Systematic review of randomized controlled trials for chronic fatigue syndrome/ myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), by Do-Young Kim, Jin-Seok Lee, Samuel-Young Park, Soo-Jin Kim & Chang-Gue Son in Journal of Translational Medicine vol 18, no. 7 (2020)


Research abstract:

Although medical requirements are urgent, no effective intervention has been proven for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). To facilitate the development of new therapeutics, we systematically reviewed the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) for CFS/ME to date.

RCTs targeting CFS/ME were surveyed using two electronic databases, PubMed and the Cochrane library, through April 2019. We included only RCTs that targeted fatigue-related symptoms, and we analyzed the data in terms of the characteristics of the participants, case definitions, primary measurements, and interventions with overall outcomes.

Among 513 potentially relevant articles, 55 RCTs met our inclusion criteria; these included 25 RCTs of 22 different pharmacological interventions, 28 RCTs of 18 non-pharmacological interventions and 2 RCTs of combined interventions. These studies accounted for a total of 6316 participants (1568 males and 4748 females, 5859 adults and 457 adolescents). CDC 1994 (Fukuda) criteria were mostly used for case definitions (42 RCTs, 76.4%), and the primary measurement tools included the Checklist Individual Strength (CIS, 36.4%) and the 36-item Short Form health survey (SF-36, 30.9%).

Eight interventions showed statistical significance: 3 pharmacological (Staphypan Berna, Poly(I):poly(C12U) and CoQ10 + NADH) and 5 non-pharmacological therapies (cognitive-behavior-therapy-related treatments, graded-exercise-related therapies, rehabilitation, acupuncture and abdominal tuina). However, there was no definitely effective intervention with coherence and reproducibility.

This systematic review integrates the comprehensive features of previous RCTs for CFS/ME and reflects on their limitations and perspectives in the process of developing new interventions.

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