February 22nd, 2011
By: David Gutierrez
A popular and powerful prescription painkiller may be causing people to kill themselves, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Pain Clinic Bergmannsheil at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, and published in the journal Pain.
Six years ago, a new painkiller named ziconotide (also known as SNX-111 and Prialt) was approved by the FDA for patients in which the older, more well-known opioid drugs prove either ineffective or addictive. Derived from the lethal venom of the cone snail (Conus magus), ziconotide acts by directly blocking the pain receptors in the brain.
Although ziconotide appears to be non-addictive, increasing concerns have emerged that it may cause unintended effects in the brains of patients, increasing their risk of suicide. According to the new study, the drug deteriorates patients’ states of mind while reducing both anxiety and impulse control. While this will not produce suicide in all patients, it may drastically increase the risk in psychologically vulnerable people.
In addition to analyzing growing reports of suicide associated with ziconotide prescription, the authors use case studies to make their point. In the first, a patient who had suffered from untreatable pain for years finally gained relief from ziconotide, apparently without side effects. His depression, never severe to begin with, apparently decreased. Three weeks after starting ziconotide, he killed himself without warning.
In another case, a woman who had been undergoing pain treatment for 14 years and who had attempted suicide while suffering from depression 20 years previously was prescribed ziconotide. Two months later, she experienced an increase in suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, confusion and partial amnesia. She suffered two car accidents, which may have been cause by the psychic side effects, possibly including suicidal urges. When ziconotide treatment was halted, all suicidal thoughts and other psychological side effects ended.
The researchers called for careful psychological monitoring of any patients who are prescribed ziconotide.
March 15, 2010
By E. Huff
A bee sting is an unpleasant experience that undoubtedly everyone would choose to avoid if given the choice. However a growing number of people are choosing to be stung by bees in an alternative form of illness treatment called apitherapy. Apitherapy contends that bee venom holds therapeutic value in treating serious illness and that it is a viable alternative to dangerous pharmaceutical drugs that often do not work and have harmful side effects.
Apitherapy, a traditional folk remedy that has been used in many other countries for centuries, takes advantage of the healing power contained in honeybee venom which helps to alleviate serious conditions like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and lupus. According to 51-year-old Reyah Carlson of Vermont, a proponent of apitherapy, bee venom helped to treat her Lyme Disease.
Carlson recently spoke at the North American Beekeepers Conference in Orlando where she spoke of the benefits of apitherapy. She regularly travels around the world telling people about the alternative treatment and informing them about how it works to treat disease.
Bee venom contains about 40 different healing components, one of which is melittin, a compound identified in a 2009 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts study as an anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic element. According to Carlson, melittin and the other components work together to boost immunity and quicken the healing process.
Besides the two percent of the U.S. population that is allergic to bees, most people stand to benefit from apitherapy treatment. While it may not necessarily cure all conditions, the venom can at least keep diseases at bay without imposing harmful side effects like drugs do. Aside from the temporary pain of the sting itself, there are virtually no other negative side effects from apitherapy.
Many medical professional refuse to acknowledge the benefits of apitherapy. Despite the roughly 65,000 Americans who use and benefit from bee sting therapy, the medical establishment largely rejects it as a viable treatment option. According to Carlson, many doctors believe it is dangerous and could kill people.
Because reactions from bee stings can vary from person to person, Carlson always carries around antihistamines for minor reactions as well as epinephrine for those who may go into anaphylactic shock. Typically no severe reaction should happen in a healthy person who is not allergic to bee stings, but Carlson keeps a safety kit on hand as a precautionary measure and advises others who use or administer the therapy to do so as well.
January 18, 2010
By Fernando Quintero
Reyah Carlson has been stung by bees more than 25,000 times. On purpose.
Carlson is a practitioner of apitherapy, a controversial form of alternative medicine that uses bee venom to treat everything from arthritis to multiple sclerosis. She will be a featured speaker at the 2010 North American Beekeepers Conference being held in Orlando today.
Carlson, who lives in Vermont, has traveled the world to spread the word about bee venom therapy. She has also appeared in National Geographic and on the Discovery Channel.
“Apitherapy is not a new form of alternative therapy. It has been used in other countries for centuries,” said Carlson, a.k.a “The Bee Lady.”
Carlson, who had been fascinated by bees since early childhood, said she first began using bee stings for her Lyme Disease after being introduced to the treatment by a man she met when she was working as a nursing assistant in Vermont.
“When you break down the chemical components of bee venom, you’ll find 40-something identifiable components,” said Carlson, 51.
They include mellitin, which some studies suggest blocks inflammation and has been shown to have anti-arthritic effects in mice, according to a 2009 report published by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
Carlson said bee venom can also bolster immunity and speed up the healing process.
“I don’t claim cures,” said Carlson. “In some cases, it’s ongoing treatment for life. For many diseases including (multiple sclerosis) and lupus, it’s a great way to keep things in check and under control. Drugs for these conditions have bad side effects for the liver and other parts of the body, that’s why I and many other people have turned to apitherapy as an alternative.”
While the benefits of bee venom remain uncertain, and little scientific research has been conducted – especially in the U.S. – the dangers are evident. About 2 percent of people have allergic reactions to bees and other stinging insects, and the dangers increase with the number of stings.
“A bee sting is always potentially serious,” said Malcolm T. Sanford, emeritus professor of entomology and nematology at the University of Florida, in a 2003 report for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “The severity and duration of a reaction can vary from one person to another….However, depending on the location and the number of bee stings received, as well as the ever-present possibility of a severe allergic reaction to bee venom, a serious reaction can be precipitated that can be life-threatening.”
A number of Central Florida researchers and medical professionals contacted declined to comment on the potential benefits or hazards of apitherapy. Carlson is well aware of the controversy over her treatments.
“Reaction from the medical establishment has been two-sided,” said Carlson. “Physicians who are proactive with their patients are more accepting of apitherapy. At the same time, I have had doctors saying I’m going to kill somebody.”
Approximately 65,000 people in the United States use bee sting therapy, according to the American Apitherapy Society. Carlson advises anyone undergoing bee-venom therapy should always have a bee sting kit available. She keeps antihistamine on hand, as well as epinephrine, a drug that can be used if someone goes into anaphylactic shock.
Carlson said she gets lots of questions when she’s on the road promoting the benefits of bees. One of the most frequently asked questions: Is it always painful?
“A bee sting hurts. I do suggest and offer ice to numb the area prior to a sting,” she said. “It’s well worth the temporary pain.”
July 3, 2009
Nelson Honey & Marketing says two teaspoons a day of its honey with added venom milked from honeybees has anti-inflammatory power to soothe joints.
The venom concept is not new – some clinics even offer up bee stings.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency said it would be considering the application in the coming months.
The Manuka honey with added bee venom has been available in New Zealand for 13 years and its makers say although it does contain a venom, it has proved extremely safe.
It contains a blend of honey derived from the native New Zealand Manuka tree and dried venom harvested from the Apis mellifera honeybee using electrical milking machines that send impulses to stimulate worker bees to sting through a latex film onto a glass collector plate.
The Nectar Ease label advises consumers to start with a quarter of a teaspoon a day and increase this to one or two as required.
It also warns that people with allergies to honey or bee venom should seek medical advice prior to use, and that it should not be given to infants under 12 months of age.
Honey has long been hailed for its healing properties, but the Arthritis Research Campaign said it was sceptical about the beneficial properties of honeybee venom in the treatment of arthritis.
The charity’s medical director Professor Alan Silman said: “We recently compiled a report on the effectiveness of complementary medicines in treating the common types of arthritis based on available scientific evidence and honeybee venom didn’t feature, as no research has been done into this product.
“As a result, it’s difficult to postulate the action of honeybee venom or how it purports to work, because any available evidence is entirely anecdotal.”