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Seizure drug may treat fibromyalgia
June 12, 2007
A widely used seizure drug may help treat fibromyalgia, a condition
that causes muscle pain, fatigue and depression, a U.S.
government-sponsored study found.
Patients taking the medication, gabapentin, had fewer aches, felt less
tired and slept better, according to results released Monday by the
National Institutes of Health, the sponsoring agency. Depression wasn't
eased. The drug is sold by Pfizer Inc. as Neurontin and by a dozen
other companies in generic form.
Fibromyalgia affects 6 million Americans, mostly women. It is usually
treated with drugs for other illnesses, including antidepressants and
analgesics such as aspirin. While researchers say the condition is
poorly understood, they suspect it occurs when the brain is overly
sensitive to pain signals. Gabapentin may help by causing fewer
molecules that process those signals to be released, according to the
"While gabapentin does not have Food and Drug Administration approval
for fibromyalgia, I believe this study offers additional insight to
physicians considering the drug for their fibromyalgia patients," said
Stephen Katz, the director of the National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders, part of the NIH.
Doctors may prescribe drugs for uses that haven't received FDA approval, although drugmakers may not promote those uses.
In the 150-patient study, led by Lesley Arnold at the University of
Cincinnati, 51 percent of those on the drug saw a drop in pain of at
least 30 percent. That much reduction was seen in 31 percent of
patients taking a placebo.
Cheaper copies of Neurontin came on the market in 2004 when the drug
lost patent protection. Pfizer is seeking U.S. clearance to market a
newer, more-expensive drug called Lyrica, which works similarly to
Neurontin, for fibromyalgia.
A Pfizer spokeswoman, Shreya Prudlo, said the company
isn't planning to conduct the required studies to get Neurontin
approved by U.S. regulators for treating fibromyalgia.
In a separate study of Lyrica on fibromyalgia, 30
percent of patients saw their pain cut by more than half, a reduction
seen in 15 percent of the people taking a placebo, New York-based
Pfizer said last month. Lyrica is approved to treat pain from shingles
Pfizer says Lyrica has fewer noticeable side effects
than Neurontin, which caused diarrhea, gas and other digestive
disorders. Neurontin was also a much larger pill taken more frequently
at higher does.
Pfizer shares fell 15 cents, or less than a percent, to
$26.37 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The
shares have gained 12 percent in 12 months.
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