Depression drugs curb fibromyalgia symptoms

Taking an antidepressant might help assuage the symptoms of fibromyalgia, a new study finds, but experts caution that does not mean that depression is the cause of the condition.

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is associated with chronic, diffuse pain; sleep problems; and mood disturbances. A new study published in Journal of the American Medical Association confirms earlier findings that antidepressants could help. 

German researchers looked at 18 clinical trials that examined the effects of antidepressants on fibromyalgia symptoms. The included studies involved 1,427 individuals in Europe, North America and South America, who took antidepressants from the following classes: monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Currently, Eli Lilly's Cymbalta and Pfizer's Lyrica are the only drugs that FDA has approved to treat FMS, but the study found that all of the classes "had substantial effects on pain," said Winfried Häuser, lead study author and an internist at Klinikum Saarbrücken hospital in Germany.

The authors found differences between the classes of drugs as well. MAOIs, it appears, only help with pain, whereas SSRIs help with pain and depression, but not fatigue or sleep problems. SNRIs helped with pain, sleep problems and depression but do not seem to help with fatigue. Lastly, TCAs helped relieve pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances. 

The condition has no cure and its cause remains a mystery. What is known is that it affects up to 12 million individuals in the United States, and that about 11 million of these are women. Most patients begin experiencing symptoms, which can range from bothersome to completely debilitating, between their fourth and sixth decades of life. 

- read the story in the Washington Post 
- see what the Scientific American had to say
- here is the WebMD story