Dear Pharmacist: I’ve tried everything for rheumatoid arthritis, and I’m still disabled, worse now than several years ago. I’ve spent thousands on Enbrel, Humira, Remicade and Cytoxan. Any advice? — S.C., Miami, Fla.
A: I’m sorry for your anguish and expense. Because you’re “worse now” I question your diagnosis.
With the exception of the immunosuppressive chemo drug Cytoxan, the other three medications you tried are self-injected DMARDs, for “disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs.” They relieve joint inflammation and damage and usually help people with RA, severe psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis. All the meds work by suppressing your immune system, which explains their side effect of increased frequency of infections.
Now, if you have an autoimmune disease (and rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be an autoimmune disease) then DMARDs are reasonable, because they calm the hyperactive immune response. This is why most people with true RA respond. But what about the non-responders to medication, like yourself, the ones who get worse? What if all that swelling, tenderness, pain, deformity and reduced range of motion was not truly RA?
For some of you, those RA symptoms may be driven by a Lyme-related organism called Bartonella, and suppressing your immune system is precisely the wrong thing to do because it worsens symptoms. With infections, one needs to rev immune function, not smack it down. Suppressing your immune system allows the bugs to have a wild party in you, which means pain and swelling.
Bartonella is best known to cause “cat scratch fever.” Infections cause chronic fatigue, joint pain, rheumatoid-like symptoms as well as anxiety, agitation, seizures, psychosis, bipolar, panic and other mental/cognitive problems. Bartonella is considered a Lyme co-infection organism and is transmitted by ticks, fleas or bites and scratches from cats or dogs. A study published in the May 2012 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases sampled 296 patients. Of those, 62 percent had antibodies to Bartonella and 41 percent had remnants of bacterial DNA from the organism strongly indicating that exposure to Bartonella is associated with RA.
The researchers stated, “However, our results thus far do implicate Bartonella as a factor in at least some cases. If the link between Bartonella and rheumatoid illnesses is valid, it may also open up more directed treatment options for patients with rheumatoid illnesses.”
What they mean by “directed treatment options” is antibiotics that kill this bug. The specific offending Bartonella organisms include B. henselae, B. kohlerae and B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii.
Testing for Bartonella or Bartonella-like organisms (BLO) is a huge challenge. If you do test, I urge you to use Igenex Labs (Igenex.com) or Fry Labs (frylabs.com) because other labs commonly produce false negatives, thus prolonging your suffering. Physicians should diagnose you based upon symptoms, your failure to respond to standard RA treatment, Igenex or Fry lab results, and elevated blood levels of “VEGF” which Bartonella microbes produce. Antimicrobials (herbal or prescribed) help eradicate the organism.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For more information about Suzy Cohen, visit her website at www.suzycohen.com.