The New York Times stirred up some old controversies recently with their article on fibromyalgia called "Drug Approved. Is Disease Real?" The author quoted two sides of an argument, one saying that fibromyalgia is a real condition that has a real diagnosis and real treatments. The other side saying in essence that the disease is not real, the pain is not real, and that sufferers of the so-called disease "live under a cloud... the more they seem to be around the medical establishment, the sicker they get." That side also implied that the pharmaceutical industry, Pfizer in particular, was again just creating a fictitious disease so that it could sell more drugs.
What a mess. Unfortunately, it is indicative of what is out there in the practicing medical establishment. The root of the controversy, in my opinion, has two branches: the first is the deeply embedded complex belief and bias in the medical community that since pain cannot be objectively or materially measured or witnessed, or connected to some observable tissue damage, it is somehow a fabrication of an unstable mind. The second branch of the bias comes from a strong skepticism about some practices of the pharmaceutical companies, namely the practice of creating a diagnosis through intense marketing in order to create a demand for their products.
The bottom line, which comes from the patient's perspective, and can only come from the patient's perspective, is that the pain of fibromyalgia is real. To dismiss it or not treat it because you are uncertain of what label to use is callous and immoral. There are treatments that work. And when you have a medicine that has proven to reduce the pain by 50% in 30% of the sufferers, then you have an ethical obligation to inform the patient of the option, inform the patient of the possible risks and possible benefits and prescribe the medicine for the informed patient. Bottom line, it is unethical to allow a patient to experience pain when there are options to treat that pain.
Published On: February 04, 2008