Lyrica and Fibromyalgia

Lyrica is the first prescription medication approved to treat fibromyalgia.   Because fibromyalgia patients typically do not respond to conventional painkillers like aspirin, Lyrica affects the brain and the perception of pain.  Pfizer’s Lyrica, known generically as pregabalin, binds to receptors in the brain and spinal cord and seems to reduce activity in the central nervous system.
No one knows exactly how Lyrica works.  But some say that Lyrica does not work well enough to have warranted its FDA approval.  According to The New York Times, in clinical trials, patients taking Lyrica reported that their pain fell on average about 2 points on a 10-point scale, compared with 1 point for patients taking a placebo. About 30 percent of patients said their pain fell by at least half, compared with 15 percent taking placebos.
In 2004, Lyrica was reviewed by the FDA as a remedy for diabetic nerve pain.  The reviewers recommended against approving the drug, citing its side effects.  Lyrica causes weight gain and edema, or swelling, as well as dizziness and sleepiness. According to the New York Times, in 12-week trials, 9 percent of patients saw their weight rise more than 7 percent, and the weight gain appeared to continue over time.
But the FDA ignored the advice of Lyrica reviewers, and approved it anyway.  Then Pfizer asked the FDA to expand the approved uses of Lyrica to include the treatment of fibromyalgia, and the agency did so in June.  It was a good move for Pfizer.  According to the New York Times, worldwide sales of Lyrica reached $1.8 billion in 2007, up 50 percent from 2006. Analysts predict sales will rise an additional 30 percent this year, helped by consumer advertising.  During the first nine months of 2007, Pfizer spent $46 million on Lyrica ads alone.
While I welcome anything that will help my fibromyalgia patients, I’m not a big fan of Lyrica.
Why? It doesn’t seem to offer any real long-term relief and the side effects are potentially dangerous. 
There are many side effects that are considered “normal” of Lyrica. However, it should be noted that if these symptoms occur they should be brought to the attention of the prescribing doctor. You must keep in mind that the Federal Drug and Food Administration often approve drugs that will result in certain side effects. However, they do so on the notion that the benefits of the prescription will outweigh the consequences associated with side effects in the long run. The following outlines some of the “common” side effects of Lyrica:
Experiencing Weight Gain
Blurred Vision
Body Tremors
Possible Insomnia
Gastrointestinal Difficulties, such as Diarrhea and Constipation
Mild to Severe Headaches
Swelling in Hands
Dry Mouth
Swelling in Ankles
Possible Fainting
Traditional medicine alone isn’t very helpful for fibromyalgia- 70 percent of fibromyalgia patients seek out alternative methods.
I encourage my patient’s to use the Essential Therapeutics Fibromyalgia Jump Start Package.

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