Improving Recognition and Care for Fibromyalgia
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a third drug indicated for treatment of fibromyalgia. Milnacipran, made by Forest Laboratories and Cypres Bioscience, is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine dual reuptake inhibitor. It will be available to consumers in March. The two other medicines approved by the FDA for fibromyalgia are Lyrica, produced by Pfizer, and Cymbalta, produced by Lilly. From my perspective there are at least two remarkable features of these approvals. First, these approvals mean that there are new and tested medicines to help relieve the pain of fibromyalgia; Secondly, these approvals confirm the existence and credibility of fibromyalgia as a diagnosable and treatable pain condition.
People with fibromyalgia suffer at least two unnecessary woes: First, there are few developed and tested treatments. Much more needs to be invested in understanding and treating fibromyalgia. Secondly, there still exists a stubborn number of healthcare providers who do not acknowledge the existence of fibromyalgia and who treat people suffering from fibromyalgia as if they are imagining the fatigue and pain. There is nothing more depressing and anguishing then to be in pain and have someone tell you that it’s all in your head.
Its great that we now have three FDA approved medicines for the treatment of fibromyalgia. But what good does this mean if insurance companies refuse to pay for the medicines or make it extremely difficult to get coverage for these medicines? We’ve heard numerous reports from fibro sufferers that their insurance companies will not cover the medicines. Or, in some cases, the insurance company covers the medicine but only after the person has failed 5 other treatment efforts first. This is the so-called “fail first” or “Step-therapy” approach which basically requires the physician to put the patient through a progressive series of treatments before prescribing, in this case, an FDA approved medicine. This “fail-first” approach can take months before the doctor reaches the final option, which in some cases, is the only FDA approved option on the list. If you have fibromyalgia and wish to participate in a survey about your insurance coverage for the treatment of fibromyalgia, please go to the American Pain Foundation at: http://www.painfoundation.org/page.asp?file=ManageYourPain/Fibromyalgia/Intro.htm