To provide a preliminary assessment of the efficacy and safety of fludrocortisone acetate treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome.
A placebo-controlled, double-blind, random-allocation crossover trial of 6 weeks of fludrocortisone.
An outpatient clinical trials unit.
Twenty-five participants with chronic fatigue syndrome (mean age, 40 years; 19  women; mean duration of illness, 7.0 years) were recruited from a research and clinic registry. Five patients withdrew from the trial.
All participants were scheduled to receive fludrocortisone acetate (0.1-0.2 mg) or a placebo for 6 weeks in each treatment.
Main Outcome Measures
Self-administered questionnaires were completed at the beginning and end of each treatment arm that asked patients to rate the severity of their symptoms on a visual analogue scale. The Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey, a reaction time test, and a treadmill exercise test were used to assess functional status. Blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma norepinephrine levels were obtained at baseline. Blood pressure and heart rate were recorded at the end of the exercise test and monitored at all subsequent visits.
At baseline, the study participants reported symptom severity greater than 5 for most symptoms, and all had evidence of marked functional impairments. No improvement was observed in the severity of any symptom or in any test of function for the 20 participants who completed both arms of the trial. Blood pressure and heart rate readings were unaffected by treatment, and plasma norepinephrine levels did not differ from those of a healthy control group. The incidence of adverse experiences was similar in the fludrocortisone and placebo arms of the trial.
Low-dose fludrocortisone does not provide sufficient benefit to be evident in a preliminary blinded trial of unselected patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.