ABC medical expert Norman Swan has sparked outrage among chronic fatigue syndrome patients and long-term Covid sufferers for appearing to endorse a controversial therapy.
A Change.org petition has been issued demanding that Dr Swan retract positive comments he made about Progressive Exercise Therapy (GET).
The therapy claims to help patients with CFS or Long Covid rebuild their tolerance to physical activity by gradually increasing the intensity of their exercises.
This therapy is divisive, with some practitioners encouraging it, while most consider it ineffective and claim it may worsen the severity of symptoms.
Chronic fatigue and long-term Covid sufferers share similar symptoms that can vary in severity and type – the most common being easy exhaustion.
The petition, created by Nicholas Carlton, accused Dr Swan of sharing “harmful and inaccurate” views on GET.
ABC medical expert Norman Swan is in hot water with chronic fatigue sufferers for endorsing a controversial therapy.
“The ABC is seriously damaging the credibility of its reporting and contributors by promoting Dr Swan’s discredited views on a widely distributed flagship podcast,” the petition states.
The petition demands that Dr Swan receive a formal warning from the ABC and apologize for chronic fatigue and long-term Covid sufferers. It has more than 1,000 signatures.
Dr Swan is also being urged to engage with CFS and long-term Covid sufferers to increase understanding and is also calling on the ABC to issue a formal warning to Dr Swan.
The particular remarks that the petition highlights were made by Dr Swan during his regular Coronacast podcasts during episodes broadcast on September 27, 2023 and January 29, 2021.
During the September 27 podcast, Dr. Swan talked about treating CFS and long Covid with cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves combating negative thoughts, and GET.
“In the absence of medical therapy, what are you going to do? Are you going to sit with your symptoms? He asked.
“In the absence of medical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and progressive exercises seem to help.”
Dr Swan admitted there was a risk “that ramping up exercise too quickly in people with chronic fatigue could make their situation worse”.
He also cited a PACE trial that claimed GET had benefits for people with CFS, although admitting that the study was “controversial” and that a “group of people with chronic fatigue syndrome do not benefit from it.” don’t like it” because “they think it was poorly done”.
“But I think we’re getting to some common ground here,” Dr. Swan said of the use of GET and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Gradual exercise therapy involves gradually increasing the amount of physical activity a patient does.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has rated the evidence supporting the benefits of GET at Level 1, which is the lowest on this reliability scale.
Dr Chris Chappel, of Sydney’s Evergreen Doctors – a practice specializing in fatigue sufferers – has not endorsed GET.
“We do not like progressive exercise therapy and find that it can hinder healing and cause excessive distress to patients,” Dr. Chappel said.
“Almost every CFS patient will tell you that progressive exercise therapy doesn’t work. »
He also cited advice from the US Center of Disease Control (CDC) on Get.
“Any activity or exercise program for people with ME/CFS should be carefully designed with input from each patient,” the CDC said.
“Although vigorous aerobic exercise can be beneficial for many chronic conditions, ME/CFS patients do not tolerate such exercise routines.
“Standard exercise recommendations for healthy people may be harmful for ME/CFS patients. »
Dr. Chappel explained that there are essentially two types of fatigue, peripheral and central.
‘Patients with peripheral fatigue can manage a certain distance, and then fatigue, they can, in the right context, benefit from a progressive exercise program,” he said.
Dr Chris Chappel, of Sydney’s Evergreen Doctors, who specializes in people with fatigue, does not endorse graduated exercise therapy for people with chronic fatigue.
“Most CFS patients suffer from central fatigue and are tired no matter what they do, and find that overexertion delays their progress.”
“Even a simple task like going through their mailbox can devastate them for hours or longer.
“All of our treatment plans are personalized and holistic, exercise is only a small part of effective treatment.”
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Dr Swan for comment.