Patient Outcomes Can be Improved, 2-Year Prospective Study Reveals

Patient Outcomes Can be Improved, 2-Year Prospective Study Reveals

Fibromyalgia is a disease that can impact the quality of life of patients severely, but its actual long-term health outcome is still unpredictable. Now, a two-year study that assessed clinician and patient-reported outcomes among fibromyalgia patients reveals this patient population can experience certain health improvements.

The study, titled “Fibromyalgia Outcomes Over Time: Results from a Prospective Observational Study in the United States,” was published in The Open Rheumatology Journal.

In total, 76 patients with clinically diagnosed fibromyalgia, and with an average age of 51 years, were enrolled in the study. Physicians evaluated all patients for pain symptoms, tender points, blood pressure in the extremities, and overall outcome evaluation.

After fibromyalgia symptoms were characterized, patients were asked to complete an online questionnaire about several self-reported outcome measures and other parameters, such as co-morbidities, clinical characteristics, symptoms, productivity, healthcare resource use, and socioeconomic information. Approximately two years later a follow-up consultation was conducted to evaluate the progression of fibromyalgia symptoms.

In the follow-up consultation, the authors observed that more than 20% of the patients reported co-morbidities, such as arthritis, lower back pain, depression, high cholesterol, hypertension, headache/migraine, anxiety, and sleep apnea.

Fibromyalgia patients reported that the most common drug prescriptions were pain relievers, of which 32.4% of the patients took opioids, 16.9% selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and 14.1% took Ultram (tramadol). The prescription frequency of each of these classes of drugs was similar between the initial and follow-up assessments.

Also, 84.2% of the patients in the beginning of the study, and 81.7% at follow-up, reported taking other non-prescribed pain medications, such as herb and vitamin supplements, or undergoing physical treatments.

Moreover, the authors observed an improvement of the outcome of fibromyalgia symptoms, assessed by the modified American College of Rheumatology 2010 criteria. Improvements in sleep disturbance and drowsiness, as well as in pain interference with function, also were reported. Eleven patients (14.5%) showed an average pain severity score improvement of 2.0 points or higher between the initial and follow-up classifications.

Taken together, the results from this study suggest that “while fibromyalgia is a chronic illness, there may be waxing and waning of symptoms,” the authors concluded. “These data suggest some improvement over time in function and sleep, particularly among the minority of patients who reported greater improvement in pain.”

However, the authors highlighted the need for more studies to better understand the impact of both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic therapies on the real outcome of fibromyalgia patients.

 

 

8 comments

  1. Denise Bault says:

    Another semi-useless study. OF COURSE there is “some improvement over time in function and sleep, particularly among the MINORITY of patients who reported greater improvement in pain.” DUH!
    I think we would ALL feel better and sleep better if our pain was reduced! That’s like asking,” Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” I would love to have some grant money to run some studies that might actually give us new information to HELP us!

  2. PAMELA BERGMANN-KNEBEL says:

    Please explain in layman’s terms what this study concluded. I’m confused; Better pain management and sleep due to use of pain meds?

    • Tim Bossie says:

      Hi Pam, the study is showing that from the patients that were involved in answering the questions, it is a mix of both those that got worse (although a smaller percentage) and those that saw their symptoms ease and their general health get better. It is summed up in the statement at the end of the article as, ““while fibromyalgia is a chronic illness, there may be waxing and waning of symptoms,”. I would say that it is due to the person themselves as there is a mix of pain medications and natural remedies used.

      • Faye says:

        Hi Tim
        I have had fibromyalgia for 30 years and have not used pain medication or natural remedies. My experience is that there defiantly is a waxing and waning of symptoms over time. Sometimes there is acute pain for short or long periods of time, other times it is manageable. Sleep problems also have waxed and waned.More research is way past due and I pray that there will be answers for all the young people who suffer so that they will have some quality of life.

  3. Deborah says:

    Exactly, I agree with the above comments. For heaven sakes! Is this the Best we can do for the millions of people suffering…

  4. Maureen S. says:

    This is not true,,,Most patients get worse…I Think because we are initionally Shocked by onset of New Awful Pain… Then when we try and learn to live with it everyday or maybe just luckily having a rare good day this may be different.

    • Ethel says:

      Maureen, the numbers I’ve seen say about 25% of patients get better and 25% get worse. I’m definitely one who got better. I couldn’t even drive a couple of years ago and could barely get through a day at a desk job. Now I mostly just feel like I worked out really hard the day before, and only feel actual pain during flares. I put a lot of work into maintaining my health, though. Probably two hours a day doing things that I would not do or would do differently if I were healthy. Diet, exercise, supplements, relaxation / quiet time, and sleep medication. I think many more patients would get better if doctors knew anything about fibromyalgia. I’ve had three different primary care providers since the pain started, and none of them knew what they were talking about with fibromyalgia. I’ve had to make my own treatment plans because they were worse than useless (e.g., one told me to go to the gym and lift weights when I was having trouble driving – talk about inducing flares!).

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