Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy vol:11 issue:2 pages:215-223
IMPORTANCE OF THE FIELD: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a prevalent but poorly understood condition mainly characterized by debilitating, persistent or recurrent fatigue; increased physical and mental fatigability; cognitive impairment and widespread musculoskeletal pain. Despite intensive treatment research, the role of pharmacotherapy in the illness remains uncertain. AREAS COVERED IN THIS REVIEW: An updated review is given of pharmacotherapy in CFS, with a focus on non-antidepressant, controlled drug trials performed between 1988 and August 2009. WHAT THE READER WILL GAIN: Antiviral, immunological and antibiotic therapies, although sometimes associated with symptom amelioration, can be more harmful than beneficial in CFS. Stimulants seem to benefit some CFS patients but their long-term effects is uncertain. Although antidepressants are not curative for the illness, they might be useful for some symptomatic aspects and co-morbid anxiety and depression. There is little or no evidence that CFS patients benefit from other pharmacological agents (e.g., steroids) or from dietary supplements and complementary medicine products. Future research into treatment should take specific subgroups into account and should target immunological aspects of the illness as well as the complex relationships between CFS, stress and depression. TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Pharmacotherapy can currently not be considered first-line treatment in CFS and should always be used in a context of self-management and rehabilitation.