Hope for millions as fibromyalgia treatment gets green light

A NEW treatment for fibromyalgia has been given the green light for more research.

It raises hopes for millions that suffer with the condition of chronic pain, extreme tiredness and headaches.

Fibromyalgia, which celebs Lady Gaga and Morgan Freeman live with, is incurable.

Treatments tend to be based on making the condition easier to live with.

Patients often end up on antidepressants or having counselling to deal with their pain, as well as medicine to alleviate the symptoms. 

The new treatment uses an unconventional method of helping patients how to “accept” their pain.

Called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), it teaches patients to accept what is outside their control, while focusing on the good things in life.

Although it doesn’t target the actual pain, people who have used ACT have reported an improvement in their quality of life.

At least 25 studies have been conducted, and a review of them found patients’ anxiety and depression linked to the condition was alleviated significantly more than typical treatments.

On the back of such research, the US drug regulator (FDA) has approved for a digital version of ACT to be trialled faster.

It could mean Americans are able to start using it as early as next year.

But the some two million Brits thought to have the condition may have to wait, as there does not appear to be a trial of ACT in the UK.

What is the treatment?

The programme, created by Swing Therapeutics, involves “daily doses” of therapy over 12 weeks.

A “daily dose” might include a prompt for a mindfulness session or a short writing prompt. 

In theory it would be prescribed by a doctor.

The programme was based on one created by the University of Michigan, which patients did over eight weeks on a computer.

It was shown to improve depression symptoms, sleep, pain perception, fatigue and psychological distress in 67 patients in 2018.

“What ACT does is it tries to help people accept those symptoms and things that are uncontrollable," Mike Rosenbluth, the founder and CEO of Swing Therapeutics, said, according to TechCrunch.

“It helps people think about their values — what is really important to them. And then they try to make behavior-based changes aligned with those values.” 

Rosenbluth said there were clinical trials of the programme in the pipeline for later this year.

It already has an ongoing study of 67 people and is recruiting 150 patients for another.

The last stage trials – phase three – are expected to launch at the end of 2021, which will then be given to the FDA for approval as a new treatment.

The treatment would need to be approved by the UK regulator, the MHRA, in order for Brits to receive it.

Patients in the UK can already get cognitive behavioural therapy – of which ACT is a form of – free on the NHS.

CBT is based on improving the state of mind, and therefore your perspective on your pain.

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