PACE Trial follow-up | complementary and alternative healthcare use by participants | 10 June 2016

June 10, 2016

From the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, published online 10 June 2016.

Complementary and alternative healthcare use by participants in the PACE trial of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome

G. Lewith, B. Stuart, T. Chalder, C. McDermott, P.D. White


•CAM use is very common in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) involving approximately two thirds of patients.
•Its use is not associated with any important clinical outcomes.
•The main predictors of CAM use are female sex and local ME group membership.
•These observations are important for clinicians and should be discussed with CFS patients.



Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is characterised by persistent fatigue, disability and a range of other symptoms. The PACE trial was randomised to compare four non-pharmacological treatments for patients with CFS in secondary care clinics. The aims of this sub study were to describe the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the trial sample and to test whether CAM use correlated with an improved outcome.


CAM use was recorded at baseline and 52 weeks. Logistic and multiple regression models explored relationships between CAM use and both patient characteristics and trial outcomes.


At baseline, 450/640 (70%) of participants used any sort of CAM; 199/640 (31%) participants were seeing a CAM practitioner and 410/640 (64%) were taking a CAM medication. At 52 weeks, those using any CAM fell to 379/589 (64%). Independent predictors of CAM use at baseline were female gender, local ME group membership, prior duration of CFS and treatment preference. At 52 weeks, the associated variables were being female, local ME group membership, and not being randomised to the preferred trial arm. There were no significant associations between any CAM use and fatigue at either baseline or 52 weeks. CAM use at baseline was associated with a mean (CI) difference of 4.10 (1.28, 6.91; p = 0.024) increased SF36 physical function score at 52 weeks, which did not reach the threshold for a clinically important difference.

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