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Is Lyrica A Miracle Fibromyalgia Treatment? The Risks May Be Too Great For Some!

Updated on January 31, 2011

The First Drug Approved for Fibromyalgia Treatment

Lyrica (pregabalin) is the first drug approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia. If you suffer from fibromyalgia pain, you have probably tried Lyrica or are taking it right now. The daily TV commercials would lead you to believe that this is the miracle drug of the 21st century! But is it really?

The commercials show people massaging their aching necks and shouders, obviously in great pain, unable to brush their hair or even apply makeup. Then in the next scene, these same people are bowling, dancing and wearing their stylish jogging suits, pursuing so many different types of physical activity. They have big smiles on their faces and even have their hair done and are wearing makeup. After beginning a treatment regimen with Lyrica, these people seem miraculously cured! Sure, the narrator gives a list of potential risks and side effects of the medication, but those risks seem minimal in comparison to fibromyalgia pain.

Wanting it to Work!

For a long time, I looked like the people in the before shots of the Lyrica commercials. I have been using Lyrica for a few months and feel almost guilty that I don't yet look like the after pictures. I am not running through fields with a smile on my face. Why not, I wonder? What is wrong with me? I started my Fibromyalgia journey taking Celebrex. Although my rheumatologist wanted me to try Lyrica first, my insurance company would not allow it. They had a treatment regimen for fibromyalgia set up, because they considered Lyrica too expensive. The treatment regimen had to be followed. But, the Celebrex did not work for me. There was no pain relief. The pain in my neck, back, shoulders, arms and hands was still there. I was still that before picture!

Neurontin was the next step. It took a few months to increase the dose to a therapeutic level, but during those few months, the side effects of neurontin (gabapentin) became almost as bad as the disease itself. The extremity swelling caused by neurontin was dangerous! Everytime I turned around, my primary care physician was sending me for arterial and venous studies to make sure that I had no blood clots. She was adamant, in her words that, "You are going to throw a clot while you are sleeping and you won't wake up!" The rheumatologist was alerted, the insurance company was alerted, and the neurontin was put back on the shelf.

Finally, I was going to look like the 'after' picture. I started taking Lyrica. I was so happy and so excited! Within the first week, I had a pain free day! Yes! This was going to work! I just knew it! The swelling went away almost immediately. I lost 15 pounds of water weight the first neurontin free week. Lyrica is the miracle drug as promised! But, like most things seen on TV, it was not to be.

The second and third weeks I was experiencing a day or two, here and there, without pain. But as the dosage was slowly increased, the familiar swelling began again. I also noticed some vision problems. My eyes were getting blurry at very inconvenient times. There was nausea, too, but while I wasn't in constant, miserable pain 24/7, the pain was still there. A few days without pain was worth it, though. There is another side effect of Lyrica, and that is the inability to stay awake and alert. I have found that I can be sitting across from someone, engrossed in conversation, and the next thing I know, I am asleep. The drowsiness is uncontrollable. But, even with all of the side effects, I have decided that I will continue with Lyrica. I have wanted this drug to work so much, that even a few days of being pain free every once in awhile is enough for me. Right now, it has to be enough. There are no other medications on the market approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

 

Too Few Studies

There have been very limited research studies for Lyrica, its side effects and its long term effects. Two studies, in particular, raise some very serious questions. In these two studies, 20% of the patients had to stop taking Lyrica the first week because the side effects were so serious. When 20% of your study group has to drop out almost immediately, red flags should go up. The known side effects of Lyrica are numerous. The long term effects of Lyrica are unknown. There is no cure rate with the use of Lyrica. Right now, fibromyalgia can not be cured. Lyrica has been wonderful for some people. It has actually decreased their pain levels significantly, but these are the lucky ones. The vast majority of fibromyalgia patients are like me. There are some good days.

When you suffer from chronic pain, you feel like you are a drag on everyone around you. You find that you apologize for not being like you used to be. You are so sorry that you can't do the things you used to do. The guilt can be almost as painful as the actual pain. But any good rheumatologist will tell you that the more you feel guilty, the more you apologize, the more pain you will have. By placing any additional stress on your body or mind, you can cause a flare.

I have learned to be satisfied for the good days. I look forward to those days. I have made changes to my life to better deal with the pain. I have replaced most of my cooking tools with kitchen gadgets that don't put any pressure on my shoulders, neck or back. I don't make plans too far in advance. My vacuum is light weight. I purchased a memory foam topper for my bed. Just some simple changes can help.

Eventually, I believe that when someone with political power gets fibromyalgia, the research will get done and the cure for fibromyalgia will be found.

 

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