S-Ketamine for Patients with Neurological Injury – Revising a Dogma


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Continueing on yesterday’s discussion of S-Ketamine, here, there is an interesting Anesthesia & Analgesia review article 2005, entitled:

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Revising a Dogma: Ketamine for Patients with Neurological Injury?

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Money quote:

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“In the laboratory, ketamine has neuroprotective, and S(+)-ketamine additional neuroregenerative effects, even when administered after onset of a cerebral insult. However, improved outcomes were only reported in studies with brief recovery observation intervals. In developing animals, and in certain brain areas of adult rats without cerebral injury, neurotoxic effects were noted after large-dose ketamine. These were prevented by coadministration of GABA receptor agonists.”

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If we are to use ketamine in the setting of intractable conditions, because nothing else works at all or works better, we must begin to have more data. Its effects on the brain seen in animals has specifically never been proven to occur in humans. We need more data in humans after chronic use.

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Those who are disabled, deserve the choice to continue what works for desperate situations. At the same time, much needed research should be done on both racemic and S-ketamine. The affordable racemic ketamine, generic, off patent, and the S-Ketamine yet to be on market. S-Ketamine may be so strictly defined by FDA indications as to restrict its use considerably.

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And for chronic depression, outside of emergency, insurers may not  cover without step therapy and prior authorization. That and cost will severely limit its use.

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PUBLIC WARNING

reprinted with permission of Demitri Papolos, MD
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Ketamine is a controlled substance.
Administered improperly, or without the guidance of a qualified doctor,
Ketamine may cause injury or death.
No attempt should be made to use Ketamine
in the absence of counsel from a qualified doctor.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.
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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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This site is not for email and not for appointments.

If you wish an appointment, please telephone the office to schedule.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please ignore the ads below. They are not from me.

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Ketamine Intranasal for Rapid Relief of Pain and Depression


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Poorly managed pain can evolve into chronic disease of the nervous system

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Ketamine is an important analgesic, more important than opioids. It can dramatically reduce pain, and rapidly relieve depression and PTSD.  Please read my earlier posts here and here. And the NPR report here just after I posted this (skip to their last section). Yes, it is FDA approved and legal. One woman said:

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 ‘It was almost immediate, the sense of calmness and relaxation.

‘No more fogginess. No more heaviness. I feel like I’m a clean slate right now. I want to go home and see friends or, you know, go to the grocery store and cook the family dinner.’

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NPR again reports ketamine’s rapid relief of depression. A 28 year old man whose refractory depression began at age 15, after ketamine, says:

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‘I Wanted To Live Life’

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Stephens himself has vivid memories of the day he got ketamine. It was a Monday morning and he woke up feeling really bad, he says. His mood was still dark when doctors put in an IV and delivered the drug.”Monday afternoon I felt like a completely different person,” he says. “I woke up Tuesday morning and I said, ‘Wow, there’s stuff I want to do today.’ And I woke up Wednesday morning and Thursday morning and I actually wanted to do things. I wanted to live life.”.
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Since then, they treated him with Riluzole that is FDA approved for ALS and has one of the dirtiest side effect profiles I have ever seen in medicine with serious organ toxicity. Ketamine rarely causes mild transient side effects, usually none. It appears the concern is how ketamine is used on the street with potential for abuse. I do not see ketamine abuse in my patients, some of whom are on opioids for pain or Valium family medicines from their psychiatrist. All of those have a greater potential for abuse, also not occurring in my patients. Pain and/or depression can lead to suicide.
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About 18 months ago, researchers at Yale found a possible explanation for ketamine’s effectiveness. It seems to affect the glutamate system in a way that causes brain cells to form new connections.
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Researchers have long suspected that stress and depression weaken some connections among brain cells. Ketamine appears to reverse the process.

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It would be of interest to see a case report of the bladder problems they mention. Is this in a single drug addict who used many unknown medications on the street? Several physicians have infused IV ketamine for persons with pain for many years, in far higher doses than I prescribe, with no report of any but transient minor symptoms.

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David Barsook’s 2009 review, reference below, describes changes that cause memory loss and brain atrophy with chronic pain, in particular, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), and they also occur with chronic depression:

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With the onset of chronic pain (including CRPS) a number of changes in brain function occur in the human brain including but not limited to: (1) central sensitization ; (2) functional plasticity in chronic pain and in CRPS; (3) gray matter volume loss in CRPS ; (4) chemical alterations; and (5) altered modulatory controls. Such changes are thought to be in part a result of excitatory amino acid release in chronic pain. Excitatory amino acids are present throughout the brain and are normally involved in neural transmission but may contribute to altered function with excessive release producing increased influx of calcium and potentially neural death.

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Brain atrophy and memory loss has also been shown in chronic low back pain as well as in chronic depression.

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Barriers to management of chronic pain are many:

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Although opioids are effective for acute pain, effective treatment of chronic pain is often daunting, particularly neuropathic pain.

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Opioids have been shown to create pain causing imbalance in the glial cytokines that favor pain rather than relief of pain. Opioids carry the risk of opioid-induced hyperalgesia which is a severe pain sensitivity. They affect the brain and endocrine system. Opioids may fail to offer significant relief, fail to improve function, and risk misuse, abuse, diversion and death. Their costs are astronomic, insurance coverage is increasingly limited, the potential for complications may be life threatening in a hectic medical setting, side effects can be lethal, lack of physician training in use of opioids and alternatives to pain control lead to increasing deaths, addiction and diversion. It has become a national emergency and a trillion dollar war on drugs.

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Complications can be greatly reduced through use of a scrupulous history and physical examination, but reimbursement is directly proportional to the shortest time spent with a patient. Will that help assessment and care?

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Individuals may have dramatically different responses to opioid therapy; some may not tolerate any, and relief must be balanced with side effects that increase as the dose increases. Patient status may change and require IV, rectal or tube delivery instead of oral formulas; drug-drug interactions may require rapid changes, and disease of kidney, liver or brain may require modifications or stopping altogether. They may increase risk of falls and cause central sleep apnea with drop in oxygen because the brain fails to give a signal to breathe.

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Chronic pain can lead to loss of sleep, hopelessness, depression, anger and other mood disorders such as panic, anxiety, hypochondriasis and post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]. Treatment of mood disorders are shown to profoundly reduce pain perception and/or ability to cope with pain.

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Ketamine is anti-inflammatory and can reduce the need for opioid use, thus reducing the pain and side effects caused by opioids.

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Nasal ketamine is more effective than oral ketamine for pain relief; oral dosing has no effect on depression.

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Nasal delivery of ketamine is now possible due to advances in metered nasal sprayers that deliver a precise dose. No needle is required, no IV access, no travel to a specialist needed.

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You can carry pain relief with you and use it as directed when it is needed.

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Ketamine is an NMDA antagonist: it antagonizes the NMDA receptor which plays a profound role in pain systems and centralization of pain.

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Ketamine is neuroprotective and it can help other disease states as noted by Barsook, 2009:

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Besides improvement in pain, “there may be lessons from other diseases that affect the brain; it is noteworthy that acute ketamine doses seem to reverse depression and ketamine decreased prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers receiving ketamine during their surgery for treatment of their burns. In addition ketamine attenuates post-operative cognitive dysfunction following cardiac surgery that has been known to produce significant changes in cognition. [emphasis mine] The data suggest that the drug can alter or prevent other conditions based on its NMDAR activity where other drugs NMDA receptor antagonists are perhaps not as effective in these or pain conditions. Lastly, NMDA antagonists have been used in degenerative disease (and pain may be considered a degenerative disease as defined by loss of gray matter volume, see above) with mixed effects perhaps relating to how they act on specific NMDA subtypes. Taken together, ketamine may act not only on sensory systems affecting pain intensity, but also on a constellation of brain regions that are involved in the pain phentype. [sic, phenotype]”

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Side Effects

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Ketamine is more frequently used in babies and children than in adults because high doses of ketamine can induce hallucinations in the adult. Importantly, it is used in high dose in adults for treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Low doses, cause little or no side effects in adults. If present, they are transient and often resolve in 20 minutes. Patient who respond to ketamine report good acceptance as they find the relief of pain and/or depression far outweighs any short term minimal discomfort.

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Pain care reform is urgently needed.

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Research funding for pain is less than half of one percent of the NIH budget. More research is needed, but research on low dose ketamine for treatment of pain and depression has gone on for twenty years.

The public health crisis of untreated pain, which often results in disability, parallels the country’s struggle to halt the cost of health care. The longer a person remains with untreated pain, the less likely they are to return to work or to be employable.

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Conclusion

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Pain control requires urgent attention. It is past time to put into practice the use of this valuable medication so people can get on with life instead of being mired in chronic pain that for many risks suicide and ensures continuing decades of disability. Academic studies are usually limited by defining a predetermined dose rather than clinically titrating to effect. Thus no surprise, they find no effect as every patient will have no response until they reach their dose. And that dose, in my experience, falls into a bell shaped curve. One size does not fit all. Some respond at very low dose, others require much more, and the majority fall between.

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In my experience prescribing ketamine for ten years, only a rare person has problems. Almost all find it has returned function or significantly relieved pain. Some have been able to entirely eliminate opioids that did nothing for their pain for decades, though they dutifully returned to the MD every month to chronicle that pain. Pain continued to be rated ten on a scale of ten; patient always compliant despite side effects of constipation and often depression. My patients find the benefits of nasal ketamine far outweigh the relief of oral ketamine and at much lower doses with fewer side effects.

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Further, while the pain relief may be short lived, some find it gets better with repeat dosing, and relief of depression may last one to two weeks with a single dose.

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References

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http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/10/1028.asp  Ketamine suppresses intestinal NF-kappa B activation and proinflammatory cytokine in endotoxic rats.

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CONCLUSION: Ketamine can suppress endotoxin-induced production of proinflammatory cytokines such as TNF-a and IL-6 production in the intestine. This suppressive effect may act through inhibiting NF-kappa B.

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http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/J354v16n03_03  Ketamine as an Analgesic Parenteral, Oral, Rectal, Subcutaneous, Transdermal and Intranasal Administration

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Ketamine is a parenteral anesthetic agent that provides analgesic activity at sub-anesthetic doses. It is an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist with opioid receptor activity. Controlled studies and case reports on ketamine demonstrate efficacy in neuropathic and nociceptive pain. Because ketamine is a phencyclidine analogue, it has some of the psychological adverse effects found with that hallucinogen, especially in adults. Therefore, ketamine is not routinely used as an anesthetic in adult patients. It is a frequently used veterinary anesthetic, and is used more frequently in children than in adults. The psychotomimetic effects have prompted the DEA to classify ketamine as a Schedule III Controlled Substance. A review of the literature documents the analgesic use of ketamine by anesthesiologists and pain specialists in patients who have been refractory to standard analgesic medication regimens. Most reports demonstrate no or mild psychotomimetic effects when ketamine is dosed at sub-anesthetic doses. Patients who respond to ketamine tend to demonstrate dramatic pain relief that obviates the desire to stop treatment due to psychotomimetic effects (including hallucinations and extracorporeal experiences). Ketamine is approved by the FDA for intravenous and intramuscular administration. Use of this drug by the oral, intranasal, transdermal, rectal, and subcutaneous routes has been reported with analgesic efficacy in treating nociceptive and neuropathic pain.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15109503  Safety and efficacy of intranasal ketamine for the treatment of breakthrough pain in patients with chronic pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study  Daniel Carr, et al, 2004
Crossover, 20 patients. Ketamine reduced breakthrough pain within 10min of dosing, lasting up to 60min
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288418  Safety and efficacy of intranasal ketamine in a mixed population with chronic pain
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The intranasal route for ketamine administration has been applied only for pain of dressing changes in a single case study (Kulbe, 1998). In this patient, oxycodone and acetaminophen were ineffective to control pain during burn dressing changes in a 96-year-old woman cared for at home. She tolerated the burn dressing changes after three intranasal sprays of 0.1 ml each, in rapid succession, each containing 5 mg ketamine (15 mg total) (Kulbe, 1998).
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http://www.acutepainjournal.com/article/S1366-0071%2807%2900167-2/abstract  Safety and efficacy of intranasal ketamine for acute postoperative pain
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Ketamine delivered intranasally was well tolerated. Statistically significant analgesia, superior to placebo, was observed with the highest dose tested, 50 mg, over a 3 h period. Rapid onset of analgesia was reported (<10 min), and meaningful pain relief was achieved within 15 min of the 50 mg dose. The majority of adverse events were mild/weak and transient. No untoward effects were observed on vital signs, pulse oximetry, and nasal examination. At the doses tested, no significant dissociative effects were evident using the Side Effects Rating Scale for Dissociative Anaesthetics.
The safety profile following treatment with ketamine was comparable to that seen with placebo.
Although patients did report side effects of fatigue, dizziness and feelings of unreality more often following treatment with ketamine than following treatment with placebo, no patient reported hallucinations and the side effects were generally reported to be of mild or moderate severity, and transient. No serious adverse events were reported and the incidences of associated adverse events were comparable for ketamine and placebo. Although study medication was administered intranasally, nasal signs and symptoms were few and inconsequential. A distinctive taste, however, was reported more often following treatment with ketamine than following treatment with placebo.In conclusion this randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, in 20 patients, has demonstrated that intranasal ketamine is safe and effective for BTP [breakthrough pain]. Our findings augment an early but promising literature documenting the effectiveness of nasal administration of a variety of opioids for pain management in adults (Dale et al., 2002) .
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~http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2875542/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2875542/  Ketamine and chronic pain – Going the distance, David Barsook, 2009

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This important paper covers essential points not mentioned by many, thus quoted at length below:

“Ketamine, brain function and therapeutic effect – neuroprotective or neurotoxic

With the onset of chronic pain (including CRPS) a number of changes in brain function occur in the human brain including but not limited to: (1) central sensitization ; (2) functional plasticity in chronic pain and in CRPS; (3) gray matter volume loss in CRPS ; (4) chemical alterations ; and (5) altered modulatory controls. Such changes are thought to be in part a result of excitatory amino acid release in chronic pain. Excitatory amino acids are present throughout the brain and are normally involved in neural transmission but may contribute to altered function with excessive release producing increased influx of calcium and potentially neural death. Here lies the conundrum the use of an agent that potentially deleteriously affect neurons that may already be compromised but may also have neuroprotective properties by mechanisms that include reducing phosphorylation of glutamate receptors resulting in decreased glutamatergic synaptic transmission and reduced potential excitotoxicity . Alternatively, ketamine may affect glia regulation of glutamate and inhibit glutamate release within glia. However, by whatever mechanism ketamine acts on CRPS pain, there does seem to be a dose/duration effect in that longer doses at levels tolerated by patients seem to prove more effective in terms of the duration of effects.

So what could be happening in the brain and what is required to alter brain systems and reverse the symptomatic state? Ketamine may diminish glutamate transmission and “resets” brain circuits, but it seems that a minimal dose and/or duration of treatment is required. Alternatively, ketamine may produce neurotoxicity and damage or produce a chemical lesion of affected neurons. These two issues are important to be understood in future trials. Reports from patients who have had anesthetic doses have included prolonged pain relief for many months. While the authors did not address issues such as the effect of dosing duration or repetitive dosing at say 6weeks, they did show a level of efficacy based on NNT that equals or betters most drug trials for this condition.”

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“Conclusions

As a community we have a major opportunity to define the efficacy and use of a drug that may offer more to CRPS (and perhaps other) patients than is currently available. This is clearly an opportunity that needs urgent attention and a number of questions remain to be answered. For example, is ketamine more effective in early stage disease? How does ketamine provide long-term effects? Further controlled trials evaluating dose, duration, anesthetic vs. non-anesthetic dosing are needed. Few of us really understand what it is like to suffer from a chronic pain condition such as CRPS. Ketamine therapy may be a way forward that can be brought into our clinical practice through further controlled studies that will allow for appropriate standards for use in patients.”

 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice,
diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.
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Please understand that it is not legal for me to give medical advice without a consultation.

If you wish an appointment, please telephone my office or contact your local psychiatrist.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!
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Over the counter pain killers linked to hearing loss


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Analgesic Use and the Risk of Hearing Loss in Men

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Dr. Sharon G. Curhan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and her colleagues studied 26,917 men aged 40-74 years at baseline in 1986 and every two years. These were men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Regular use of analgesics was defined as 2+ times/week.

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Among all men who used aspirin at least twice a week, there was a 12% increased risk of hearing loss.
Among those who used ibuprofen and related analgesics, there was a 21% increase.
And for those who used acetaminophen, a 22% risk.

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But the risk was much higher when they considered only men younger than 50.

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In that group, there was a
33%  increased risk for aspirin use,
61% increase for ibuprofen and related NSAIDs, and
99% increase for acetaminophen.

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The younger the man and the more years used, the greater the risk of hearing loss.

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The study involved only male Caucasians, thus no conclusions can be drawn on risk of use for women and other racial groups.

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Vitamins and Herbs – Risks and Benefits


Most doctors have little if any training in vitamins and supplements

except as they relate to their specialty.

My field of neurology concerns itself with metabolic and nutritional diseases more than most areas of expertise, and I have an interest in several vitamins because of research related to major causes of mortality in the United States.

During the period I taught at a cancer center, I was concerned that research protocols may be misleading as these supplements were not accounted for, however since that time in the mid 90’s, I’m glad that public interest has pushed this field into the fore.  Major cancer centers now have active research in Complementary and Integrative Medicine (CAM) because there are risks and benefits, and some have significant herb-drug interactions as discussed below.

Check your vitamins and supplements for toxicity

Because of the growing science on toxicity, usefulness, and drug interactions, if you use vitamins, review each one carefully with your physician and with the websites listed in the column on your right. Some “vitamins” are simply brand names that have over 20 different vitamins, minerals and various ingredients.  This means you must review each one for current research benefits and risks.

At special risk for vitamin deficiencies are those who have highly restricted diets, abdominal resection, intestinal conditions, colitis, Celiac Disease, gastric bypass, HIV, or the elderly.

Pregnant women have special needs that are essential not only for their own health but to reduce the risk of neurological defects in the fetus.  It is essential in their case to work closely with their obstetrician, especially if morning sickness prevents them from taking their daily supplement.

Resources

One of the best resources I have found is Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Herbs and Botanicals, also linked on the column at right.  Their website is updated frequently with an excellent review of the literature.  It is hosted by a senior physician who has specialized in the field for decades and is actively involved in research at their center as well as NIH.

MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Complementary/Integrative Medicine Education Resources website andColumbia University’s Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine are two others, but there are other resources on the web and books that are excellent.

Recipe for Rum Soaked Salmon with Apple Ginger Puree is found here.

VITAMINS & SUPPLEMENTS

Vitamin D has become a major research topic in recent years.  It may play a more important role than any listed below.   I have written separately on it and its controversy in greater detail.  Please refer to the last post by scrolling down.

Fish Oil

Omega 3 Fish Oils are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for health yet cannot be made by the body.  Unless you eat several servings per week of fatty fish or wild salmon, not farmed salmon, it is one of the most important supplements that any adult of any age can take.  They are needed for building cell membranes in the brain but our body does not make them.   Fish oil helps your lipid profile by reducing triglycerides as much as 45%.  It reduces platelet clotting, lowers risk of heart attack and cardiac arrhythmia, and is an important anti-inflammatory reducing pain for many particularly those with arthritis.  One of thebest references on Omega 3 Fatty Acids is by  Dr. Frank Sacks, Professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health.   He mentions high doses “are used to treat depression. New studies are identifying potential benefits for a wide range of conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.”

One high quality fish oil, Lovaza, has been approved by the FDA and is prescription only.  Fish oil and cod liver oil available over the counter should be checked for adequate dosages of EPA and DHA that will vary with your needs as determined by your lipid profile, and should be purified to remove cholesterol, dioxin, PCB’s and other pesticides.

Co-Enzyme Q10 is also called CoQ10.  CoQ10 is present in every cell of the body which is why it is also called ubiquinone.  It is important in the electron transport chain to produce intracellular energy.

Statins deplete CoQ10. Vitaline’s CoQ10 product has been used in NIH funded trials for cardiovascular, neurological and brain disorders. Two mitochondrial disorders have been shown to benefit from Co-Q10: migraine and Parkinsons Disease.

My preferred manufacturer is Vitaline because of their research with NIH which requires that they validate and verify dosages.  Their website discusses other advantages and gives guidance on dosages that have shown benefit for various conditions. They offer a discount of 25% if you request scheduled delivery every 3 months.  Use the code code DEF25.  Their product is in the form of wafers that are about the size of a quarter and are very easy to break into 2 or 4 with your hands.

Vitamin B supplements in the elderly may help reduce the risk of dementia and B12 deficiency may result in neurological conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, dementia, hematologic and psychiatric disorders, Subacute Combined Degeneration of spinal cord & brain, increased fracture risk, and may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.  A good B complex vitamin is not likely to harm and may benefit.    The best source of all is food:  leafy green vegetables, beans and peas.

Thiamine (Vitamin B1) in high doses of 300 mg per day may reduce kidney disease in type 2 diabetes and may prevent early diabetic cardiomyopathy (heart disease).  As many as 70% to 90% of people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, are thiamine deficient.  The research is still a little early to draw firm conclusions.  It is being done by Charity Diabetes UK which finds that thiamine works by helping protect cells against the harmful effects of the high blood sugar levels.”

Vitamin A is associated with a 45% risk of hip fracture.  There are four major adverse effects of high levels: birth defects, liver abnormalities, reduced bone mineral density that may result in osteoporosis, and central nervous system disorders.

Vitamin E may actually increase mortality and there are significant risks to its use including increased risk of some cancers.  Several studies were reviewed by one of the foremost science writers, Jane Brody, in the New York Times on March 23, 2009.  It does not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and there is no evidence that it slows the progression of macular degeneration.  In thePhysicians’ Health Study II it has been shown to actually increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke since it decreases the clotting tendency of blood.

Vitamin C was recently shown to markedly increase the growth of cancers. It’s healthy for them too.  It blunts the effect of cancer drugs by as much as 30 to 70% depending upon the drug tested.

Zinc may prevent the absorption of copper which is necessary for the brain and spinal cord thus resulting in progressive neurological conditions.  Herb-drug interaction reduces the bioavailability of some antibiotics, tetracycline and fluoroquinolones.  Intake of 100-300 mg/day may result in chronic toxicity including copper deficiency, depressed immune function, headache, chills, fever, and fatigue.  It concentrates in the prostate and consumption of more than 100 mg per day may increase risk of prostate cancer.

It may be useful for tinnitus and for short term use to reduce symptoms of the common cold when used topically or in lozenges

HERBS & BOTANICALS

Don’t forget seeds, beans and whole grains that help digestion and keep the system moving!

This is a very brief summary of a few of the more commonly used herbs.  Please refer to Memorial Sloan Kettering Herbs and Botanicals website for detailed information on risks and benefits.

Arnica – a topical anti-inflammatory may help sprains and osteoarthritis.

Aloe Vera – apply immediately after sunburn or burning the skin to prevent blister formation

Chamomile – calming sedative, may use for intestinal colic or gas

Cat’s Claw – anti-inflammatory activity may be caused by the inhibition of TNF-alpha production.  It may be useful for refractory oral ulcers of unknown etiology in persons with HIV/AIDS that have not responded to other known remedies.

Echinacea may shorten the duration of common cold, useful in sinusitis, and respiratory infections.  Because of the lack of standardization of various products, I recommend a high quality organic liquid product by HerbPharm. Avoid use in autoimmune conditions, Multiple Sclerosis, HIV/AIDS.  “Echinacea was shown to stimulate phagocytosis, enhance mobility of leukocytes, stimulate TNF and interleukin 1 secretion from macrophages and lymphocytes, and improve respiratory activity… both in vitro and in vivo.”

Goldenseal is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial with activity against pathogens such enterotoxigenic E. coli and V. cholera that may be useful for bacterial sinusitis and respiratory infections.   Warning it may prolong the QTc interval in persons with heart disease or those on methadone and it is contraindicated in persons with hypertension.  A high quality organic liquid product is made by HerbPharm.

Medicinal Marijuana is a vast subject. I would be happy to schedule time to discuss its medical use with you. Refer here for some of the known research and patient information.

Red Yeast Rice, a naturally occurring statin, the same as Lovastatin, often used in China.   Make sure your doctor knows this and monitors liver function.  Statins may cause severe muscle and joint pain that may potentially lead to rhabdomyolysis (sudden death of muscles), kidney failure, vasculitis, lupus-like syndrome, and many other symptoms, however most people tolerate them without side effects and they have dramatically reduced the incidence of heart attacks and stroke.  They may also reduce the risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s type dementia.

Turmuric (Curcumin) – may alleviate irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.  There is a suggestion of improved cognitive performance from epidemiology studies but studies show no benefit for Alzheimer’s Disease.  Avoid use if you have gallstones.  It may inhibit the action of some chemotherapy drugs, such as used for breast cancer, but may be beneficial for certain cancers and other chemotherapy drugs.

Wheat grass– a natural source of vitamins and minerals (Chlorophyll, Vitamins A, C, E, K and B-complex, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium,  Selenium,  Amino acids); may have antioxidant effects.

Willow Bark – contains salicin, the precursor of aspirin.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

To Find My Home Page, click here:  

Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Vitamin D – A Steroid Hormone, Anti-inflammatory


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The Sunshine Vitamin Controversy

What should normal values  be for calcium homeostasis?

My attention was drawn to Vitamin D several years ago when a review appeared in the journal Neurology, published by the Academy of Neurology, that linked low levels of Vitamin D to Multiple Sclerosis.  The article was unusual for its length and the breadth of research cited over several decades.  More recently, a Johns Hopkins article published “the most conclusive evidence to date” that Low Vitamin D Levels Pose Large Threat to Health.

New publications on Vitamin D seem to appear every week with the focus on levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, also written as 25(OH)D. Its half life in serum is ~ 10 days to 3 weeks.

The biologically active form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, written as 1,25(OH)D²,  is made in the kidneys and has a much shorter serum half-life of ~ 4-6 hours, thus making it less useful as a serum marker for measuring.

Sources & Metabolism: Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that’s absorbed in the small intestine from  foods such as egg yolks, fatty fish, fish liver oils, fortified milk, margarine, and cereals.  Bile salts are required for absorption.  Sunlight stimulates the skin to synthesize vitamin D, but exposure of hands and face as little as 15 minutes may not be sufficient and it is not as effective for everyone.  It won’t work in winter months, it won’t work for the aged, for those who have pigmented skin, and it won’t work for those who cover their skin.

Vitamin D Metabolism - click to enlarge

Vitamin D Metabolism

The Controversy –  How Do We Determine Normal Values?

Surprisingly, in a well designed multicenter study of healthy young Hawaiians in their 20’s who were exposed to at least 29 hours of sun per week, 51% were found to have vitamin D deficiency using the usual cut off of 30 ng/ml for normal.  This study from 2007 found the mean concentration of 31.6 ng/ml, and the highest of 62 ng/ml.  It raises the question whether

“it seems prudent to use this value [60 ng/ml] as an upper limit when prescribing vitamin D supplementation,”

rather than the generally published normal range of 30 to 80 ng/ml or even 100 ng/ml quoted in some labs.  This study is important in discussing the controversial question of what normal values should be for calcium homeostasis and reviews several possible explanations for inadequate production of D3 including genetic differences.

They note the highest reported values in “Nebraska outdoor workers… were between 81 and 84 ng/ml” but the assay system differed compared to theirs and results in a higher value.   Reviewing this study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has allowed me just now to readjust my own patient practice.

Laboratory Testing:  results can differ from one laboratory to another.  My hospital sends specimens to ARUP for testing, whereas Quest has acknowledged errors in laboratory testing and problems with standardization as reported by the New York Times here.

Function:  It is important for absorption of calcium and phosphorous from the small intestine, for bone health, osteoporosis, risk of falls, certain cancers(colon, breast, prostate), and possibly 6 to 7 years of longevity.  Deficiency of vitamin D is associated with suboptimal health and possibly increased pain; it is linked to infections, gum disease, hypertension, diabetes, coronary disease, neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease though it may not be causal. Its receptor is found all over the body including the brain.

I recommend this review by one of the best web resources at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Herbs & Botanicals.

They quote a reference showing it reduces postmenopausal weight gain and “In adults with impaired fasting blood glucose, giving calcium and vitamin D reduced increases in plasma glucose and insulin resistance….”

It is the only vitamin that is a steroid hormone, and my interest increased on learning that it functions as an anti-inflammatory.  But as I tested blood levels for 25(OH) vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH), I discovered more than 90% of my patients had vitamin D deficiency and a few had hyperparathyroidism.  There are four parathyroid glands next to the thyroid, and for some reason doctors have rarely tested their hormone levels.

***Persons with hyperparathyroidism should NOT take calcium or vitamin D.

It may lead to kidney stones and bone pain:  stones, bones and groans.***

Evidence for Optimizing Vitamin D Concentrations

On the other hand, if vitamin D is low, there is some evidence that replacement with vitamin D3 so that blood levels are in the high normal range, may help pain.  That is, it may raise the pain threshold and possibly have other benefits for health and longevity. It is desirable to avoid toxic levels of D as it causes hypercalcemia with depression, drowsiness, weakness, headache, polydipsia,  bone loss, and metastatic calcifications of many organs, soft tissues and blood vessels.  The generally quoted range of normal for 25(OH) vitamin D is 30 to 80, that varies with the lab.

great-western-divide-wp1

Doesn’t that photo of the Great Western Divide make you want to get outside into the sun?

Estimation of optimal serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for multiple health outcomes was reviewed by Heike Bischoff-Ferrari et al, in 2006,  though it has been superseded by much additional work since then.

To quote from their article:

This review summarizes the evidence for optimal serum  25(OH)D concentrations. The endpoint selection for this review was based the strongest evidence to date—ie, that from RCTs [randomized controlled trials], consistent evidence from prospective and cross-sectional epidemiologic studies, and strong mechanistic evidence or dose response relations.  BMD [bone mineral density], fracture prevention, lower-extremity function, falls, oral health, and colorectal cancer met these criteria. Weaker evidence exists of a beneficial effect of vitamin D on other diseases, including multiple sclerosis (15), tuberculosis (16), insulin resistance (17, 18), cancers other than colorectal (19 –22), osteoarthritis (23, 24), and hypertension (25–27), but these diseases are not considered here.

They did not review pain studies.  I would add that “weaker” evidence merely means that it must be confirmed by more studies, not that it excludes those conditions.  There is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the country, and the incidence is very high in pain clinics as reported in several studies.

A new multi-center epidemiology study  “Demographic Differences and Trends of Vitamin D Insufficiency in the US Population, 1988-2004”  by Ginde, et al, in 2006,  “demonstrate a marked decrease in serum 25(OH)D levels from the 1988-1994 to the 2001-2004 NHANES data collections.”  And like others before them, they point out:

“Current recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are inadequate to address the growing epidemic of vitamin D insufficiency.”

Summary:

Make sure your doctor checks both your 25(OH)Vitamin D and parathyroid hormone level (PTH) – not thyroid – to determine if you have hyperparathyroidism or if you have normal or low vitamin D.  That will determine if you need replacement or if you should stop using calcium and D as it will cause kidney stones and calcium deposits on your bones leading to pain.

If vitamin D levels are low it may result in increased physical pain and may cause or aggravate many medical conditions.

If PTH levels are high indicating hyperparathyroidism it will cause new painful conditions.

Intake does vary with the patient, the season, the age, but the recommended daily allowance may perhaps be double what it is now.  It is unclear when the federal government will adjust that dosage.   As always, your physician’s recommendation will be based upon blood levels of 25(OH)D and PTH.

Do not make changes in your dosage without careful evaluation.

Could this possibly be one of the most important areas of research this century?

The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and

is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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