Wednesday, September 23, 1998

Hydrocortisone, a synthetic version of the corticosteroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland, was recently tested by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. An article describing the study appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Earlier studies have indicated that CFS patients produce about 30 percent less natural hydrocortisone (cortisol) than healthy people do. Dr. Stephen Straus and his colleagues studied a group of 70 CFS patients to see if supplemental doses of hydrocortisone might not alleviate the symptoms of CFS. They found that the patients who took hydrocortisone improved slightly compared to the patients who took a placebo, but unfortunately some potentially dangerous side effects were also demonstrated.

"The data show that about half the people on placebo and two-thirds of those taking hydrocortisone reported some improvement in well-being," said Dr. Straus. "However, there was clear evidence of adrenal suppression by the drug. It was manageable and completely reversible, but it's the kind of suppression that in the context of minimal improvement afforded by the drug, cannot, in our minds, justify using this treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome."

Sources of information: Reuters

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