Fibromyalgia, Lyrica, and the New York Times

fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, lyrica, pfizer, drugsIn the wake of the FDA approval of Lyrica, the first medicine approved to treat fibromyalgia, the New York Times has published a controversial article questioning whether the disease exists at all.

The Times claims that patient advocacy groups and doctors who specialize in fibromyalgia believe that the Lyrica approval is a milestone, and hope its approval will legitimize fibromyalgia in the same manner that Prozac legitimized depression. But, says the Times, other doctors believe that the disease does not exist, and that Lyrica will be taken by millions of people who do not need it.

Adding to the controversy is the fact that Lyrica itself is a drug originally designed for diabetic nerve pain that was rejected because of its unimpressive results and many side effects, including weight gain, edema, dizziness and sleepiness. This has left some wondering if the repositioning of Lyrica is little more than a cynical ploy to sell a failed medication. The potential for weight gain is a special concern, because many fibromyalgia patients are already overweight.

The Times article has already generated a good deal of online comment, and highlights the uneasy intersection where drug company greed and medicalization of nonexistent illnesses meets conventional medicine’s inability to diagnose and treat real problems.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Fibromyalgia is a real and debilitating condition that primarily affects women, characterized by chronic, widespread pain with no known cause. According to advocacy groups, as many as 10 million people suffer from the disorder in the United States.  

Many sufferers are also afflicted with a variety of other nebulous conditions, such as: 

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

No one actually knows. However, brain scans of people with fibromyalgia have offered hard evidence of what patients already know: Their pain IS real – mainly because their threshold for tolerating pain impulses is substantially lower than that of most individuals. But the mechanism causing this lowered pain threshold is unknown.

Some experts, such as Dr. Frederick Wolfe, the director of the National Databank for Rheumatic Diseases and the lead author of the 1990 paper that first defined fibromyalgia’s diagnostic guidelines, now believes fibromyalgia is mainly a physical response to mental and emotional stress, depression, and anxiety about economic and social issues.

I would have to agree with his assertion. Nearly every person I have seen with fibromyalgia has suffered from an underlying emotional component.

Why Lyrica, or Any Drug is Not a Wise Option 

Since most fibromyalgia patients do not respond to conventional painkillers, the drug cartel has found a brand new market, wide open for the taking, with many people desperate for a magic pill. However, if you suffer from fibromyalgia, know that this is NOT your answer! In fact it is your most dangerous option, considering the many detrimental side effects of these drugs. 

Side effects of Lyrica in particular include: 

  • Weight gain
  • Edema
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness  

In 3-month trials of the drug, 9 percent of patients had a weight gain of more than 7 percent, and their weight kept rising steadily over time. This is most definitely a concern, especially when you take into account that the average fibromyalgia patient already weighs 180 pounds at an average height of 5 feet 4 inches, according to a 2007 fibromyalgia survey. 

Obesity in turn can lead to even worse health complications, including: 

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Gallbladder disease 

This is a high price to pay, considering there are other, non-invasive options that will improve your overall health to boot. 

Unfortunately, Pfizer has the ability to brainwash you into thinking Lyrica might be the magical solution for you. They spent $46 million on direct consumer ads during its first nine months of advertising Lyrica in 2007, bringing in $1.8 billion in sales – a 50 percent increase from the year before.

Dietary Changes for Fibromyalgia

People with fibromyalgia may experience reductions in their symptoms by eliminating one or more foods from their diet, including:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Citrus
  • Soy
  • Nuts

Following my eating plan will aid you in eliminating these foods, and making these dietary changes does seem to help many. One study showed that nearly half of the patients reported “significant reduction of pain” after two weeks without eating any of the potential food allergens, and more than 75 percent reported a reduction of other symptoms such as headache, fatigue and bloating.

However, it is quite clear that most people with this disease will not relieve their symptoms completely through diet alone, even if they follow it perfectly. This is because nearly every person I have seen with fibromyalgia suffers from an underlying emotional component.

The One Treatment Option You CANNOT Ignore

Bioenergetic normalization of previous emotional traumas is the single most effective treatment I know of for fibromyalgia at this time.

There are many different energy psychology techniques that can be used here, but the Emotional Freedom technique (EFT) is still my favorite. EFT is a procedure that borrows from the much-heralded discoveries of Albert Einstein (everything, including your body, is composed of energy) AND from the ancient wisdom of Chinese acupuncture. For a look at the sometimes spectacular results EFT has with Fibromyalgia read this article from the EFT Website – “Fibromyalgia Patient—“I forgot what pain is all about.” 

In essence, EFT is an emotional version of acupuncture except that needles are not involved. Instead, certain release points are stimulated by tapping them with your fingertips. Further, the basics of EFT can be learned by anyone and can be self-applied (usually in minutes).

Additional Treatment Options

Aside from making the appropriate dietary changes to eliminate potential food allergens, and using EFT to simultaneously treat underlying emotional traumas that keeps your pain locked in place, there are a few other treatment options to keep in mind:

Neurostructural Integration Technique (NST) -- NST is another powerful tool that works synergistically with my eating plan and the energetic balancing of EFT.

It is a series of gentle massage-like techniques that have profound and amazing muscle normalization effects. Unlike massage, or most manipulation or adjustments, the benefits seem to be long lasting; generally 3-10 minute sessions are all it takes for permanent relief - assuming one has addressed problem foods and previous emotional traumas.

You can go to our NST therapist page to find a therapist close to you.

Chiropractic Care -- Especially the disciplines in chiropractic that address the emotional components, like TBM, NET and BEST.  Dr. Kent provides some excellent recommendations  on how to locate a good chiropractor if you don’t currently know of one.

Exercise Regularly-- Exercise is also a key to good health. However, most people with fibromyalgia have so much muscle pain that they cannot exercise. NST is one technique that can reduce the pain so that you can resume gentle exercise.

Sleep Well – Proper sleep is vital for optimal health and emotional balance. If you suffer from any sleep disturbances, I recommend you review and incorporate one or several of my recommendations for a good night’s sleep.

Avoid Fluoride – The fluoride in your drinking water is a known toxin; the waste product from aluminum and fertilizer plants, which is continually deposited into your body. If you ingest more fluoride than your body is capable of eliminating, various stages of fluorosis may ensue. Symptoms of early skeletal fluorosis include:

  • Pains in your bones and joints
  • Burning, prickling, and tingling in your limbs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal disorders 

For the sheer fact that these symptoms are similar to some of those associated with fibromyalgia, eliminating fluoride as much as possible is recommended.

+ Sources and References