Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Evaluating a New Treatment

Often I am asked about the latest new miracle cure someone has seen in the news or on the Internet. I give the same basic information. There are certain criteria that you can use to evaluate any treatment you encounter. The following is a reply to a friend who asked me about a "cure" for fibromyalgia. I have fibromyalgia (in addition to lupus) and I know it to be a debilitating, painful condition, although not a fatal one. It doesn't surprise me that a patient would search tirelessly for relief. That makes it even more important to think twice when you come across a newly acclaimed therapy. Desperation should never make you fall for a hoax.

Dear _____:

Here's the deal.

Doctors in practice like positive results. Everyone wants to make their patients better, with a minimum of side effects. If a new treatment is promising, and has good research to support it, most doctors will be using it. Anything that hasn't reached that use is because there is some solid reason: either it doesn't work, or it is too dangerous.

I checked out the information on line about Dr. St. Amand's treatment. A tell-tale sign of an illegitimate claim is that it disparages all other possible treatments. Dr. St. Amand's information clearly tries to discredit other treatments for fibromyalgia that have been shown to be effective and that are widely used.

I looked up guaifenesin in some medical references. It has no actions that would help fibromyalgia. It's action is solely on the formation of mucus in the lungs. Fibromyalgia is a disease that affects sensory nerves and the way pain is perceived in the brain. Moreover, guaifenesin is broken down in the liver. Many other drugs that are used to treat auto-immune disorders and fibromyalgia are metabolized in the liver, so adding to its work with another, unnecessary medication is not wise. In addition, guaifenesin is broken down to make lactic acid, a toxin produced by muscle work. What could be worse for fibro?

Don't forget that there is a placebo effect with any medication. I'm sure Dr. St. Amand could find a roomful of people with fibro who had a placebo effect on his regimen and reported feeling better. That doesn't mean the drug works.


  1. Good for you! Better than recommeding any medication is teaching prospective users what to look for. I am a great believer in learning what works best for you (as opposed to other patients) and why.

  2. Well done. This knitting lupus patient thanks you.