Research: treating CFS – study into the scientific evidence for pharmacological treatments, Australian Family Physician, November 2011

From Australian Family Physician, Vol. 40, No. 11, November 2011

Treating chronic fatigue syndrome – a study into the scientific evidence for pharmacological treatments

Sanne Kreijkamp-Kaspers MD, PhD, FRACGP, MSc, is Assistant Professor, Academic General Practice, Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland
Ekua Weba Brenu HBSc, GradDip, is a PhD candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland
Sonya Marshall PhD, BSc(Hons), is Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland
Don Staines MBBS, MPH, FAFPHM, FAFOEM, is Public Health Medical Officer, Queensland Health – Gold Coast Public Health Unit, Gold Coast, Queensland
Mieke L Van Driel MD, MSc, PhD, is Professor of General Practice, Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland and Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, Ghent University, Belgium.

Background

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS), is a severe disabling condition. Patients with CFS usually trial many different medicines, both conventional and complementary. An overview of the pharmacological treatments used by CFS patients and the available evidence underpinning the use of these treatments would be of great value to both patients and their healthcare providers.

Methods

Ninety-four CFS patients recruited into an Australian study investigating immunological biomarkers filled out a questionnaire assessing the medicines they were taking. Evidence from randomised clinical trials was sought in biomedical databases.

Results

The 94 CFS patients used 474 different medicines and supplements. The most commonly used medicines were antidepressants, analgesics, sedatives, and B vitamins. We identified 20 randomised controlled trials studying these medicines in CFS patients.

Discussion

While conventional and complementary medicines are widely used by CFS patients, the evidence for effectiveness in CFS is very limited.

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