A surgeon and a scientist in Tuscaloosa just got the go ahead for new groundbreaking research that could offer long-awaited relief to people with chronic pain.
The clinical trial involves testing a promising treatment for fibromyalgia and irritable bowel issues, plus, a possible test.
Fibromyalgia is a widespread pain in the muscles and soft tissues in different parts of the body.
Patsy Etheridge has suffered with the painful condition, fibromyalgia for years. She says, "The pain level is so bad. I do have pain, all over, I have it in my neck even in my sleep I can't sleep well I wake up, toss and turn."
Dr. William Pridgen, a surgeon at Tuscaloosa Surgical Associates, has heard the complaints over the years from patient after patient who suffers with fibromyalgia.
The surgeon's concern led to a theory on the root cause and then action to figure this out and bring relief to the hundreds of patients like 58 year old patsy etheridge.
Dr. Pridgen says, "I started thinking the behavior of this is something like we'd experience. If we had something in us that was activated in times of stress but would go dormant and return." Many of his patients have said their health has declined following a stressful, crisis in their life.
Dr. Pridgen believes that both fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms are all caused by a common widespread virus, the virus that causes cold sores, Herpes Simplex Virus 1.
He says, "I decided what if I try to suppress it . So I did and I tried to with one medicines and it worked a little bit , helped the GI tract, but it wasn't what I was after. As I got closer to about 2008 started giving arthritis patients medicines for arthritis and the odd thing when they came back to me they stated they were drastically better. I had two populations, one on just one med, one had been on two meds and I realized the ones on two meds were all getting better."
Pridgen observed one group of patients taking an anti-viral medicine combined with a well-known, anti-inflammatory drug commonly used to treat arthritis. He was stunned when the patients returned to his office after a period of months.
He says, "They came back and said, I'm thrilled my diarrhea and constipation has gotten better, my belly pains are so much better but why are my headaches better, I seem to have more energy."
Pridgen says fibromyalgia patients were across the board better and that 89 percent of the study patients attributed improved health to Pridgen's prescribed drug combination.
Dr. Carol Duffy is a virologist at the University of Alabama and has studied herpes viruses for many years. We asked her about Dr. Pridgen's herpes virus theory and his combination therapy of an anti-viral plus an arthritis drug.
Dr. Duffy says, "Herpes virologists have known for a while that it also has antiviral affects.
The virus particle basically has a protein shell called a capsid and that encloses the genome and keeps it safe and protects it and when you use that other drug that protein shell is so unstable that so they're not infectious anymore."
Duffy says, "The anti inflammatory drug also inhibits the reactivation of that dormant virus that typically awakens during stressful times-- causing cold sores even within the GI tract.
Karen Nelms has dealt with IB issues most of her life. She has taken Dr. Pridgen's prescription. Nelms says, "This has helped multiple things. It's help my trigger point pain in my back and joints. It's help control my virus outbreak as far as my getting fever blisters. I would get fever blisters lesions down my throat."
Dr. Pridgen and Dr. Carol Duffy are now working together to further test his hypothesis.
A nationwide double-blinded clinical trial will get underway early next year. It will be conducted by an outside source.
However, it will provide plasma samples to Dr. Duffy in effort to develop a test to one day be able to diagnose fibromyalgia.
Duffy says, "Right now diagnoses is based on a patients subjective interpretation of their own pain. So, how on a scale of one to 10, how much pain are you in. Everyone is going to answer that question a little differently."
Duffy says, "Doctors will have objective clinical data showing these patients aren't
Dr. Pridgen and Dr. Duffy are not recruiting patients for the clinical trial that is scheduled to take place in late February or early March 2013.
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