Sodium Oxybate: A Universal Cure For Fibromyalgia?
Patients who experience the condition fibromyalgia are often frustrated at the lack of a cure or even a single treatment that can ease their symptoms.
Many different treatments may be used, but relief may simply remain elusive and patients can experience ongoing pain, debility and general fatigue/lethargy and sometimes associated problems of anxiety and poor sleeping patterns.
As if these frustrations were not sufficient, patients then experience disappointment that time goes on and on, but they cannot achieve significant pain reduction or easing of symptoms. Sometimes this can become a vicious cycle where patients feel stressed about their condition and the symptoms grow worse, they then become more stressed and anxious and so it continues.
So it is little wonder that when a medication or treatment receives media coverage as being a ‘breakthrough’ in the treatment of fibromyalgia, that many patients are keen to be prescribed this medication. However, prior to requesting that a pain consultant thinks of prescribing sodium oxybate to you, there are some issues to consider.
What Is Sodium Oxybate?
Sodium oxybate is basically a depressant that slows down the central nervous system so that patients can achieve very deep levels of sleep. It is used in the treatment of narcolepsy which in layman’s terms is ‘sleeping sickness’ whereby people fall asleep almost without warning.
Sodium Oxybate Research Results
Much media attention has been focussed on a study that took place in the United States involving almost 550 patients who were given a medium does of sodium oxybate, a relatively high level of sodium oxybate or a placebo. This study found that patients who were given sodium oxybate (particularly the relatively low dose) were more likely to have a decreased level of pain:just over 46% reported that this was the case. People taking the higher does also reported easing of pain (just over 39%) whereas when people were given a placebo, only just over 27% said that they had found their pain more manageable.
Both groups who were given sodium oxybate were also much less fatigued during the day and found it easier to carry out day to day activities.
This research study was publicised in 2009 and to some extent the treatment was hailed as a major breakthrough and patients began to have hope that there condition would be dramatically improved.
Research Results In Context
Given how frustrated many patients with fibromyalgia are and the levels of pain that they withstand, any medication that offers hope should not be dismissed out of hand.
However, patients who are hopeful that this will significantly cure their fibromyalgia may be disappointed and it is very important to look at these results in context.
Just over 46% of patients in the trial who were given the low dose of sodium oxybate reported that their pain was eased by sodium oxybate. In other words over 53% of patients said that this medication did not help them. More than 60% of patients given the higher dose did not experience pain relief and over 27% of patients given a placebo pill said that it helped their pain levels.
It is certainly not a universal cure therefore and whilst it may be useful, there are some albeit fairly mild to moderate contra-indications that need to be highlighted.
Sodium Oxybate and Contra-Indications
Patients who were given sodium oxybate sometimes reported that they felt sick, or had stomach upsets such as vomiting and diarrhoea as well as some higher levels of anxiety or dizziness/light headedness.
Consequently it may not be suitable for all people with fibromyalgia especially those who have any other medical condition but for people who have no other conditions it may be a useful tool in fighting fibromyalgia, but it will not cure everyone.