Marketing Drugs for a Disputed Condition

"Fibromyalgia is a real, widespread pain condition," stresses a woman in a television ad for Lyrica, a Pfizer drug that recently became "the first medicine approved to treat the pain condition." But some doctors have their doubts. These skeptics "say vague complaints of chronic pain do not add up to a disease. ... The condition cannot be linked to any environmental or biological causes." Even Dr. Frederick Wolfe, who first defined fibromyalgia, "now considers the condition a physical response to stress, depression, and economic and social anxiety." The president of the National Fibromyalgia Association, "a patients' advocacy group that receives some of its financing from drug companies," counters that the Food and Drug Administration's approval of Lyrica made her pain "real to people." Even though Lyrica has troubling side effects, its sales increased 50 percent from 2006 to 2007, and are expected to "rise an additional 30 percent this year, helped by consumer advertising." Forest Laboratories and Eli Lilly have "asked the FDA to let them market drugs for fibromyalgia." One thing is certain, says Dr. Wolfe -- the drug companies are "going to make a fortune."