Fibromyalgia drugs called into question

Two common drugs for pain reduction in people with fibromyalgia had widely varying outcomes in a German study. Scientists found that duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) were as likely to harm patients as they were to help them. In their study of 6,000 people who had been treated with one or the two drugs or a placebo for up to six months, 22% of patients had significant reductions in pain but 21% were forced to quit treatment because of the side effects.

The research team concluded that treatment of fibromyalgia with drugs alone should be discouraged. The approach should instead combine drugs with exercises and counselling.

“A frank discussion between the physician and patient about the potential benefits and harms of both drugs should occur,” says Dr Winfried Hauser who led the study, which was published in The Cochrane Library.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes widespread muscular pain and sleep problems. Research indicates a complex interaction between physical, mental and psychological factors is at play.

“The medical field does poorly with treatment of fibromyalgia in general,” says co-author Dr Brian Walitt. “Chasing a cure with medicine doesn’t seem to work. The people who seem to me to do best sort of figure it out on their own by thinking about things, getting to know themselves and making changes in their lives to accommodate who they’ve become.”