Doctor develops new, cheaper test for fibromyalgia


"People shouldn't be looked at as if they're neurotic or hysterical or hypochondriacal," said Dr. Bruce Gillis of EpiGenetics in Santa Monica.

Gillis has developed the FM Test, and he says it is the very first blood test to diagnose fibromyalgia.

In the lab, he measures blood markers found in the immune system. White blood cells produce numerous special proteins, but when you have fibromyalgia, research shows you have less production of two certain types.

"We were struck by the fact that they were not producing these proteins, called chemokines and cytokines in normal quantities," said Gillis.

In a study of 110 patients with a fibromyalgia diagnosis, the test was positive in 93 percent of the cases. Gillis says a lack of the proteins suppresses the immune system, which may explain why patients are vulnerable all types of stress.

"It plays a role, for example, in why a person might have depression, why a person may suddenly develop extreme pain anywhere they're touched, why they have terrible fatigue," Gillis said.

Other doctors who treat fibromyalgia counter that the test won't tell them any more than a clinical exam can. They also point out that the protein markers may be found in people with other illnesses, like rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers in the field say testing for more proteins would make the test more definitive but would cost $1,200 to $1,500.

Gillis' FM test costs $744, and isn't covered by insurance.

"There is some controversy, but you have to understand there are those physicians who are the ones who have been benefiting from those patients, who've been earning thousands of dollars, and now here's this test that says we don't have to spend that money," Gillis said.

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