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FMA UK responds toThe New York Times article “Drug approved. Is Disease Real?”

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On the 14th January 2008, the New York Times published a controversial article on Fibromyalgia by Alex Berenson, titled “Drug Approved. Is Disease Real?”. Fibromyalgia Association UK (FMA UK) welcomes the raised awareness of Fibromyalgia that a front page story on a world-renowned newspaper such as the New York Times will bring. However, the article itself gives a one-sided and unrealistic perspective of Fibromyalgia and presents out-dated ideas about the condition.

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterised by chronic widespread pain and chronic fatigue, that is recognised by the World Health Organisation, the American Medical Association and the NHS. Alex Berenson’s article presents outdated opinions as if they were current thinking and neglects to mention the evidence gathered and research done into Fibromyalgia over the last 20 years. By concentrating on the opinion of a few medical outsiders who do not believe in the legitimacy of Fibromyalgia, the New York Times article does a disservice to the millions of people worldwide who are living with the condition.

Fibromyalgia patients often struggle with the outdated view that the condition isn’t real because they can’t present their doctors and the people around them with test results showing the condition. However, medical research into Fibromyalgia has discovered many clinical findings with the condition, such as a lack of dopamine – the neurotransmitter involved in Parkinson’s Disease - in the brain and high amounts of a chemical called substance P, that transmits pain signals. Unfortunately the tests needed to show these changes in a person with Fibromyalgia are often expensive and difficult, and so are rarely used outside of research. Contrary to what is said in the New York Times article, although the cause of Fibromyalgia is as yet unknown, the physiological changes that lead to the pain of the condition are well documented. Fibromyalgia patients do not tolerate pain stimuli as well as people without Fibromyalgia for the simple reason that, with Fibromyalgia, all pain stimuli hurts more: a simple hug can be excruciatingly painful.

Scientific studies have also been done that have found Fibromyalgia has more of an impact on patients’ lives than other chronic pain conditions or more widely known chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Fibromyalgia is a debilitating condition that often has a devastating effect on patients and their families. Patients often struggle to obtain appropriate treatment and this fact isn’t taken into account in Alex Berenson’s article when it suggests that Fibromyalgia patients tend to get worse after diagnosis: they tend to get worse before diagnosis too and often continue to do so because of a lack of appropriate treatment. FMAUK can also provide countless examples of Fibromyalgia patients who do not sit around obsessing about their symptoms, but instead are leading productive lives or are working hard to help raise awareness of this surprisingly common, but little known, condition.

FMA UK encourages people affected by Fibromyalgia in any way to contact the New York Times and make their opinions known. To send a letter to the editor of the New York Times, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." title="E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information about FMA UK, see www.fmauk.org.

ENDS

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