The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

The New York Times Causes Outrage About Fibromyalgia Skepticism

The NY Times Fibromyalgia Article: Reviewing the Controversy

A few weeks ago The New York Times published an article I suspect they didn’t realize would be quite so controversial, but they took on the slant that perhaps fibromyalgia wasn’t a real disease and the new medication that was recently approved for it was just another chance for the drug companies to make money. I’ve been flaring badly and trying to just keep up with life, so despite my outrage, I didn’t have the energy to blog about it. Thankfully, Will Rowe, Executive Director of the American Pain Foundation (, wrote a wonderful follow up article today. He sums of the situation well and if you haven’t heard of this situation that got the bloggers all responding to the NYTimes, now you will be "in the know."

Personally I have not tried the drug for FM; if I can control my rheumatoid arthritis the fibromyalgia seems to be the secondary illness. But I do have a friend who truly thought the pain from fibromyalgia was causing life to be too hard to continue here on this earth. And this medication has nearly healed him. In my opinion, that’s all that matters.



Drugs by  Will Rowe
Monday, February 4, 2008; Executive Director – APF – Caregiver

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

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