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What are the Pros and Cons of Guaifenesin for Fibromyalgia?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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People suffering from fibromyalgia experience a dull ache all over their bodies as well as specific tender spots, usually on the back of the head, the hips, or around the joints. Guaifenesin, a drug commonly prescribed to treat chest congestion, was proposed as an effective treatment for the disorder starting in the 1990s. The pros and cons of this drug boil down to the fact that guaifenesin has not been proven to be an effective treatment. After a series of studies and trials, it appears that guaifenesin does not relieve fibromyalgia, though it can have a strong placebo effect.

The person to first suggest guaifenesin for fibromyalgia was Dr. R. Paul St. Amand. He believed that the medication removed deposits of calcium phosphate from a person's muscles, tendons, and joints. According to Amand's theory, a person who suffers from the disease usually has inherited a defect in her kidneys and can not remove the excess phosphate in her urine as a healthy person does. Unfortunately, there was no evidence that fibromyalgia actually caused phosphate build up in a person's body.

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A study was performed in 1996 to see if guaifenesin for fibromyalgia was effective. Dr. Robert M. Bennett conducted the study, which lasted one year and featured 20 patients. Neither the patients nor the people administering the medication knew who was receiving guaifenesin and who received a placebo. At the end of the study, Bennett found that the people taking guaifenesin for fibromyalgia fared no better or worse than the people taking the placebo. Guaifenesin for fibromyalgia did not raise the amount of phosphate removed from the body.

While Bennett's study demonstrated that guaifenesin was not very effective for treating the disease, it also demonstrated that patients are strongly influenced by the placebo effect. In a later paper, Bennett wrote that one reason Dr. Amand and his patients were convinced that guaifenesin was an effective treatment was because they were able to change their thinking about their disease. Patients taking the drug were able to convince themselves that they felt better, and were more attuned to their body's responses than before.

People suffering from fibromyalgia may be better off seeking out a different treatment than guaifenesin. They may find cognitive therapy to be effective as it will help change the way they think of their disease. Improvements in diet, sleep schedule, and an increase in exercise may also be effective ways to combat the disease. Anti-depressants may help a person who experiences sleep disturbances while medicines such as acetaminophen can reduce pain. For some people, acupuncture or massage can help reduce fibromyalgia symptoms.

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anon128079
Post 1

I am hard pressed to believe that the benefits of Guaifenesin on Fibromyalgia is a placebo effect. I have been taking it for 10+ years and have tried multiple times to go off of it due to the costs and have hit a wall of pain and fog every time. - Jim

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