NEW ORLEANS (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) Fatigue: Take Control (FTC), a 6-week group education and behavioral program widely used to address fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis, was comparable to a general MS education program for decreasing fatigue and improving self-efficacy in a randomized, controlled study.

In 218 subjects randomized to participate in either FTC or a general MS education program (MS: Take Control, or MSTC), Modified Fatigue Impact Scale scores improved significantly, compared with baseline and regardless of group assignment; there was no difference between the groups at visit 6 (mean change, –4.5 and –3.6 in the FTC and MSTC groups, respectively), Cinda L. Hugos of the VA Portland (Ore.) Health Care System and her colleagues reported at a meeting held by the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis Self-Efficacy scale scores did, however, improve significantly in the FTC group vs. the MSTC group (mean increase of 45.5 vs. a decrease of 15.8), but the improvement was not maintained at 6 months, the investigators reported in a poster at the meeting.

The two groups had comparable baseline characteristics, with a mean age of nearly 54 years, as well as similar mean time since diagnosis (12.5 years), self-administered Expanded Disability Status Scale scores (5.2), and demographics.

Fatigue is common in MS patients, occurring in up to 95% of patients, and many report that it is the most disabling symptom. FTC, which addresses medical management of fatigue, exercise, environment, and changes and choices with respect to energy and fatigue control, is often used by chapters of the National MS Society, but its effectiveness for decreasing fatigue or improving self-efficacy has not been proven, the investigators noted.

To determine if FTC decreases fatigue and increases self-efficacy, compared with a general MS education program that addresses issues such as nutrition, emotional health, cognitive problems, and fitness, the investigators randomized subjects at four sites in groups of between 3 and 10 participants to either an FTC or MSTC group. All subjects had moderate to severe fatigue. Those with pregnancy, severe depression, uncontrolled problems that would limit participation, relapse in the prior month, or initiation of a new disease-modifying treatment within the prior 3 months were excluded.

“Both FTC and MSTC structured small group programs were associated with improved self-reported fatigue at program completion and at 3- and 6-month follow-up, but there were no significant differences in fatigue scores between FTC and MSTC participants at any time point,” the investigators wrote.

Self-efficacy was significantly better among FTC participants at program completion, but was not sustained, they noted, concluding that the findings suggest that “participating in structured small group programs is associated with prolonged reductions in fatigue in people with MS and that supporting goal setting provides short-term improvements in self-efficacy.”

Further research is needed to determine whether booster sessions would be beneficial for sustaining improvements in self-efficacy, they added.

This study was supported by the Rehabilitation, Research, & Development Service of the Veterans Affairs Office of Research & Development. The authors reported having no disclosures.