Looking beyond the FDA’s responsibilities to regular drugs, ultimately it is up to the “three P’s” physical pharmacists and patients to make sure the drugs are used wisely and that the FDA’s regulatory efforts result in true benefits to the public.
Dr. S. Harvey Sklar (1979) treated patients with oral herpes. The test was done at Englewood Hospital, New Jersey. Sklar wrote in a 1979 issue of Oral Medicine that pain and discomfort were ameliorated within 48 hours and recurrences were dramatically reduced. Unfortunately the test was not a double-blind study and no placebo was used.
AMP is still being tested and more tests are scheduled. Sklar is confident that AMP will prove someday to be more effective than acyclovir and will be useful in treating labial herpes, genital herpes, and herpes zoster.
Isoprinosine. Isoprinosine, also called Inosiplex, is of interest to investigators for its antiviral properties. It is believed to act against viruses by blocking certain viral processes in infected cells and by enhancing immune factors that are particularly important in fighting herpes. Most antiviral agents attack the DNA and the RNA of the viruses. The danger of this, as we have seen, is the potential of the agents to attack normal cells, thereby possibly changing them to malignant cells. Isoprinosine does not work in this manner. Instead, it increases the rate at which some normal cellular processes take place. This seems to make cells less likely to be taken over by a virus. In a sense the cell is going about its normal business so rapidly that it is more apt to ignore aggression by the virus and is less likely to be invaded.
Isoprinosine has not been approved by the FDA for general distribution in the United States. This approval may be forthcoming someday, but to date there have been no clinical trials that have exhibited clear-cut effectiveness against herpes. There have been tests with encouraging results and there seem to be few side effects with the substance, but all tests or interpretations of results have been flawed.
Despite the lack of FDA approval in the United States, Isoprinosine is sold in 55 countries around the world, including Mexico. It has been used in these countries for years to treat a variety of disorders, including HSV. Because of its extensive use, there is a great deal of feedback on the substance. Some patients and doctors report faster healing of the lesions; others report no difference in healing. Keep in mind the strong placebo effect associated with herpes. There has been no reliable claim that Isoprinosine has been effective in stopping recurrences. Consequently it, like all the other products listed here, is not a cure for herpes. As with all other items, beware of fast operators offering a cure for herpes in a Mexican clinic or anywhere else.
2 Deoxy-D-Glucose (2DG). In the United States 2 deoxy-D-glucose is licensed for experimentation only. It is an antiviral with promise for treating herpesvirus. Recent testing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine gave some rather encouraging results. Investigators there found that if patients were treated early enough in the primary episode, there was a decrease in recurrent episodes. A great deal more testing must be done before this substance will prove to be a generally distributed treatment for HSV.
Lithium. Some of the substances discussed in this chapter have no merit and some give great hope for the future. Many of them may prove toxic if taken in large enough doses. A few of them are relatively safe. Lithium is definitely not among the latter group. This is a potent psychoactive substance used for psychiatric disorders. There is some truth to the fact that treatment with lithium has resulted in a reduction in the frequency and severity of herpes attacks. This discovery may eventually lead to therapeutic developments involving lithium as a treatment, but such treatment is certainly premature at this time.
Symptoms of lithium toxicity include nausea, vomiting, headaches, disorientation, convulsions, kidney disease, hypothyroidism and death. Studies are planned with this drug, but until it proves effective for herpes and safe dosage is established, do not use it.
The same doctor in 1974 reported another problem with dye-light therapy in Medical World News. The dye was found to be able to permeate healthy cells as well as herpes-infected cells. It was felt the dye might be able to convert a healthy cell into a cancerous one. The doctor who originated the dye-light therapy was not convinced and the technique was practice: in many areas.
The beginning of the end for dye-light therapy came ii November of 1975. In The New England Journal of Medicine Dr. Myers of Harvard Medical School did a placebo-controlled study of dye-light therapy. Dr. Myers’ tests showed that dye-light had no better results in healing patterns or pattern of recurrence than test subjects without the therapy. Th conclusion was that since the therapy was ineffective an there was the potential for damage, the practice should b discontinued. Dye-light therapy is no longer recommended for herpes treatment and is considered by many to in dangerous.
Inﬂuenza Virus Vaccine (IVV). In 1979 Dr.J.B. Millert the University of Alabama Medical School reported results 1 a long-term study on relatively few patients. The finding were published by the general press in such a way that gave the impression IVV was a cure for HSV.
Dr. Miller’s test was not double-blind, nor was it placebo controlled. The treatment was based on the theory that the vaccine would bolster the patient’s immune system again HSV. There have been no tests that show this to be the ca: IVV side effects and risks include fever, malaise, allergy reactions and several others. Vaccines are given to people prevent disease in small doses at infrequent intervals. The amount of vaccine the proponents of IVV suggested administering is much more than one would receive as routine precaution for flu and this is considered excessive ‘ most doctors. For these reasons IVV has never be considered a valid treatment for herpes.
Smallpox Vaccine, Polio Vaccine, Yellow Vaccine. These are all vaccines containing a live virus Vaccines are used to prevent disease and have not been approved for treatment of herpes in the United States. Several vaccines such as those above have been tried, but have been ineffective in preventing recurrences of herpes simplex. All vaccines have certain risks and should not be used except when the benefits clearly outweigh the risks.
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG). BCG is a live bacteria vaccine used to prevent tuberculosis. In the limited testing against herpesvirus, it proved to be ineffective and is no longer considered of value in treating herpes simplex virus.
Topical Ether. Ether is a drying agent and we know that viruses die when they become dry. Ether was used successfully to inactivate herpesvirus in a test tube. This is perhaps what lead Dr. A.B. Sabin, discoverer of the oral polio vaccine, to suggest that besides soothing the pain, ether may interfere with viral replication and therefore decrease recurrences. Sabin indicated that clinical testing of ether in the treatment of herpes should be initiated. Many professionals in the medical community took issue with Sabin’s theories.
Dr. Lawrence Corey (1978), one of the world’s foremost authorities on herpes, did a study at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The one-year controlled study was described in The New England journal of Medicine. He reported that rates of recurrence and lesion severity were no different in the group treated with ether and the control group. Another study done at the University of Utah College of Medicine confirmed Dr. Corey’s findings. Dr. Mary E. Guinan, et al., found that although ether inactivates herpesvirus in a test tube situation, a ten-minute application of ether directly to herpes lesions did not significantly reduce the concentration of viruses. Dr. Guinan wrote that despite hey were unable to show that ether was they received, whether they were using ether or the placebo. She felt that this illustrates the considerable placebo effect in treatment of herpes simplex virus, which is at least partially responsible for the disparity in results by investigators using subjective assessments and those using objective measurements. This reemphasizes the need for both placebo control and objective measurements in treatment studies of recurrent HSV. The results of these two studies invalidate the application of ether as a remedy for the treatment of herpes.
Lupidon-G Vaccine. Lupidon-G vaccine is a killed strain of HSV-2 which was developed in Germany and used to treat genital herpes in several countries other than the United States. In tests conducted in Germany, Lupidon-G was found to have no effect in preventing recurrences and only marginal improvement was seen in active cases. A related strain, Lupidon-H (a variety developed for labial herpes), has never been approved for use in the United States and is, in fact, no longer being manufactured in Germany.
Gossypol. This is a new substance developed originally in China as a male contraceptive. It is a cottonseed oil extract and has been found to inhibit the growth of viruses in laboratory situations. In a Channel 4 interview in Los Angeles on November 5, 1982, Dr. Tampani Luukkainen said “The compound Gossypol is antiviral and could prevent herpes infection. In the laboratory, very low concentration ls inhibiting completely the growth of herpesvirus. We wen also very surprised that when we have infection of tissue culture and we add low concentration into culture mediums we had an inhibition of the growth and cure of the herpesvirus.”
While this sounds encouraging, Dr. Jerry Eder sail during the same interview that Gossypol will not be on th drugstore shelf soon. Dr. Eder said, “The initial side effect were 10 percent impotence or diminished libido, liver enzym abnormalities, and loss of potassium. A drug like that in work in the lab, but it is too dangerous for people.”
Antibiotics. Penicillin or tetracycline have no effect 01 HSV. They do not lessen the severity of lesions. They do no prevent recurrences. Antibiotics kill bacteria but have n: effect on herpesvirus. They may be used in some cases ta treat secondary infections, but should not be used to treat any form of herpes.
Corticosteroids. Corticosteroid creams and ointment: that are used as anti-inflammatory agents do not seem tc lessen the severity of herpes and are not recommended. The lesions must be kept dry with good air circulation unless they are covered by something proven to be more beneficial than dryness, such as acyclovir.
THE HOME “NON-CURES”
Armed with the above information, you will appreciate how silly and downright useless many of the home cures for herpes are. Many of them may be dangerous. Frustrated herpes sufferers will try almost anything to effect a cure. The following is a list of substances that have been tried at one time or another by people suffering from the painful lesions of herpes:
cactus sappeppermint oil
fingernail polish remover honey
The above products are just a small sampling of chemicals that have been applied to herpes sores. The list is almost endless, and you could then make up a whole new list of substances that have been taken internally. After reading what a new drug must go through to be considered safe or useful, you might guess just what kind of validity these items have.
A FINAL NOTE
We have covered many supposed cures. We have also covered some agents that have great promise but need further testing. If you need to evaluate something that has not been covered, be sure to check whether or not the agent was tested using double-blind studies with placebo control. Check what side effects were noticed, if any. Remember that there is mounting proof that patient assessment is not by itself reliable or valuable in determining if a treatment is effective. The placebo effect is much too strong, especially in herpes. Until science has another breakthrough drug that has been tested properly with double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, beware of home treatments and treatments touted by the media. If in doubt, check with your physician.