The New NICE Guideline For ME/CFS: Ten Questions Answered

By Brian Hughes in The Science Bit.

1. What’s going on?

This week, in the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is publishing a new guideline for the diagnosis and management of a set of conditions referred to as “myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy)” or “chronic fatigue syndrome” (ME/CFS). “ME/CFS” is a broad acronym that is often used to refer to many conditions. It has been estimated that between 0.5% and 1% of the population may be diagnosable with ME/CFS, equating to more than 300,000 people in the UK. The new guideline is to be published on 18 August.

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2. How is the new guideline different to the old one?

The most significant differences relate to treatment recommendations. The old guideline, published back in 2007, had suggested that ME/CFS could be treated using a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET). Essentially, the old UK guideline approached ME/CFS as if it were a psychological illness. By contrast, the World Health Organization defines ME/CFS as a neurological disease, listing it within the neurological disorders section of ICD-10, its illness classification system.

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