April 23, 2009

Drug May Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain

An inexpensive drug that has been used for years to treat opioid addiction may be the key to relieving pain for millions of fibromyalgia sufferers.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that affects an estimated 4 percent of the population, yet there is no well-established and objective blood test to confirm its diagnosis. Sufferers report experiencing chronic widespread pain, debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance and joint disorders.

A small pilot study at Stanford University tested the effect of a low dose of the drug naltrexone on 10 women with fibromyalgia. Over a 14-week period, the women used a handheld electronic device to report their symptoms on a daily basis. They took a placebo for two weeks and the drug for eight weeks, but they were not told when they were taking the drug or the placebo.

The drug reduced symptoms of pain and fatigue an average of 30 percent over the placebo, researchers said.

"Patients' reactions were really quite profound," senior author Sean Mackey, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of anesthesia and chief of the pain management division at Stanford University Medical Center, was quoted as saying. "Some people decided to come off other medications. Some people went back to work really improving their quality of life."

Researchers said the drug is so promising because currently there are few treatment options available for fibromyalgia patients, it costs about $40 a month and it causes limited side effects.  A larger, longer-term trial is planned to confirm the results of this preliminary study.

Source: Pain Medicine, April 2009