Common cough remedy to be tested as potential fibromyalgia treatment

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This article on dextromethorphan for fibromyalgia originally published on NationalPainReport.com and is being reprinted here with permission from the editor. 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham will conduct a small trial to determine if dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in cough medicines, might alleviate fibromyalgia pain.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researcher Dr. Jarred Younger has improved the lives of thousands of fibromyalgia sufferers through his research on low-dose naltrexone (LDN).

Now, he’s hoping to repeat that success with the first trial using dextromethorphan (DXM), an ingredient commonly found in cough syrup, as a potential treatment for fibromyalgia.

Younger and his team will recruit 15 fibromyalgia patients this month for a 30-week university-funded trial. He expects to announce trial results by September. If DXM shows promise, the findings will be used to apply for a larger, federally-funded study.

DXM is a cough suppressant that reduces the brain’s ability to trigger the cough reflex. But Younger thinks it could also be used to quiet the overactive immune systems of fibromyalgia sufferers.

“[DXM] is really the same idea as LDN. It’s a low-dose, generic drug, easy to get, but a new use for it,” said Younger, director of UAB’s Neuroinflammation Pain and Fatigue Laboratory. “We hope that when people take it, it will have this strong systemic effect on inflammation and help the pain.”

(Note: DXM is NOT the same as guaifenesin, another common cold-medicine ingredient that some fibromyalgia patients use for treatment.)

Younger has been nicknamed “the neuroinflammation man” for his theory on the mechanism behind fibromyalgia.

“The basic story behind all of the research we do is the majority of people with fibromyalgia have a central inflammation syndrome,” Younger explained. “The immune system in their brain is upregulated so the microglia cells are producing chemicals that make you feel sick. These are the same chemicals that make you feel horrible when you have the flu. That [theory] still looks good to me. I haven’t changed it in about 10 years because the data still supports it.

“If that’s true, then the way to help someone with fibromyalgia to reduce their pain and reduce their fatigue and reduce their fibro fog is to keep those pro-inflammatory chemicals from being produced, and how we do that is to try to calm down those cells that produce those chemicals. DXM, like low-dose naltrexone, has the ability to antagonize those cells and prevent them from getting into their activated state where they produce all those chemicals. It’s basically kind of putting the brakes on these immune cells that we think are hyperactive.”

The trial will use an extremely low dose of DXM – much lower than what’s typically given to suppress cough – so the drug should be well tolerated by patients, and side effects are expected to be low.

“The primary question will be does it decrease the daily pain severity, but we will also look at fatigue and cognitive symptoms,” Younger said.

Recruitment will be open to fibromyalgia patients living within two hours of Birmingham, Alabama. Patients will be expected to travel to Younger’s lab periodically to pick up their medication and for blood draws. To be considered for the trial, click here and fill out the research study survey on the homepage.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fast tracked Dr. Skip Pridgen’s novel pairing of famciclovir (Famvir), a common antiviral, with celecoxib (Celebrex), an anti-inflammatory arthritis drug, for a phase III trial in 2017. Based on data from a prior phase II trial, the combo known as IMC-1 could give some stiff competition to Lyrica and Cymbalta, two of the most profitable drugs prescribed for fibromyalgia.

Two new fibromyalgia drugs are currently in clinical trials, and a third one will be tested next year.

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  1. Brooke says:

    I think there is definitely something to this. A word of warning to everyone though- Make sure whatever you try that has DXM in it does not have any other active ingredients. Other active ingredients, in high amounts or frequencies, that are commonly with DXM in cough medicines can be very harmful and dangerous.

  2. Vicki Copp says:

    I’m confused about dosing–the article says the trial will be using doses far LOWER than the dosing for supressing cough, but if the dose for cough is 1 or 2 tsp. (10-20mg), how can 30 mg. be the amount used in the study?

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

      That’s really a question for Dr. Younger. My guess is he’s taking into account that you would be taking multiple doses of cough syrup over a 24 hour period to treat a cough. That would add up to more than 30mg in a day, but that is just my own speculation.

  3. Jordan says:

    I picked up some Delsym today after seeing this article – I’m so ready to try anything new, and this seems pretty safe at least for short term (since a lot of people use it for colds).

    The bottle says 10mg is the normal dose, for 12 hours (and not to exceed 20mg in 24 hours). I’m gonna give it a shot for 1 week (10mg a day). Might not be enough to show results, but I’m not gonna try anything risky.

    I’ll be sure to post here if I notice a difference! My biggest complaint right now is major fibro fog (concentration and vision problems, dizzyness and fatigue) and recurring headaches. I feel drunk 24/7 (which sounds fun at first, but it’s awful… I can’t live my life like this). So hoping I stumble on a miracle like this.

    Funny part though? I developed these new symptoms after trying 5mg LDN for a week. Not sure if that kicked up some latent infection in my body, but this is hell going on 3 months now. 🙁

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

      I’m anxious to hear how/if the Delsym works. Let me know how it goes.

  4. Does anyone know how much Dextromethorphan is being used in the trial?

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

      Around 30mg a day.

      • Carolyn Evans says:

        Delsym brand has 30mg per 5ml/tsp❗️
        Have you tried–I’m gonna get some tomorrow ⁉️💙

        • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

          I haven’t tried it yet, but am definitely thinking about it. If you try it, let me know how it goes. I think Dr. Younger’s trial was going to be 16 weeks to allow time for the DXM to work.

          • Nancy Bell says:

            How much and how often will you take?

          • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

            I haven’t figured that out yet. The trial will be using around 30mg a day.

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