Monday, January 21, 2008

"Drug approved. Is this disease real?" - Alex Berenson New York Times has opened a can of worms.

How to Cope with Pain is now offering a monthly Pain-Blog Carnival during the last week of every month, to include each month's best posts. New bloggers are always welcome to contribute. This is my contribution for January's carnival.

New York Times, January 14, 2008 posted the article "Drug approved. Is the disease real?" by Alex Berenson.

Alex's article about US FDA approval of Lyrica for treatment of fibromyalgia has catapulted fibromyalgia into the limelight and again brought the legitimacy of the condition into question.

At first I was planning to give an overview of research studies documenting brain changes and genetic implications etc which clearly indicate the reality of fibromyalgia. Then I read
Dr Richard Harris's (research investigator in the Division of Rheumatology at the U-M Medical School's Department of Internal Medicine) quote in Science Daily, Nov 2006.
He said that the time has come to take patients seriously and "learn more about the causes and most effective treatments for these disorders."

So I decided not to dignify that aspect of Berenson's article with comment.

However I am interested in Dr Dan Clauw's quoted comment in the New Your Times article.
"The new drugs will encourage doctors to treat fibromyalgia patients."

This raises two questions
  • Is a condition not deserving of treatment unless there's a drug that treats it?
  • Is there a perception that drugs are the only legitimate treatment option?
I note Ms Berenson's concern that drug companies fund the research. It's great that they do. However there are other treatments which reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia and other chronic pains which do not attract funding for research because there is little economic benefit to be gained. Published research of successful non invasive/non drug treatment options would add legitimacy and encourage their use in conjunction with the more common treatments.

Ms Berenson I encourage you to investigate these other treatment options, write about these and to approach the major drug companies to support research into these treatments. It
often takes a combination of treatments to relieve pain and symptoms. The BBC reported that Napp pharmaceuticals in the UK donated mirror boxes to pain clinics across the UK. You seldom hear of such altruism from drug companies.

It is time that we went beyond the quest for the almighty dollar and showed compassion for our fellow man.

Below I'll provide links to some already proven but more research needed treatment options.
  • note mirror therapy has been proven to alleviate pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia
  • note -In 1999, a meta-analysis established that exercise produced higher effect sizes on physical status, FM symptoms and daily functioning than pharmacological treatment. (A meta-analysis of fibromyalgia treatment interventions. Rossy LA, Buckelew SP, Dorr N, Hagglund KJ, Thayer JF, McIntosh MJ, Hewett JE, Johnson JC:

    Ann Behav Med 1999, 21:180-91. PubMed Abstract |)
  • The Brain and Chronic Pain (Reprinted from the German Journal of Psychiatry · · ISSN 1433-1055)
Note: A shortened version of this post has been sent to the Editor of the New York Times.

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