Recently, an online study with over 1,300 fibromyalgia patients was conducted by the National Pain Foundation and National Pain Report. In this study, patients were asked a series of questions related to their pain scores, quality of life, and opinions on a variety of FDA approved drugs for treating fibromyalgia.
The three drugs – Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella – generate billions of dollars in annual sales for Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Forest Laboratories and other drug makers. The goal of the survey was to conclude which of the drugs associated with fibro pain treatment worked best, including medical marijuana. Regardless of the reputation for the top three pharmaceuticals, most patients as suggested in the survey, indicated they don’t work.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 5 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is characterized by deep tissue pain, fatigue, headaches, depression, and lack of sleep. It’s a misunderstood condition, and there is currently no cure.
Interventional spine and pain surgical physician, and chairman of the National Pain Foundation Dan Bennett, MD, states, “Fibromyalgia is devastating for those who must live in its grip. There is much we do not understand. We need innovative ‘out of the box’ solutions that change the face of this disease.”
A common finding derived through patient testimony was that out of the three FDA approved drugs, they presented more negative side effects then positive. The patients were asked to rate their experience with the drugs and indicate the level of pain relief they were alleviated from.
Results indicated for Eli Lilly’s Cymbalta (Duloxetine), 60% of those who tried the drug said it did not work for them. Only 8% said it was very effective and 32% said it helps a little. With Pfizer’s Lyrica (Pregabalin), 61% said it did not work at all. Only 10% said it was very effective and 29% said it helps a little. Forest Laboratories’ Savella (Milnacipran), 68% of those who said they tried the drug said it didn’t work. Only 10% said it was very effective and 22% said it helps a little.
What surprised researchers was the response of users who had tried marijuana to treat their pain. The survey was in no way biased to supporting medical marijuana, or had any probing qualities for push respondents to answer more in favour to medical marijuana. 62% who have tried cannabis said it was very effective at treating their fibromyalgia symptoms. Another 33% said it helped a little and only 5% said it did not help at all.
“Nothing but medical marijuana has made the greatest dent in the pain and mental problems,” said another”, said one respondent.
Other survey findings revealed that many feel as though their physician is uninformed of the seriousness of the disorder, and that their friends/family did not take their condition seriously. Also, about 49% of patients mentioned that their symptoms begat an early age (between 18-34), and took over 5 years for a diagnoses to be made.
Evidence in regards to medical marijuana points toward possible anti-inflammatory effects. Research from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that the people who smoked in the last month had lower CRP levels than those who had never smoked the drug.
CRP is one marker of inflammation that is frequently linked with people’s risk of heart disease. This could explain how fibromyalgia, which is often considered an arthritis-related condition, could be alleviated by using a drug with a strong anti-inflammatory make-up, such as medical marijuana.
Fibromyalgia is a lifelong sentence; an everyday struggle that requires daily medication. Patients should be able to find relief without experiencing the harmful side effects associated with Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella.