Fibromyalgia Is not a Real Disease
Says Fibromyalgia Research Doctor
From THE FRONT PAGE of The New York Times Article
Dr. Frederick Wolfe, the director of the National Databank for Rheumatic Diseases and the lead author of the 1990 paper that first defined the diagnostic guidelines for fibromyalgia, says he has become cynical and discouraged about the diagnosis. He now considers the condition a physical response to stress, depression, and economic and social anxiety. "
Dr. Wolfe goes on to say, "Some of us in those days thought that we had actually identified a disease, which this is clearly not."
"… other doctors – including (Dr. Wolfe) the one who wrote the 1990 paper that defined fibromyalgia but who has since changed his mind – say that the disease does not exist and that Lyrica and the other drugs will be taken by millions of people who do not need them. "
Just when I was optimistic that the traditional medical community was finally getting the message that fibromyalgia is a very real and very serious illness, this kind of short-sighted, arrogant, and simple-minded myth raises its ugly head once again. This bit of news, by a prominent rheumatologist, is not a huge surprise. When was the last time you visited your rheumatologist (after waiting months to be seen) and felt like they understood your fibromyalgia? And if they did believe you had fibromyalgia, were they helpful?
Probably not, since their answer is to recommend more and more drugs, year end and year out. The side effects of these drugs begin to add up and pretty soon you realize your fibromyalgia symptoms are not much better, and worse, you've got additional symptoms from all those meds.
I've repeatedly been asked to give my opinion on the over-hyped new drug for fibromyalgia, Lyrica. I've kept quiet for two reasons. One, I wanted to give Lyrica the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately Lyrica has proven to be ineffective for the majority of my patients, as well as the fibromyalgia sufferers I'm in contact with around the world. Secondly, I thought at least Pfizer's multi-million dollar drug campaign would help the public understand the pain fibromyalgia patients experience day in and day out. Surely the TV and print ads would help others realize that yes there is such a thing as fibromyalgia, here are the symptoms, and this is why aunt Jane feels so miserable each day.
According to the New York Times, worldwide sales of Lyrica reached $ 1.8 billion in 2007, up 50 percent from 2006. Analysts predict sales will rise an additional 30 percent this year, helped by consumer advertising. During the first nine months of 2007, Pfizer spent $ 46 million on Lyrica ads.
Sadly, The New York Times and other print media have elected to take a different slant. Instead of helping dispel the myth that those with fibromyalgia are crazy, lazy, or depressed, they've elected to focus on the minimum of doctors who think fibromyalgia is not real.
As I lecture and interact with doctors throughout North America, I routinely encounter doctors who do not believe fibromyalgia exists, but the number has steadily declined. But now this article comes out and what will the public think?
More on Lyrica
Lyrica is the first prescription medication approved to treat fibromyalgia. Pfizer's Lyrica, commonly known as pregabalin, binds to receptors in the brain and spinal cord and seems to reduce activity in the central nervous system. But, no one knows exactly how Lyrica works.
Some say that Lyrica does not work well enough to have warranted its FDA approval. In 2004, the FDA as a remedy for diabetic nerve pain, reviewed Lyrica. The reviewers recommended against approving the drug, citing its side effects. But the FDA ignored the advice of Lyrica reviewers, and approved it anyway. Then Pfizer asked the FDA to expand the approved uses of Lyrica to include the treatment of fibromyalgia, and the agency did so in June.
According to in clinical trials, patients taking Lyrica reported that their pain fell on average about 2 points on a 10-point scale, compared with 1 point for patients taking a placebo. Not a big deal to say the least.
About 30 percent of patients said their pain fell by at least half, compared with 15 percent taking placebos.
The study involved 75 participants took Lyrica and 75 took a sugar pill or placebo. So 38 of those taking Lyrica had at least a 50% in pain. But 23 participants taking a placebo had at least a 50% reduction in pain. Lyrica was helpful for 15 more participants than a sugar pill. But, at what cost?
Lyrica causes gain gain and edema, or swelling, as well as dizziness and sleepiness. According to the New York Times, in 12-week trials, 9 percent of patients saw their weight rise more than 7 percent, and the weight gain appeared to continue over-time. The following outlines some of the "common" side effects of Lyrica:
Experiencing Weight Gain
Gastrointestinal Difficulties, such as Diarrhea and Constipation
Mild to Severe Headaches
Swelling in Hands
Swelling in Ankles
Many individuals who have been prescribed Lyrica, and then quit taking it without their doctors consent have discovered that they suffer from many uncomfortable symptoms. This is a direct result of withdrawal from this prescription drug. Many individuals who start Lyrica to soothe the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia do not realize that this medication can become addictive. If you wish to stop Lyrica treatment, you must discuss it with a medical professional. The doctor will then set lower and lower dosages until you are able to stop treatment with no dangerous side-effects. Obviously I'm not a big fan of Lyrica. I believe there are safer and more effective ways to reverse the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Read the entire New York Times article at the link- http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/health/14pain.html