January 26, 2020

Commonly Prescribed Fibromyalgia Meds Work only 20% of the Time Study Says

ScienceDaily.com reports on a recent medical study conducted in Germany which shows that two medications commonly prescribed for fibromyalgia offer benefit to only about 1 out of every 5 patients.

The study looked at testing conducted on 6,000 adults – mostly middle aged females – who were prescribed duloxetine (Cymbalta), milnacipran or a placebo.  Study participants were asked to rate these drugs on a “quality of life” scale.  Only 22% of participants reported significant improvement, while 21% discontinued using medications because of side effects.

A future study will evaluate pregabalin (Lyrica) later this year.

“The medical field does poorly with the treatment of fibromyalgia in general,” says Brian Walitt, M.D., M.P.H., a co-author of the review and an expert in pain syndromes at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “Chasing [a cure] with medicine doesn’t seem to work.”

This relative ineffectiveness of prescription medication should not be a surprise to Social Security disability claimants who are applying for benefits due to chronic pain, cognitive decline and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia.   Obviously individuals who allege that the are disabled are not benefiting from medications, and claimant’s attorneys often note symptoms of depression due to the absence of any viable treatment options.

If you have been prescribed Cymbalta, Lyrica or any other prescription medication by your doctor, it is important that you make every effort to remain complaint with recommended treatment.   Social Security judges are often not very understanding if a claimant decides to stop taking a medication on his or her own, even if that medication does not seem to be working.

At the very least, report to your doctors any concerns about the effectiveness and side effects of medications so that your medical record will reflect what you have experienced.  Judges will use non-compliance as a basis for denying claims and this is especially true for cases involving a condition that arises from symptoms that are inherently subjective and self -reported.


Mind-Body Approach to Healing – Zero Pain Now

Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner Adam Heller has written a book entitled Zero Pain Now in which he describes a “mind-body” approach to healing fibromyalgia pain.  Mr. Heller argues that fibromyalgia causes physical changes in the brain that can be reversed without the use of narcotic pain mediations.  Take a look at Mr. Heller’ s video.  If you have had experience with Zero Pain Now – either positive or negative, please let us know.

Fibromyalgia from Adam Heller on Vimeo.

Finding the Right Fibromyalgia Doctor

I recently ran across an interesting article on a blog published by the North Carolina disability law firm Hardison & Associates called “Fibromyalgia: Searching for the Right Doctor.”   This article raises several issues that I regularly face in my own disability practice – many physicians do not understand how to diagnose fibromyalgia and can damage your disability case by offhand comments in your medical record.

Some doctors incorrectly see fibromyalgia as a “garbage can” diagnosis, meaning that any pain symptoms that cannot otherwise be explained end up with the fibro label.  The problem with this approach is that Social Security judges are increasingly familiar with the American College of Rheumatology’s diagnostic classifications for the disease and judges will discount or ignore a physician diagnosis that does not refer to the American College diagnostic criteria.

Some doctors – thankfully fewer and fewer – do not accept that fibromyalgia exists at all.  Often the medical records from these doctors will contain suggestions that the patient has psychiatric problems, or worse, that the patient is a malingerer or drug seeker. [Read more…]

2 separate studies show that women suffering from fibromyalgia are not seeking appropriate treatment

We have all heard the old adage that men are from mars and women are from Venus.  It is true that men and women may approach some things very differently.  One of the areas that these gender differences exist in is in how men and women deal with pain associated with a chronic condition.  I was amazed this week when I came across two wholly unrelated articles discussing how women, who are more likely to suffer from a painful condition such as fibromyalgia, are also much more likely to dismiss their pain and not seek a proper diagnosis or treatment.  There were a variety of reasons as to why they did not seek medical advice about their pain; however, one common thread seemed to be that they felt they would not be taken seriously by a professional and that they could manage it on their own.  It seems that it is important for women to recognize that pain, especially chronic pain like that associated with fibromyalgia, is a medical condition, not simply a state of mind.

One of the articles, from the Black Women’s Health Alliance and detailed on PRNewswire, discussed a study conducted in Pennsylvania which found that many of the state’s women suffered from chronic pain but did not seek help for it.  Specifically, the study found that two-thirds of Pennsylvania women suffer from chronic pain, and over half of them do not seek treatment for their pain, even when it is so severe that they have trouble completely daily tasks or working.  When asked why they would not get treated, a majority of the women stated it was because they felt that insurance companies would not cover treatment for pain, unlike more traditional conditions, such as heart disease.  Additionally, the women felt that the pain was not something to worry about and that it could be handled privately.

The other article, from Pain Medicine News, discussed how twice as many women as men feel that they are not being taken seriously when they complain about their pain.  This perceived lack of sympathy often causes these women to refrain from seeking medical treatment even though their condition often impairs their daily activities and work environment/ability to work.  What is even more troubling is that fibromyalgia impacts seven times more women than men, so not only are more women not seeking help for their pain, but more women are suffering from a serious chronic condition and are not seeking help!  Fortunately, some researchers, medical writers, and health professionals have launched a website, www.healthywomen.org , to address these issues and educate women on fibromyalgia and pain management.  It provides references for doctors who specialize in treating fibromyalgia and how women can fully engage in their daily lives.

Knowing that this painful condition we call fibromyalgia is real and not something to be taken lightly is the first step to getting the necessary treatment.  Once you know what you are dealing with, you can then take the necessary steps to get the right therapy for you, file for social security disability benefits if you can no longer work due to your condition, and generally manage your life better.  Although men and women are very different, this type of chronic pain can impact us all the same.  It is important to seek help and educate yourself so that you can live the healthiest life possible.

Recommended blog: Sherrie Sisk’s “The Tramadol Diaries”

The community of lawyers who publish and maintain blogs is relatively small.   One of the better and most prolific lawyer/bloggers is Sherrie Sisk from North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.   This past April, Sherrie inaugurated a new blog called The Tramadol Diaries which describes her struggle with fibromyalgia and discusses the legal, medical and lifestyle issues of living with and thriving despite chronic pain.

Sherrie describes herself as a “recovering lawyer” and notes that she has phased out her law practice because of her fibromyalgia.  Now, she is transitioning into a new career as a write and a coach.

While the legal community will miss this talented and vocal advocate, the fibromyalgia community now has a passionate, determined and thoughtful voice who will discuss medical developments, communication issues and, I suspect, legal issues related to fibromyalgia.  Besides her blog, Sherrie is at work on a book and offers coaching and speaking services.

In my law practice I have observed that many of my fibromyalgia clients often fit a profile – intelligent, over-achieving, type “A” individuals (mostly female) who are extremely organized and committed to finding relief from their symptoms.  If you were not previously aware of Sherrie’s blog, I strongly recommend that you bookmark it or add its feed to your home page or blog reader software.