Fixing Stupid – Not Limited to Fibromyalgia Treatment

Fixing Stupid - Not Limited to Fibromyalgia Treatment

Editor’s Note: Tom Muehlbauer is President and CEO of Avacen Medical, which develops products for the non-narcotic treatment of chronic pain. Avacen is also a sponsor of the National Pain Report. His column addresses some of the hurdles that business people encounter in trying to develop treatment of chronic pain.

In reading a recent National Pain Report post “Can the Fibromyalgia Code Fix Stupid?” from Rosemary Lee, I realized I have also had to address “stupid” as it relates to raising capital to build and market a unique medical device based on some excellent clinical trials for fibromyalgia.

I have actually decided to write a book about my journey (tentative title: “750 Miles per Gallon”). In the book outline I have a chapter about what it takes to specifically fight stupid to deliver an effective drug free medical treatment for fibromyalgia. The Chapter is titled “No Where to Land.” In it, I talk about visiting with a seasoned investor several years ago (one who lives every minute by the Golden Rule: “He who has the Gold makes the Rules”).

I’ll never forget this particular meeting. First of all, I was very excited to speak to this potential investor because we had just received excellent news regarding the results of our fibromyalgia clinical trials. And second, this would surely get our device approved by the FDA (this subject fills a couple of chapters) as the first medical device indicated to treat the widespread pain associated with fibromyalgia (unfortunately, a huge international market).

After some chit-chat about San Diego Chargers football, he leaned back in his chair, looked me in the eye, then with a half-smile on his face asked; “So… you want me to invest in a new airline that is going to fly to a city that doesn’t exist?” At first I thought he must think I am someone else. Just as I was about to reintroduce myself, I noticed he was holding my Private Placement Memorandum in his right hand. Then I realized that it was his very clever way (in his mind) of telling me that even though our fibromyalgia clinical trials where over-the-top, he thought I didn’t have a market for my device because fibromyalgia doesn’t exist.

I tried to educate him. Even had a lady with severe fibromyalgia, who was using our device, on standby to speak about her experience and no longer needing to use Lyrica (she and her husband later became significant investors).

Talk about having your celebration balloon popped! After a few more similar meetings I was, just like Rosemary, almost embarrassed to say the word fibromyalgia.

Then one day I remembered that professional investors are looking for reasons to say no, so for a time I dropped discussing fibromyalgia and concentrated on the raising capital to fund trials for migraines and autoimmune diseases; even bigger markets for which we had great anecdotal results. This worked.

Of course things have changed since then. More people have heard about fibromyalgia and especially those practicing medicine understand it is a very serious problem. Well as I recently discovered… not everyone.

Only a few weeks ago a M.D. from Florida was the first to visit our table at “PainWeek” in Las Vegas. Intrigued by our backdrop showing people in different sports attire, framed by our “Pain Free is Freedom” motto, he stopped abruptly to ask what we were about. After explaining our novel approach to pain treatment he asked, “any clinical trials?”

Sure do… I happily exclaimed! Partnered with The Department of Veteran Affairs and University of California San Diego. Really great results!! I expect we will be the first medical device to be FDA approved to treat fibromyalgia.

His response, “Fibromyalgia? Those people are crazy. I won’t treat them… they waste my time. I have a meeting to attend. Good luck.” I was in shock and by the time I was composed enough to respond, he was gone.

Since then I have thought about getting some stickers printed to use in such situations. Our booth staff would then be tasked to discreetly place the sticker on the back of those who express stupid opinions.  The stickers will say “KICK ME… I’M STUPID!”

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Authored by: Tom Muehlbauer

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I read your article to my wife. She shakes her head at these “Fibromyalgia truthers”.

Kim Miller

It’s unfathomable that there are still supposed medical professionals that “don’t believe in” Fibromyalgia. I would be embarrassed to call myself a doctor in the presence of such a fool as the person referenced in this article. To think, there are some unfortunate individuals who have not yet discovered the truth about this person’s alleged medical prowess, and likely continue to see him as patients.

It’s an upside down world where doctors are questioned for treating patients with perfectly legal drugs for chronic pain, but there’s not one eyebrow raised when one claims a well documented, well established condition is “not real”.

Thomas Muehlbauer

DFW Mom,

It’s been 25 minutes since I typed… “DFW Mom,”

I want to say something to you but I realize that whatever I say it really can’t sooth over what has happened to you and your daughter.

I’m sure you realize that not all doctors are like those you speak of (I’m not a doctor) but it’s still difficult to accept that there are any doctors like that.

The first time I realized that money is a strong motivator for many with their own practices is when we returned to collect our device after a 30 day trial to hear that our product didn’t “fit into their business model”. This of course was a shock because the reviews from their patients and staff were glowing.

After several of these rejections it became hard to hold back and say “you mean it doesn’t fit into your revenue model.”

Even then, I rationalized that these trusted providers of medical care had bills to pay and they really believed that they were helping just as much as our device was. I never used the word “ethical” because I couldn’t or didn’t want to believe that might be the case.

That’s when we changed our marketing strategy to go directly to our customers. At least their only motivation to be pain free is something we can address.

I hope my original post didn’t cause you to think that all doctors are stupid. Along my journey to develop a drug free, non-invasive method to treat chronic pain I have met many dedicated medical doctors who I am proud to know. There are plenty out there.

Perhaps the answer is to avoid being treated by the same doctor who puts forth the diagnosis. At least that way you can ask upfront “I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia… have you been successful in treating fibromyalgia?” Their answer will be very telling.


It is the medical community that is “stupid”. Just as most Fibromyalgia patients have done, I drank the Koolaid for a while. I went to the “Pain Clinic”, where you are taught that your pain is part of you, that you will always have pain. Relax, close your eyes and imagine your pain isn’t there (sort of like the familar advice to rape victims to “Lie Back and Enjoy It”). For this “medical treatment” we were charged $550 an office visit for my child’s care. And, of course, they almost never asked about, nor treated, all the other hundred plus symptoms, the cognitive impairment, the circulation problems, the dizziness, syncope, body temperature regulation problems, frequent falls and gait changes, dermatographia, Raynauds, sleep impairment, vision and eye tracking problems, and the myriad other symptoms of this horrible illness, except as a vague afterthought. And, we learned. The medical profession are snake oil salesman. When they don’t have a real, effective treatment, they just sell fake treatments. Money is their God. Your illness is just an opportunity to get paid. I heard one doctor touting his “treatment” for schizophrenia, touting work and family as part of his “multi-modal” approach. School and work and family are not medical treatments. They are your social support network. You don’t have to pay a doctor to tell you to engage with your school, or work or family. You can do that for yourself. But — if you don’t watch out, a doctor will charge you $550 per office visit to sell that advice to you as a “treatment”, then brag about it on the radio. What doctors don’t understand is that we’ve done all that. We did what we could for ourselves. Then, we went to you for MEDICAL treatment, something that we CAN’T do for ourselves, not to pay a big fat bill just to hear that we should seek help from our own family. If what I really need is my family, then I don’t need you, and there’s no reason to pay you any of my money, or get my insurance to pay you any of my money. So — don’t try to sell my family to me, like it’s something you invented. It’s a nice con, but I’m on to you. These are the people who say fibromyalgia patients are “crazy”. These “doctors” who don’t have a clue what Primary Juvenile Fibromyalgia is or how to treat it. Tell that to my beautiful child. Tell a fourteen year old that she is “crazy” for having a disease that she inherited from her Grandmother, that those symptoms that I spoke about above don’t really exist, even though the doctor, herself, saw her random Pains (if you have fibromyalgia, you’ll know why it’s capitalized. They are “The Pains”, almost like a living creature with a personality of its own, torturing you every minute of your life) on the biofeedback machine . Saw it with her own eyes, and then said, “NOW we know your… Read more »

Wonderfully written, clever and poignant. Please order extra signs for me to use.

Good luck


I can get someone having the stance that maybe Fibromyalgia patients may possibly have another condition that hasn’t been diagnosed yet… but to say we are ‘crazy’ is ridiculous.

Even I wonder sometimes if my diagnosis will turn out to be another condition.
I’ve had pain for as long as I can remember. I’ve also had unstable joints for as long as I can remember, as well as being double jointed and very flexible. I’ve also got a hypermobility syndrome diagnosis, and I wonder sometimes if that is actually the source of my pain - but I’m not a doctor, so I’m going to trust the diagnoses of the doctors. Maybe the diagnoses will get changed down the road, IDK, but it’s ridiculous to call a diagnosis from a legit doctor ‘fake’ just because one doesn’t understand how the condition works.

It sucks you are having to deal with these people, but it’s awesome you are working so hard to get a newer treatment out there.
I’m lucky in that the only aholes I deal with who think it is fake are family, and no one in the medical field.


I wonder.. if there was such a device that made a remarkable difference in the lives of Fibro sufferers, how much would big pharma pay or be willing to do to stop it? Let’s face it, if sales of Cymbalta, Lyrica and Neurontin were suddenly axed by half, because of your new device, you might not be everyone’s best buddy. Don’t quit!


Iam a artist I was able to create emotion’s and feelings and a journal’s what I was going through for the past year


The first thing that Dr.’s need, which starts in Medical School, is to learn the words compassion and empathy.
Patients just aren’t making these conditions up and Dr.’s need to realize that Fibromyalgia is a REAL condition, although I think if Dr.’s did a little more research on their patients, they may find the real cause of people’s pain i.e. Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome and many other diseases that cause Fibromyalgia type symptoms.
Pain is pain and it will differ in each person. With Fibromyalgia, which may I say is still under researched, deals with an overactive nervous system which then affects many body systems. So instead of trying to make a device to treat this chronic pain, researchers need to go back and understand the basic anatomy of the body again and start from the beginning to start to understand this disease!

Thomas Muehlbauer


So sorry to here about your condition.

We did get funding and our device is now available for purchase on our website:

Lori Strout

am a person with fibro was taking amitriptyline for about three years. went off of it for a drug trial for milnasiprin that raised my heart beat to 140 beats per minute. went back to the clinic this time the put me on vicoden then percocet just made me dopey. then methadone, methocarbamol, amitriptyline, melatonin, for about 3 years. stopped taking the methadone because it raised my blood pressure. I am getting a pain implant in my spinal cord on the 29 of october also have arthritis and scoliosis. have had scoliosis as a preteen went to chiropractor for almost a year said i was cured huh fooled him i still have it. have always had neck pain as long as i can mother had fibro i think and 1 of my sisters has fibromyalgia.. if you get financing give me a ring. lori strout