WHY AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES ARE A BIG DEAL
It’s Time to Learn About the Better, Safer, Less Expensive Treatment Most Doctors Won’t Prescribe
By Julia Schopick, author of “HONEST MEDICINE: Effective, Time-Tested, Inexpensive Treatments for Life-Threatening Diseases”
This incidence of autoimmune disease is skyrocketing, so now is a great time to learn about a treatment that is more effective, less risky, and costs less than many other treatments that doctors prescribe. It’s called LDN — Low Dose Naltrexone — and you may even have heard of it. Yet try asking your doctor for it, and you’ll likely get a no. Welcome to one of the most vexing problems in medicine today, where what you don’t know could seriously affect your life, or the life of a loved one. Nearly all of us know someone suffering from an autoimmune disease — 50 million Americans are living and coping with one. And many people suffer from more than one autoimmune disease. Millions could benefit from this extremely important drug.
LDN has been proven effective in treating a whole range of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and Crohn’s—also Parkinson’s disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s been studied for years — and some research was underwritten by patients themselves, tired of being denied the help they need.
Here’s a crash course in what it is, and why most doctors either don’t know about LDN, or won’t tell their patients about it. LDN is a clear case of knowledge as power, so here are 6 key facts to start with:
50 Million Americans and Counting
There are more than 100 known autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and lupus, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA). The cost of having 50 million Americans afflicted tops $100 billion in direct health care costs every year — and it’s skyrocketing. More than 75 percent of those suffering are women: it’s among the top 10 leading causes of death of women under the age of 65. If there’s a drug that’s been proven effective and would help save tens of millions of people, and save billions of dollars, why is it so hard to find?
A Medical Misunderstanding
Most of the medical community believes that ADs are caused by an overactive immune system, and that the best way to treat them is by suppressing the immune system. Pharmaceutical companies have developed hundreds of drugs to treat autoimmune diseases, since for each autoimmune disease, there are often several available drugs. (One symptom or disease = one drug.) But many of these drugs not only don’t work well, but also put patients at risk to develop horrendous side effects and complications. Some of the drugs for autoimmune diseases can even cause cancer. And when these drugs don’t work, doctors often turn to toxic chemotherapy drugs in an effort to further suppress the immune system, causing patients to develop deadly infections.
One physician, Dr. Bernard Bihari, disagreed with this commonly held belief about autoimmune diseases. In the mid-1980s, this Harvard-educated neurologist/psychiatrist developed an effective, non-toxic, low-cost treatment that acts in a totally different way. He pioneered the effective, off-label, low dose use of a generic drug, naltrexone — which he named Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN). Instead of suppressing the immune system, LDN raises the body’s natural endorphin levels and “modulates” (Dr. Bihari’s term) the immune system, causing it to stop attacking itself and to act correctly, thereby stopping the progression of these diseases. In some cases, LDN reverses them; in other cases, it stops the progression — and has been helping many thousands of people throughout the world for thirty years.
A Byzantine System
We’re in the dark due to a byzantine system that keeps doctors and some of the most effective and safe medicine available apart. While doctors are now allowed to prescribe “off-label” drugs, they need to know about them first. And, like any product, drugs are promoted by their manufacturers — you may have seen pharmaceutical company reps in your doctor’s office. But the drug companies can’t promote a drug for off-label uses. Further, LDN isn’t made by drug companies. It’s prepared by compounding pharmacies — and most doctors are not comfortable with prescribing something that’s not made and marketed by a drug company.
In order for the FDA to approve a drug for use, it needs to have been the subject of big, blockbuster studies. Costing millions if not billions, these are usually underwritten by the only industry that can afford them: the pharmaceutical companies. But there’s another kind of study: reputable, smaller studies by established institutions. And LDN has been the subject of some of the most successful of these for decades, including cutting-edge research at Stanford, the University of California, and Penn State. In at least one case, the patients themselves have sponsored these. They’re tired of waiting for a cure they already know works.
The Good News
There are now active online networks of AD patients all around the world, sharing their stories and working together to get the treatment they need. I offer personal coaching sessions on how to advocate for the treatment, and I cover LDN and other treatments like it in my book Honest Medicine. Having been involved in talking about this on hundreds of talk shows, I can honestly say that more and more, there are doctors out there who do know about this “miracle drug,” and will listen to your request. There’s a groundswell happening, as people become more aware that autoimmune diseases can be helped greatly by this inexpensive, effective, off-label drug. So reach out, and do your homework: when you ask for LDN, it should be as part of a well-researched and documented case that I, and others, can help you with. Here, education is not only empowerment. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, it could save your life.
Julia Schopick is a patient advocate, health writer, and creator of the award-winning blog HonestMedicine.com. The author of the Amazon bestselling book, Honest Medicine: Effective, Time-Tested, Inexpensive Treatments for Life Threatening Diseases, she has appeared on hundreds of talk shows and is often invited back, and her columns and articles have appeared widely in the national press. Schopick coaches patients on how to approach their doctors about treatments they don’t know about. She is now in the process of writing a second book about Low Dose Naltrexone, with co-author Don Schwartz. Learn more at www.HonestMedicine.com.