If you are a fibromyalgia sufferer, you may be having difficulty tolerating the pain, fatigue, and dozens of other symptoms caused by the illness. Fibromyalgia syndrome can be a devastating condition, limiting your energy levels and muscle strength, making daily activities impossible to perform. And, as a result of the intense physical symptoms caused by the disease, many fibromyalgia sufferers often develop depression and other mood disorders. Though effective treatment can be difficult to find, a new drug for fibromyalgia is now on the horizon. Called Milnacipran, this drug shows great promise in relieving both the pain and depression associated with fibromyalgia.
What is Milnacipran?
Milnacipran is an antidepressant drug that is currently being marketed in Europe and Asia under the brand name Ixel. It belongs to a class of antidepressants known as Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). Milnacipran is used to relieve symptoms of depression in a wide-range of patients. However, it has also been shown to be effective in relieving the chronic pain associated with a number of different types of illnesses, including fibromyalgia. Milnacipran is now undergoing approval processes in the United States and Canada.
How Does Milnacipran Work?
Milnacipran works by acting upon two neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are special chemicals that help different parts of the brain communicate with one another. These neurotransmitters are responsible for many of our sensations, including mood and pain. Milnacipran works to block reuptake of both norepinephrine and serotonin, two of the primary hormones that are involved in depression and sensations of severe and chronic pain. By blocking the reuptake of these hormones, the drug helps to control mood and pain sensation.
How is Milnacipran Different?
Milnacipran is very different from other existing SNRIs. Other SNRIs, like Effexor, work mostly on preventing the reuptake of serotonin. Though they do stop the reuptake of norepinephrine, they work to a much less powerful extent on this hormone. Milnacipran however, works almost equally on both norepinephrine and serotonin, providing relief of both pain and depression. This makes it an appropriate treatment choice for those suffering from chronic pain and depression.
Milnacipran is also different from other traditional antidepressant medications in that it is associated with much milder side effects. Many traditional antidepressants can cause severe side effects, including weight gain, cardiac problems, and sexual side effects. Milnacipran is not associated with such side effects.
What Can Milnacipran Treat?
Currently, Milnacipran is only recommended for the treatment of moderate to severe depression. However, it is undergoing clinical testing in an effort to gain approval to treat:
- other chronic illnesses
How Can Milnacipran Help Fibromyalgia Patients?
In clinical trials, Milnacipran has shown to be highly effective at reducing many of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. A Phase II trial was conducted in 2002 by Cypress Bioscience, the American manufacturer of the drug. This double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved 125 patients, both male and female. These participants randomly received either Milnacipran or a placebo once or twice a day for a 12-week period. For the initial four weeks of the study, doses were escalated, while over the final eight weeks of the trial doses remained constant. Participants were asked to record their symptoms over the full 12 week period in an electronic diary.
Results of the study showed that those taking Milnacipran twice a day experienced significant improvement in their pain symptoms. Specifically, 87% of participants noted a reduction in their pain; 36% of these patients experienced a 50% or greater reduction in pain symptoms. Those taking Milnacipran also showed improvements in symptoms including:
What are the Side Effects of Milnacipran?
In clinical studies, the vast majority of participants exhibited no side effects, even when receiving the highest possible dose of Milnacipran. Those that did suffer side effects primarily experienced mild and temporary nausea, limited to the early stages of the trial. Other rare but possible side effects include:
- sweating and chills
- difficulty urinating (Dysuria)
When Will Milnacipran Be Available?
Milnacipran is currently available throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia. Phase III clinical trials are now underway in both the United States and Canada, and, pending approval, the drug should be available within the next few years.