Getting the facts straight on fibromyalgia

Bad Company

Fibromyalgia has a new unlikely ally: the drug industry.

But you know how it goes when you keep company with unsavory characters. You get a bad reputation.

Backlash on schedule

It seemed like it was going to be fibromyalgia’s coming out party.

That’s what I thought in 2007 when the FDA approved the use of Lyrica (a seizure medication made by Pfizer) in the treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms. I mean, this was serious mainstream attention for a condition that many doctors were still not acknowledging as authentic.

Patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) usually report inflammation or pain in joints and muscles, often accompanied by fatigue. But symptoms like that are difficult to measure, so FMS is often misdiagnosed as a form of arthritis, or the patient is told that her pain is imagined.

In the e-Alert “Get Real” (3/2/05), I told you about a study that used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to reveal an increase of blood flow when FMS patients were given low- pressure stimulus. The identical stimulus showed no change in the brains of control group subjects. Further research confirmed the presence of abnormalities within central brain structures in subjects with FMS.

Then, last year, the FDA approved another drug for fibromyalgia: the antidepressant Cymbalta, made by Lilly. Of course, Pfizer and Lilly are true drug giants, so they started doing what drug giants d They put the marketing blitz into high gear.

Then came the backlash.

In a recent Associated Press article, critics charged the companies with “disease- mongering,” in trying to “unduly influence” consumers and doctors regarding a “murky” illness. And just like that, fibromyalgia patients are faced again with skepticism about their condition, rather than increased acceptance.

Lifting the fog

The AP article features a Los Angeles woman who takes Cymbalta, Lyrica, and three other medications to address FMS. She says she feels “so much pain” if she misses even one of her medication doses. The downside: She lives in what she calls a “fibromyalgia fog,” feeling like she’s “not really there.”

Granted, fatigue is sometimes a factor in FMS, but I think a better name for her fog would be “Lybalta fog” or “Cymrica fog” because sleepiness is a common side effect of both Lyrica and Cymbalta.

Most FMS treatments focus on pain management, so many patients regularly use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Non-drug treatments utilize aerobic exercise, massage therapy, and dietary adjustments. But FMS patients have even more alternatives, which I’ve covered in a number of previous e-Alerts.

“Get Real” (3/2/05)
Pregnant women with FMS often experience temporary relief from their symptoms. The reason: relaxin, a naturally occurring hormone that becomes active during pregnancy. In addition to information about an oral form of relaxin (called Vitalaxin), this e-Alert also examines a botanical formula that relieves the degenerative effects of FMS and lupus.

“Getting the Point” (9/8/05)
Mayo Clinic researchers recruited 50 subjects with persistent FMS symptoms. Pain, fatigue, and anxiety were significantly relieved in subjects who received acupuncture.

“Easy Green” (9/27/04)
Chlorella (a freshwater algae that contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids) stimulates immune system function and has been shown to improve pain, sleep, and anxiety in FMS patients.

E-Alert Week in Review (3/18/05)
HSI members with FMS talk about natural therapies that have worked for them.

Exercise combined with proper nutrition and key dietary supplements are just three of the FMS management techniques covered in the HSI publication “The Fibromyalgia Relief Handbook” – an excellent reference tool for fibromyalgia patients.

If you have family or friends with fibromyalgia, please share this e-Alert to let them know about the alternatives to powerful prescription drugs with dangerous side effects.

“Drugmakers’ Push Boosts ‘Murky’ Ailment” Matthew Perrone, Associated Press, 2/9/09,