Monitoring the Use of All Medicines and Supplements

Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medicines

A combination of over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as non-prescription supplements, are often used to treat sleep difficulties, cognitive problems, pain, and other symptoms of ME/CFS. Many patients with ME/CFS are sensitive to medications. This is particularly true of any medication that acts on the central nervous system, such as sedating medications: therapeutic benefits can often be achieved at lower-than-standard doses. Patients with ME/CFS might tolerate or need only a fraction of the usual recommended doses for medications. After initial management with lower dosing, one or more gradual increases may be considered as necessary and as tolerated by the patient.

All medications can cause side effects, which may lead to new symptoms or worsen existing symptoms, so it is important to monitor routinely all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements. It is also important to be mindful of possible interactions.

Some drugs act on multiple body systems and symptoms. For instance, tricyclic drugs may not only improve mood, but can help with sleep and pain. In some, however, they can worsen orthostatic intolerance. Prescribing such drugs can allow the use of fewer medications to address multiple symptoms, sometimes with minimal or tolerable side effects.

Nutritional and Herbal Supplements

People with ME/CFS frequently use vitamins and other nutritional and herbal supplements. Since these products are unregulated and information on potency and side effects is often unknown, healthcare providers and patients need to talk about nutritional and herbal supplements to consider safety, effectiveness, and possible interactions between prescribed medications and over-the-counter supplements.

Nutritional supplements cannot take the place of good diet and nutrition. A well-balanced diet is important for everyone, including people with ME/CFS, and should be encouraged. It is important to educate patients about all potential therapies because many treatments that are promoted as cures for ME/CFS are unproven, often costly, and could be dangerous.

Disclaimer: The content of this ME/CFS website is for informational purposes only and does not represent a federal guideline or recommendation for the treatment of ME/CFS. The information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for the medical judgment of the healthcare provider and does not indicate an exclusive course of action or treatment.