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McAndrew LM, Quigley KS, Lu SE, Litke D, Rath JF, Lange G, Santos SL, Anastasides N, Petrakis BA, Greenberg L, Helmer DA, Pigeon WR. Effect of Problem-solving Treatment on Self-reported Disability Among Veterans With Gulf War Illness: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Network Open. 2022 Dec 1; 5(12):e2245272.
IMPORTANCE: Few evidence-based treatments are available for Gulf War illness (GWI). Behavioral treatments that target factors known to maintain the disability from GWI, such as problem-solving impairment, may be beneficial. Problem-solving treatment (PST) targets problem-solving impairment and is an evidence-based treatment for other conditions. OBJECTIVE: To examine the efficacy of PST to reduce disability, problem-solving impairment, and physical symptoms in GWI. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This multicenter randomized clinical trial conducted in the US Department of Veterans Affairs compared PST with health education in a volunteer sample of 511 Gulf War veterans with GWI and disability (January 1, 2015, to September 1, 2019); outcomes were assessed at 12 weeks and 6 months. Statistical analysis was conducted between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2020. INTERVENTIONS: Problem-solving treatment taught skills to improve problem-solving. Health education provided didactic health information. Both were delivered by telephone weekly for 12 weeks. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The primary outcome was reduction from baseline to 12 weeks in self-report of disability (World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule). Secondary outcomes were reductions in self-report of problem-solving impairment and objective problem-solving. Exploratory outcomes were reductions in pain, pain disability, and fatigue. RESULTS: A total of 268 veterans (mean [SD] age, 52.9 [7.3] years; 88.4% male; 66.8% White) were randomized to PST (n = 135) or health education (n = 133). Most participants completed all 12 sessions of PST (114 of 135 [84.4%]) and health education (120 of 133 [90.2%]). No difference was found between groups in reductions in disability at the end of treatment. Results suggested that PST reduced problem-solving impairment (moderate effect, 0.42; P = .01) and disability at 6 months (moderate effect, 0.39; P = .06) compared with health education. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this randomized clinical trial of the efficacy of PST for GWI, no difference was found between groups in reduction in disability at 12 weeks. Problem-solving treatment had high adherence and reduced problem-solving impairment and potentially reduced disability at 6 months compared with health education. These findings should be confirmed in future studies. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02161133.