"ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)"

About: Specialists in the O'Connor Electoral District

(as the patient),

My story is about ‘treatment’ for ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) by a psychiatrist in Albany Western Australia. 

I don’t have a problem with the talk therapy and think it was quite good. What I have a problem with is the prescribing. I was told ‘California rocket-fuel’ (a combination of Ritalin, duloxetine and mirtazapine) is a treatment for ME/CFS and I have yet to see any scientific evidence for this. Online research tells me it is a ‘pop psychiatry’ treatment for ME/CFS. Being university educated in a science field I should have realised this is code for unscientific, but I was desperately unwell and clutching at straws. 

I accept that some ME/CFS patients respond to California rocket-fuel and it did help with my fatigue. However, I continued to experience relapsing debilitating fatigue and I found the side effects unbearable. 

If no one can provide me with scientific evidence for the efficacy of California rocket fuel as a treatment for ME/CFS , I am surprised this is permitted in Australia. I believe the Psychiatrist, professional associations and the Therapeutic Goods Administration should be on top of this. 

I am aware that ME/CFS is mysterious and there is no evidence it is a single illness. Rather it is an illness characterised by relapsing debilitating fatigue, worsened by exercise and unrefreshing sleep that is not diagnosed as any other illness that features fatigue. 

I just think a psychiatrist should tell ME/CFS patients that there is no scientific evidence for California rocket fuel. In my case it was presented as a treatment for ME/CFS and in my opinion, there was very much the air of placebo treatment. 

I expect my doctors to be honest with me. I don’t expect them to be perfect just honest. I don’t think this is too much to expect. 

When I wrote a letter to my doctor explaining my grievances, he did not answer my request for scientific evidence for California rocket fuel as a treatment for ME/CFS. Instead he made comments about my occasional use of cannabis, as if it discredited my concerns altogether. I consider this unprofessional. I have health and mental health problems, but I am an intelligent, university educated person and deserve to be taken seriously. 

I believe the psychiatrist professional associations need to be strict on this. If they believe ME/CFS is a mental illness that is treatable with medication used to treat major depression, they should be honest about it (California rocket fuel is a treatment for major depression). If there is no scientific evidence for a treatment it should not be prescribed or at least it should be explained that the treatment might help, that there is no scientific evidence for it for ME/CFS and the side effects should also be well explained. 

When a doctor is prepared to take my money and the pharmaceutical treatment he offers is unscientific I believe I smell a rat. In my opinion, this should not be permitted in Australia.  

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