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.