|"The purpose of most pharmaceutical company efforts is to do a little disease-mongering and to have people use their drugs." - DR. FREDERICK WOLFE (Kelly Glasscock/ Associated Press)|
Fibromyalgia effort questioned
WASHINGTON - Two drug makers spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year to raise awareness of a murky illness, helping to boost sales of pills recently approved as treatments and drowning out unresolved questions - including whether it's a real disease at all.
Key components of the industry-funded buzz over the pain-and-fatigue ailment fibromyalgia are grants - more than $6 million donated by drug makers Eli Lilly and Pfizer in the first three quarters of 2008 - to nonprofit groups for medical conferences and educational campaigns, an Associated Press analysis found.
Fibromyalgia's cause is unknown. There are no tests to confirm a diagnosis. Many patients also fit the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome and other pain ailments.
Experts don't doubt the patients are in pain. They differ on what to call it and how to treat it.
Many doctors and patients say the drug makers are educating the medical establishment about a misunderstood illness, much as they did with depression in the 1980s.
But critics say the companies are hyping fibromyalgia.
"I think the purpose of most pharmaceutical company efforts is to do a little disease-mongering and to have people use their drugs," said Dr. Frederick Wolfe.
The FDA approved the drugs because they've been shown to reduce pain in fibromyalgia patients, though it's not clear how. Some patients say the drugs can help, but the side effects include nausea, weight gain, and drowsiness.