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Ann Intern Med. 2019 Apr 2. doi: 10.7326/M18-1451. [Epub ahead of print]

B-Lymphocyte Depletion in Patients With Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.

Author information

1
Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway (Ø.F., I.G.R., K.S., J.A., I.K., O.B., K.R., K.A.).
2
Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway (K.L., I.H., S.S.M.).
3
Notodden Hospital, Notodden, Norway (H.T., A.E.L.).
4
St. Olavs Hospital, Trondheim, Norway (P.C.B., M.E.G., Ø.K., K.A.B., A.H.S.).
5
University Hospital of Northern Norway, Tromsø, Norway (C.S., L.M.B., A.E.G.).
6
Haukeland University Hospital and University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway (O.D., O.M.).

Abstract

Background:

Previous phase 2 trials indicated benefit from B-lymphocyte depletion in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Objective:

To evaluate the effect of the monoclonal anti-CD20 antibody rituximab versus placebo in patients with ME/CFS.

Design:

Randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT02229942).

Setting:

4 university hospitals and 1 general hospital in Norway.

Patients:

151 patients aged 18 to 65 years who had ME/CFS according to Canadian consensus criteria and had had the disease for 2 to 15 years.

Intervention:

Treatment induction with 2 infusions of rituximab, 500 mg/m2 of body surface area, 2 weeks apart, followed by 4 maintenance infusions with a fixed dose of 500 mg at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months (n = 77), or placebo (n = 74).

Measurements:

Primary outcomes were overall response rate (fatigue score ≥4.5 for ≥8 consecutive weeks) and repeated measurements of fatigue score over 24 months. Secondary outcomes included repeated measurements of self-reported function over 24 months, components of the Short Form-36 Health Survey and Fatigue Severity Scale over 24 months, and changes from baseline to 18 months in these measures and physical activity level. Between-group differences in outcome measures over time were assessed by general linear models for repeated measures.

Results:

Overall response rates were 35.1% in the placebo group and 26.0% in the rituximab group (difference, 9.2 percentage points [95% CI, -5.5 to 23.3 percentage points]; P = 0.22). The treatment groups did not differ in fatigue score over 24 months (difference in average score, 0.02 [CI, -0.27 to 0.31]; P = 0.80) or any of the secondary end points. Twenty patients (26.0%) in the rituximab group and 14 (18.9%) in the placebo group had serious adverse events.

Limitation:

Self-reported primary outcome measures and possible recall bias.

Conclusion:

B-cell depletion using several infusions of rituximab over 12 months was not associated with clinical improvement in patients with ME/CFS.

Primary Funding Source:

The Norwegian Research Council, Norwegian Regional Health Trusts, Kavli Trust, MEandYou Foundation, and Norwegian ME Association.

PMID:
30934066
DOI:
10.7326/M18-1451

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