in MUS have routinely misrepresented it by asserting that these costs accounted for 10% of total NHS expenditures—in effect more than tripling their apparent financial impact.
The costs of addressing MUS have been cited regularly as a reason to increase psychological services for patients identified with the conditions that qualify for such a diagnosis. Under its current framework, the NHS’ Improving Access to Psychological Therapies program considers anyone with ME/CFS, irritable bowel syndrome and other ailments without a clear etiology to be suffering from MUS. That makes them all eligible to be shunted immediately from primary care to IAPT interventions, which are mostly variations on cognitive behavior therapy.

On April 17th, I wrote to Professor Anthony David, a neuroscientist at University College London. I was seeking information about why he hasn’t yet corrected this mistake in a paper of which he is the senior author–even though another paper he co-authored was corrected for the same mistake 18 months ago.
Professor David, an expert in the MUS field, was formerly at King’s College London, home to some of the leaders of the biopsychosocial ideological brigades. KCL luminary Professor Sir Simon Wessely is a co-author on the un-corrected paper. Another KCL scholar, Professor Trudie Chalder, was the senior author of the paper co-authored by Professor David and corrected in October, 2019, after I wrote to her and BMJ Open, the journal that published it.
Two days ago, I sent a follow-up note to Professor David after I was alerted by a smart observer to yet another paper of which he is the senior author that includes the same mis-citation. (This one also featured a misspelling–“Birmingham” instead of “Bermingham.”) For Professor David, that’s three separate mis-citations of Bermingham et al–or at least that’s the number we know of.............