Is fibromyalgia real, and if so, are drug companies profiting from the uncertainty of the disease?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that has no clear cause, and there’s no definitive diagnostic test.

However, there is no doubt that the symptoms are real, and many patients are suffering from the disease. Two brand-name medications, Lyrica and Cymbalta, represent several billion dollars in revenue.

The Washington Post points out that both Pfizer and Eli Lilly donated more than $6 million in education funding in 2008 to raise awareness of the disease, and presumably, entice more doctors to prescribe their medications.

To put that in perspective, that amount ranks third in donations given to promote a specific disease, behind cancer and AIDS.

Internist Matthew Mintz provides a somewhat contrarian pro-Pharma take on the situation, saying that without pharmaceutical industry funding, there likely won’t be any publicly-funded research into fibromyalgia.

“Both drugs have been approved by the FDA because they show some improvement in pain compared to placebo in randomized clinical trials,” writes Dr. Mintz. “Though it would be nice if funding for research, advocacy and education came from less biased sources, do you really think the government or tax payers are willing to fund this, especially now during one of the worst economic crises in history? You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”


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