Objective Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has been reported to improve fatigue and reduced well-being. Both are major problems in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), even with quiescent disease. Low serum DHEA levels are common in SLE. The present work investigates the effects of DHEA administration on fatigue, well-being and functioning in women with inactive SLE.
Methods In a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study, 60 female patients with inactive SLE received 200 mg oral DHEA or placebo. Primary outcome measures were general fatigue, depressive mood, mental well-being and physical functioning. Assessments were made before treatment, after 3, 6 and 12 months on medication, and 6 months after cessation of treatment.
Results Patients from the DHEA and placebo group improved on general fatigue (p<0.001) and mental well-being (p=0.04). There was no differential effect of DHEA. The belief that DHEA had been used was a stronger predictor for improvement of general fatigue than the actual use of DHEA (p=0.04).
Conclusions The trial does not indicate an effect of daily 200 mg oral DHEA on fatigue and well-being, and therefore DHEA treatment is not recommended in unselected female patients with quiescent SLE.
Clinical Trials Registration Number NCT00391924
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Funding The Dutch Arthritis Association financially supported this study.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the institutional review boards of the UMC Utrecht and the UMC Groningen, The Netherlands.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.