Ever since its painful symptoms were first experienced, fibromyalgia has been a controversial illness. For decades, scientists and doctors questioned whether or not it existed. The problem was that we knew very little about it. Its symptoms can look like symptoms of other diseases. We have no cure and no real good treatment either.
Fibromyalgia is now cemented in fact. Not long ago, the Food and Drug Administration recognized it as a true illness. Even if doctors continued to be skeptical, there can be no skepticism in one brand-new regard: the first drug to treat fibromyalgia has just been born.
“Pregabalin” is the first fibromyalgia treatment ever approved in the U.S. Studies have shown that it can reduce pain and improve function for some people. Pain is the main symptom — a chronic, widespread pain in the muscles and joints. It most often strikes the neck, shoulders, spine and hips. The discomfort may go away, but it always returns, along with stiffness, particularly in bad weather. Other symptoms include headaches, bladder problems, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, numbness, and difficulty concentrating.
For all those who suffer the mysterious ailment, there is finally a drug option on the table. This drug is not a cure-all by any means. Some people in the clinical trials did not receive benefit. In fact this is an entirely new use for pregabalin, already approved for treating seizures, shingles pain, and the pain of diabetic neuropathy.
All that aside, there is reason to be optimistic for those with fibromyalgia. In two quality studies with more than 1,800 patients, pregabalin appeared useful in treating the condition at doses of 300–450 mg a day. Side effects included dizziness and sleepiness, most notably, and possibly blurred vision, weight gain, dry mouth, and swelling in the hands and feet. The FDA recommends patients talk to their doctor about the drug’s potential to impair driving ability.
A new medication means that, hopefully, scientists can understand fibromyalgia better than before. The condition was first recognized in 1987, and believed to afflict between 3 and 8 million Americans. Some estimates range as high as 15 million. Striking at any age, fibromyalgia is one of the biggest causes of joint pain around.