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Protocol for the PACE trial: A randomised controlled trial of adaptive pacing, cognitive behaviour therapy, and graded exercise as supplements to standardised specialist medical care versus standardised specialist medical care alone for patients with the chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis or encephalopathy

Peter D White1*, Michael C Sharpe2, Trudie Chalder3, Julia C DeCesare4, Rebecca Walwyn5 and the PACE trial group4

Author affiliations

1 Department of Psychological Medicine, Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, UK

2 Psychological Medicine and Symptoms Research Group, University of Edinburgh, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

3 Academic Department of Psychological Medicine, Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, Weston Education Centre, London, UK

4 PACE Trial Coordinating Centre, Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, UK

5 Mental Health & Neuroscience Clinical Trials Unit (MH&N CTU), Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Neurology 2007, 7:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-7-6

Published: 8 March 2007

Abstract

Background

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis/encephalopathy or ME) is a debilitating condition with no known cause or cure. Improvement may occur with medical care and additional therapies of pacing, cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise therapy. The latter two therapies have been found to be efficacious in small trials, but patient organisations' surveys have reported adverse effects. Although pacing has been advocated by patient organisations, it lacks empirical support. Specialist medical care is commonly provided but its efficacy when given alone is not established. This trial compares the efficacy of the additional therapies when added to specialist medical care against specialist medical care alone.

Methods/Design

600 patients, who meet operationalised diagnostic criteria for CFS, will be recruited from secondary care into a randomised trial of four treatments, stratified by current comorbid depressive episode and different CFS/ME criteria. The four treatments are standardised specialist medical care either given alone, or with adaptive pacing therapy or cognitive behaviour therapy or graded exercise therapy. Supplementary therapies will involve fourteen sessions over 23 weeks and a 'booster session' at 36 weeks. Outcome will be assessed at 12, 24, and 52 weeks after randomisation. Two primary outcomes of self-rated fatigue and physical function will assess differential effects of each treatment on these measures. Secondary outcomes include adverse events and reactions, subjective measures of symptoms, mood, sleep and function and objective measures of physical activity, fitness, cost-effectiveness and cost-utility. The primary analysis will be based on intention to treat and will use logistic regression models to compare treatments. Secondary outcomes will be analysed by repeated measures analysis of variance with a linear mixed model. All analyses will allow for stratification factors. Mediators and moderators will be explored using multiple linear and logistic regression techniques with interactive terms, with the sample split into two to allow validation of the initial models. Economic analyses will incorporate sensitivity measures.

Discussion

The results of the trial will provide information about the benefits and adverse effects of these treatments, their cost-effectiveness and cost-utility, the process of clinical improvement and the predictors of efficacy.