The Norwegian Research Council (NRC) has announced funding for a multi-centre randomised controlled trial to further investigate the effectiveness of the drug Rituximab for adults with CFS/ME. This follows data from a feasibility trial conducted in Norway back in 2009 by oncologists Fluge and Mella, who accidentally discovered that Rituximab might help ME/CFS after using it to treat 3 patients who suffered from both ME/CFS and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

The agreed larger trials are needed to investigate effectiveness and the risk of side effects in this group of patients, as the sample size in the first study was too small for researchers to really fully understand the results.

Rituximab is a strong and potentially lethal drug which works by depleting B-lymphocytes. B-lymphocytes are an important part of the bodies immune system. Rituximab is used to treat certain types of cancer and as with many cancer treatments, it has serious side effects. If Rituximab is effective for CFS/ME patients, it seems likely that the effect will be because of B-lymphocyte depletion which may provide clues about the cause of CFS/ME in some people.

As a result of the Norwegian study and the forthcoming larger trials, the charity ‘Invest in ME' is currently raising funds for a trial for Rituximab on adults in the UK.

Following the publication of the Rituximab study in Norway by Fluge et al (2011) and extensive media coverage, there was a significant public announcement by the Norwegian Directorate of Health who gave a short statement on Norwegian television stating:

"I think that we have not cared for people with ME to a great enough extent. I think it is correct to say that we have not established proper health care services for these people, and I regret that."

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