Chronic fatigue syndrome: two treatments offer improved outcomes

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A multi-university team in the UK has revealed that chronic fatigue syndrome isn’t a chronic illness and there is hope as two treatments have offered improved outcomes during trials.

The findings are the result of a followup of patients who had participated in a study published in 2011 that looked at four possible treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). During the followup, researcher at Oxford University, King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London found that two of the four treatments – cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET) – had achieved better outcomes than standard medical care (SMC) and adaptive pacing therapy (APT) at one year.

For the latest study researchers contacted the participants of the original research two and a half years after starting the treatments. Three quarters of the participants agreed to take part in the follow up. Researchers found that the improvements in fatigue and physical functioning seen at one year in the trial with CBT and GET were maintained in the long-term. The team also found that participants who originally had CBT or GET were less likely to have sought additional therapy after the trial than those who originally had standard medical care alone or APT.

Professor Michael Sharpe from the University of Oxford revealed that study participants who had cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise therapy showed improvement over 2 years after entering the trial and this suggests that these treatment can improve the long-term health of people with CFS.

There were no significant differences between the four original treatment groups in the number reporting a long-term deterioration in their general health (around 1 in 10 of each group). This showed that there was no evidence that those who received CBT and GET were more likely to worsen in the long term.

Professor Peter White from Queen Mary University of London said: “Finding no significant differences in the proportions getting worse over time is a reassurance for those who worry that some of these treatments might make things worse. But it is also a reminder that these treatments do not help everybody, and more research is needed into finding other treatments that help.”