Treating chronic fatigue syndrome: A study into the scientific evidence for pharmacological treatments

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Journal Article

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Kreijkamp-Kaspers, S., Brenu, E. W., Marshall, S., Staines, D., & Van Driel, M. L. (2011). Treating chronic fatigue: A study into the scientific evidence for pharmacological treatments. Australian family physician, 40(11), 907-912.

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2011 HERDC submission. FoR code: 111700

© Copyright The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2011




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.

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

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This document has been peer reviewed.