6/21/07 When the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved pregabalin (Lyrica) for the treatment of fibromyalgia, the vexing chronic pain condition got its first bona fide medicine. If you have fibromyalgia, Lyrica may be a drug worth considering.

Fibromyalgia, which affects up to 6 million Americans, causes not only pain around the joints, but also tenderness in muscles and nerves, as well as sleep problems that lead to symptoms of severe fatigue. The widespread pain and severe fatigue can disrupt the ability to function at full capacity on a daily basis. Altered function of the central nervous system is thought to be a possible cause.

The FDA approval of the new fibromyalgia drug was based on studies that showed Lyrica reduced pain and improved sleep. In two double-blind studies of 1,800 people with fibromyalgia, Lyrica produced rapid and sustained pain reduction for up to six months, compared with placebo. At the 2007 annual meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism in Barcelona, Spain, researchers showed that if Lyrica works for you initially, then it will keep on working for as long as eight months, and effects may last longer.

In a 2005 study led by Arthritis Today medical advisory board member and previously Arthritis Foundation-funded researcher Leslie Crofford, MD, a rheumatologist and women’s health specialist at the University of Kentucky, people taking 450 milligrams (mg) of Lyrica per day had a 48-percent reduction in pain, compared with a 27-percent pain reduction with placebo. Significant improvements in sleep quality, as well as quality of life, also were noted. When sleep problems are reduced, and sleep becomes more refreshing, musculoskeletal tissues are better able to heal, which reduces pain and improves the quality of life.

Along with the positive side effects of reducing pain and improving sleep, one of the major benefits of Lyrica's new fibromyalgia indication will likely be much-needed major education campaigns about fibromyalgia and its treatment, says Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and a leading researcher on fibromyalgia pain.