From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton (UK)
Press Release from ENFA – 29.04.2009
Last week was high on activities for the Fibromyalgia community, on one hand the European Network of Fibromyalgia Associations (ENFA) met with the European Health Commissioner Ms Androulla Vassiliou1. And on the other hand the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) gave another negative decision for a treatment for fibromyalgia in Europe2.
Ms. Pam Stewart, Vice-President of European Network of Fibromyalgia Associations (ENFA) and chairman of the trustees of Fibromyalgia Association UK, said one of the biggest challenges that the patients have been facing is the lack of officially recognised medical treatment options in the European Union.
By comparison there are three drugs in the United States of America approved by the Food and Drug Administration: Cymbalta from Eli Lilly, Lyrica from Pfizer and recently authorised Savella from Forest and Cypress (Pierre Fabre).
Last October, Cymbalta received a negative decision from the EMEA and last week was the turn of Lyrica said Ms Stewart. One dossier is still remaining to be evaluated by the EMEA: Savella. Each of these drugs has a limited success and judged alone leads to their failure to get approval.
However with a full range of treatment options, more people with fibromyalgia could have reduced levels of pain. This could enable them to embark on a management programme to significantly improve their quality of life said the Vice President.
“We are constantly hearing from people diagnosed with fibromyalgia that their doctor tells them there is no treatment because no approved guidelines or medications are available. Medical professionals that do not have time to research treatment options should have clearly signposted guidelines for effective treatment options. No one should be sentenced to a life of pain, she said.
“Patients across Europe are currently using these medicines off label. However, the European Medicines Agency told European Network of Fibromyalgia Associations that this is a common situation already faced in other disease areas such as cancer, and the situation with off label use cannot be taken into consideration in the assessment of medicines for which a marketing authorisation is sought.
“The difference with Fibromyalgia is that patients in the UK, for example, are unlikely to be prescribed any of these effective drugs because they have not been officially approved for Fibromyalgia. Patients are left with inadequate treatment options and although these drugs can be purchased over the Internet, this means their use is not monitored and people could be at the mercy of unscrupulous suppliers, which could put their lives at risk,” said Ms. Stewart.
Another example, coming from Germany, concerns the social status of patients since they are labeled as “depressive patient” for their life insurance or health insurance in order to have their drugs fully reimbursed by the National Health Insurance. In order to get any effective medicines, doctors should not diagnose fibromyalgia at all because the medicines are not indicated for fibromyalgia.
At the same time, an ENFA delegation was meeting with the European Health Commissioner Ms. Vassiliou. The meeting was only a natural step, concluding ENFA’s activities on the ‘European Institutions Fibromyalgia Awareness Campaign’ launched in 2008 on World Fibromyalgia Day.
Since the commencement of the campaign last May, with the support from 418 Members of the European Parliament, the Written Declaration on Fibromyalgia was adopted by the European Parliament in December 2008. The written declaration was necessary to raise awareness to all the European politicians from the 27 member states. It also helps create a mapping of the disease status disparity across Europe and increase awareness of better diagnosis and treatment.
“However, we realised that without any officially approved treatment options available, it was almost impossible to properly raise awareness of Fibromyalgia. The patient petition with over 27,000 signatures from all over Europe that MEP Adamou voluntarily hand delivered to the Health Commissioner, clearly demonstrates the frustration from the fibromyalgia community and strong and urgent needs to have treatment options to be officially available. The Fibromyalgia community is left with one hope to see maybe Savella drug approved before the summer. But unfortunately, the hope for a multiple choice of treatment in Europe seems to be lost.
“The European Network of Fibromyalgia Associations and all its associations have for years raised awareness on Fibromyalgia among national and European politicians, health professionals and the general public, and will keep on being active as long as it is necessary,” the Vice President.
ENFA is a network of patient association and support groups working in close consultation with the national association in the relevant country. Our joint missions are to conquer the myths and misunderstandings around Fibromyalgia. The network will help collectively push forward the boundaries which currently exist in understanding, experiencing and treatment of Fibromyalgia. Our main goal is to see Fibromyalgia receiving the recognition it deserves across Europe as an illness in its own right.
Fibromyalgia is a complex disease with chronic widespread pain as the defining symptom and various additional symptoms including fatigue, non-restorative sleep, morning stiffness, irritable bowel and bladder, restless legs, depression, anxiety and cognitive dysfunction often referred to as “fibro fog.” All of these symptoms cause serious limitations in patients’ ability to perform ordinary daily chores and work and severely affect their quality of life. Fibromyalgia imposes a large economic burden on society as well as on affected individuals. A study shows that an average patient in Europe consults up to 7 physicians and takes multiple medications over 5-7 years before receiving the correct diagnosis. The debilitating symptoms often result in lost work days, lost income and disability payments.
In fact, a Dutch study in 2005 estimated that the average annual cost of fibromyalgia was €980 million in the Netherlands. Research in the UK has shown that diagnosis and positive management of Fibromyalgia reduce healthcare cost by avoiding unnecessary investigations and consultations.
For more information on the European Network of Fibromyalgia Associations (ENFA) contact Ms. Pam Stewart Vice-President of ENFA Brussels@enfa-europe.eu; http://www.enfa-europe.eu.
1 On Wednesday 22 April in Strasbourg, for more information visit http://www.enfa-europe.eu; 2 On Thursday 23 April in London, for more information visit http://www.emea.europa.eu