Call for "ring-fenced" funds for research into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS)

The medical research charity, MERGE (ME Research Group) is calling for the ring fencing of resources for biomedical research into ME/CFS.

In a letter to the Prime Minister on 12th May 2005 (ME Awareness Day) Dr Vance Spence, Chairman of MERGE, says, "Every day in the UK, between 120,000 and 240,000 people (2002 Chief Medical Officer's report figures) waken with ME, a condition characterised by a range of neurological symptoms and signs, and muscle pain with intense physical or mental exhaustion. Studies tell us that around 50% are employed but struggling to maintain their lives while another 40% exist on benefits, and that full recovery is rare. At the average benefit rate, the cost to the country is between £200 million and £500 million per annum, excluding social costs which are not easily quantifiable. Despite the impression often given by the press and psychological professionals, ME is not a psychological illness; psychological investigations (which have had the lion's share of research funding in the past) cannot uncover its cause; and psychological therapies cannot provide a cure.

He continues, "Partly due to the low priority given to ME by national funding agencies, the rate of advance in biomedical research is painfully slow. Indeed, since the publication of the Medical Research Council's "CFS/ME Research Strategy" in 2003, almost a dozen applications for funding have been rejected, and few (if any) specifically biomedical research applications have been funded. On this International ME Awareness Day 2005, we would urge you to use your good offices to encourage the Medical Research Council to allocate specific funding - i.e., "ring fenced" resources - to pump prime biomedical research projects into this illness."

This call for ring fencing of resources co-incides with ME Awareness Day (May 12th 2005) activities attended by a range of patient organisations. These include a presentation at Downing St in the morning, an interview with Speedway racer Gary Frankum on Sky News at 10.30 am, and a meet at Parliament later in the day.

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