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.