By Sasha Nimmo

The Australian federal government is spending the ME and CFS research budget on training medical professionals to use cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise therapy on patients in Australia and internationally, despite the fact these therapies show no benefit and may do harm.

Part of the $549,592 grant to Prof Andrew Lloyd at the University of New South Wales in 2013-2017 is “to optimise CBT/GET management programs for ME/CFS and to disseminate the treatment to other centers nationally and internationally”.

Senator Scott Ludlam asked the NHMRC if their grant recipients were recommending or investigating either cognitive behavioural therapy or graded exercise therapy and the full response is here SQ16-000011-2.

Prof Lloyd at the University of NSW received the largest proportion of NHMRC funding, receiving $1.06 million for two fellowships, out of the total $1.6 million spent on ME and CFS research by the federal government since 2000.

In the last decade, Prof Lloyd has been the only researcher to receive federal government funding for ME and CFS research.

The funding is allocated by the National Medical Health and Research Council (NHMRC), part of the federal Department of Health. Their role is to:

  • Support health and medical research
  • Develop health advice for the Australian community, health professionals and governments
  • Provide advice on ethical behaviour in health care and in the conduct of health and medical research

This financial year, they will administer $796.3 million in grants. Only a tiny fraction of that will be spent on ME and CFS research, as the only grant is the $110,000-a-year  fellowship for chronic fatigue syndrome, post-cancer fatigue and hepatitis C. (source: nhmrc-funding-figures)

For more on the NHMRC’s funding of ME and CFS research, read here.

If you want to ask the NHMRC why they are funding research out-of-step with the economic impact of the illness, latest scientific understanding and the community’s concerns, you can email your letter to nhmrc@nhmrc.gov.au or you can post it to Level 1, 16 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601.