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April 25 2009
'Life-changing benefits' for
patients using addiction drug
A drug which is normally used to treat heroin
addiction can deliver "life-changing" results for a
range of medical conditions, sparking calls for it to
be offered more widely to patients.
Medical experts claim that low-dose naltrexone (LDN)
has been used successfully for people with a variety
of conditions which affect the immune system,
including multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and
chronic fatigue syndrome.
At the first European conference into the drug which
was initially prescribed in larger doses to block the
effects of heroin use, speakers from around the
world, including America and Israel, will hear results
of trials into the drug and will call on GPs and other
health professionals to prescribe it more widely.
Dr Tom Gilhooly, who is organising the conference in
Glasgow, has around 200 patients at his clinic in
Rutherglen, who are currently receiving LDN and he
said he had recorded "a lot of success" in those who
had taken the drug.
"It is a very interesting drug," he said. "It has very
few drawbacks and it is very effective. If you find a
drug that is successful, isn't toxic and can treat
conditions that are normally difficult to treat it is a
"We have used LDN to treat many different
autoimmune diseases over the past five years and
have seen life-changing results for patients. LDN
treatment can aid a better quality of life for both
long-term sufferers and for those newly diagnosed."
LDN, which appears to boost the production of
endorphins in the body and stimulate the immune
system, was first prescribed in doses of between
50mg and 150mg for heroin addicts.
It has since been used in doses of between 1mg and
around 4.5mg to treat patients with multiple
sclerosis and other conditions affecting the immune
It is given in a liquid form and patients currently
tend to pay privately for the drug, which costs
around £15 a month.
Dr Gilhooly said that around half of his patients who
receive LDN had been prescribed it for chronic fatigue
syndrome and fibromyalgia, a similar condition in
with patients suffer from fatigue and chronic pain in
Dr Gilhooly said: "We have used it for both with
great success. I have been treating chronic fatigue
syndrome for years but we have been incredibly
limited in treatments. To find something like this
that is working is great for the patients.
"Now that we know the drug we are looking at what
other immune-related conditions we can try it on."
At the conference, which will be held at the Western
Lecture Theatre at Glasgow University today, Dr
Gilhooly will discuss the findings of a pilot trial from
Stanford University on patients with fibromyalgia.
In six out of 10 patients LDN was "significantly
better" than a placebo at reducing daily pain, fatigue
and stress related to the condition.
Other symptoms, such as sleep problems,
gastrointestinal complaints and headaches were also
alleviated. No serious side-effects were reported.
Senior author Sean Mackey, associate professor of
anesthesia and chief of the pain management
division at Stanford University Medical Centre, said:
"Patients' reactions were really quite profound. Some
people decided to come off other medications. Some
people went back to work really improving their
quality of life."
Dr Mackey added that although he was "excited" by
the preliminary results, more in-depth research would
be carried out to establish the true impact of the
drug on patients with fibromyalgia.
Dr Gilhooly said that he also hoped that research
could be carried out in Scotland.
"Scotland is one of the places which is a hot area for
LDN prescribing and research and we are hoping to
carry out a lot of research in the future," he said.
I'm feeling positive and no longer drained
AS a PE teacher, Christine Fowler had always
enjoyed being active. But when she developed
chronic fatigue syndrome nine years ago, it became
an effort simply to get up in the morning.
"It was an all over weakness," she said. "I had a lot
of pain in my legs and arms. I would be sitting on
the sofa looking out of my front room, not able to do
Mrs Fowler, 49, from Hogganfield, Glasgow, was
forced to take long periods off work. After starting on
a gradual exercise programme she was able to return
to work but said she was still "only operating at
50%" and had to go to bed as soon as she returned
In October she was forced to take another six weeks
off work and Dr Tom Gilhooly suggested she try
low-dose naltrexone to alleviate her symptoms.
She began taking 1mg every day, returned to work at
the beginning of January and has not been off since.
Mrs Fowler, who has four children, said: "It has
allowed me to operate at a much higher level on a
day to day basis and be much more positive about
everything. I'm not drained of energy.
"In the past even when I did mange to do something
one day, the repercussions the next day would mean
I was drained and sore. That is easing off."
She is now able to play a more active role at work.
"In the past I wouldn't be physically able to do the
things I wished to, even simple things like being
able to demonstrate a headstand."
She has also played the odd game of badminton and
is now hoping to take part in the Women's 10k next
month, walking the course in the south side of
"Chronic fatigue syndrome drags you down," she
said. "I'm now able to do things again. LDN has had
a positive effect on me."
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