‘Potentially Harmful And Old-Fashioned’ Chronic Fatigue Treatments Under Review



By Andy Park in ABC News Australia.


Treatment recommended to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients can be potentially harmful and is old-fashioned, according to a patient group who are asking a new government advisory committee to research potential cures, not counselling or exercise relief.

The predominant treatment for many of Australia’s 200,000 sufferers of CFS — now called ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) — has been a combination of graded exercise therapy (GET) and psychotherapy (CBT).

Dr Andrew Lloyd from UNSW’s Fatigue Clinic is a physician who recommends this treatment and he maintains it is “somewhat helpful” but concedes the treatment “doesn’t help everybody”.

“In general it helps most. In my experience it’s very rarely harmful, if it’s sensibly applied,” Dr Lloyd told 7.30.

But medical ethicist Dr Heidi Nicholl, CEO of the Emerge ME/CFS patient group, said the treatment was “potentially harmful and old-fashioned”

She said a risk of harm arises when exertion is recommended to people who have “problems with energy production”.

“Once you start looking at ME/CFS as a patho-physiological illness, then things like graded exercise therapy seem like old-fashioned approaches to the condition,” Dr Nicholl said.

“We found that 89 per cent of patients felt worse after doing physical activity, so if you feel worse after graded exercise therapy, it’s not going to be something that you want to do,” she said.

The Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is currently investigating treatment and research for ME/CFS. It is expected to meet in August and hand down its findings before the end of the year.


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