Fibromyalgia doesn’t have to be expensive.

by Caleb Reading

Before I get to the article, I just wanted to mention again that one of the two drugs approved for treating fibromyalgia is a rebrand.  Lyrica (Pregabalin) is the main metabolite of Gabapentin (which is a much cheaper generic). If you take Lyrica, your body breaks it down into Gabapentin. Why not skip a step and save money and just take Gabapentin instead?  Lyrica is a patent extender, not a breakthrough, and an incredibly expensive patent extender at that.

Okay, on to the article.  Via sfgate:

Key components of the industry-funded buzz over the pain-and-fatigue ailment fibromyalgia are grants — more than $6 million donated by drugmakers 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.

That’s more than they gave for more accepted ailments such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Among grants tied to specific diseases, fibromyalgia ranked third for each company, behind only cancer and AIDS for Pfizer and cancer and depression for Lilly. […]

“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, who was lead author of the guidelines defining fibromyalgia in 1990 but has since become one of its leading skeptics.

Whatever the motive, the push has paid off. Between the first quarter of 2007 and the fourth quarter of 2008, sales rose from $395 million to $702 million for Pfizer’s Lyrica, and $442 million to $721 million for Lilly’s Cymbalta. […]

The drugmakers’ grant-making is dwarfed by advertisement spending. Eli Lilly spent roughly $128.4 million in the first three quarters of 2008 on ads to promote Cymbalta, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Pfizer Inc. spent more than $125 million advertising Lyrica. […]

Pfizer gave $2.2 million and Lilly gave $3.9 million in grants and donations related to fibromyalgia in the first three quarters of last year, the AP found. Those funds represented 4 percent of Pfizer’s giving and about 9 percent of Eli Lilly’s.

Eli Lilly, Pfizer and a handful of other companies began disclosing their grants only in the past two years, after coming under scrutiny from federal lawmakers. […]

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