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Education / Recommended Reading / Review: The New Arthritis Breakthrough

New Arthritis Breakthrough
by Henry Scammell 1998, Evans

Reviewed by Rosemary Jones

Owner of Healing Pages Online Book Store specializing in health and alternative medicine.

Ten years ago, medical doctor Thomas Brown and medical journalist Henry Scammell collaborated on a thin book titled The Road Back. In it, they outlined Dr. Brown's theory that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was triggered by an infectious disease and, even more radically, Brown's 50 years of using low levels of antibiotics to treat RA. Although Brown claimed successful results for more than 10,000 patients, the book and Brown's theories were largely dismissed as quackery by the medical establishment.

Brown died in 1989. As his friend and co-author Scammell relates, the book was his last-ditch effort to get the word out about using antibiotics to treat RA. And the word did Filter out. A nonprofit organization, the Road Back Foundation (in honor of Brown's book), was formed to encourage research. A handful of physicians, often pushed by their patients, decided to try tetracycline antibiotics to treat RA.

Finally, in 1995, an article appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine citing a new NlH-sponsored double-blind study of 218 patients using minocycline to treat RA. The results? Patients taking low levels of minocycline, an antibiotic, had significant reduction in inflammation. Similar results were achieved in a Dutch study undertaken around the same time.

In 1997, Dr. James O'Dell reported that approximately one-third of his patients treated with minocycline achieved almost a complete remission of all symptoms of RA. Further, these results lasted several years.

For anyone undergoing regular treatment for RA, these are startling facts. in standard medical theory, RA and related diseases such as lupus and scleroderma are incurable. Treatment [Focuses on relieving the symptoms, often with strong prescriptions that create severe side-effects. Common prescriptions for RA. include gold injections, methotrexate (a chemotherapy which may cause liver damage), corticosteroids, nitrogen mustard (which can cause early menopause), and a host of anti-inflammatory pain killers.

The acceptance of minocycline as a treatment for RA is not universal. Like the use of antibiotics to treat ulcers, the practice lags far behind the evidence. This book makes an impressive argument for any patient to carry to their doctor.

The book concludes with a new, very limited study of minocycline treatment for the almost-always fatal disease of scleroderma. Once again, this is an area to watch.

The opening and closing chapters of New Arthritis Breakthrough are a fascinating look at the entrenchment of the medical establishment and its unwillingness to accept even the double-blind study when it runs counter to traditional views. It also makes a great argument for patients to continue to pursue their own research. In almost every case listed in this book, outside of those treated by Brown, the patients forced their physicians to look at the facts and try something new. Without their persistence, they may never have been told about or benefited from this treatment for RA.

For anyone with RA or related health problems, this is a highly recommended read.