In our opinion, BV has biological effects that could potentially be useful in ALS. Two ALS-animal studies in which BV was injected into an unusual anatomic location showed positive effects on motor preservation and inflammatory markers; one showed improved survival. However, there are some significant problems with these animal studies. They do not meet methodological standards for preclinical animal research (14, 15) for the following reasons: treatment allocation was not randomized, power arguments are not presented, sample sizes are too small, potential confounders such as gender and copy number variation are not adequately addressed, criteria for determining symptomatic disease onset are not defined, blinding is not described, outcome measures in control animals are not compared to those in other studies to demonstrate external validity, and replication of results is via the same, rather than an independent group of authors. Furthermore, it is not currently possible to replicate pre-symptomatic drug delivery in humans with sporadic ALS. Many other compounds given pre-symptomatically to ALS-animals have failed to yield any positive benefit in human patients (16); indeed one immune-modulator that worked in ALS-animals actually appeared to accelerate disease progression in patients with sporadic ALS (17). It may not be possible to replicate the dosage of BV that was used in future human studies; by one estimate, for a 70g human this would require 70,000 bee stings twice a week (18). Finally and most importantly, we found very little data of any kind on BV exposure in humans with ALS; the two anecdotal reports describe unverified, non-overlapping benefits. Given all this, and the costs and risks of BV (which include death), ALSUntangled does not support the use of BV by patients with ALS outside of a study at this time. Replication of the animal studies via an independent group following published methodological guidelines and using a dosing regimen that could eventually be translated to human studies would be a reasonable next step.
Risks (harms that occurred on this treatment)
In summary, luteolin is an interesting naturally occurring bioflavinoid that has been shown to have a myriad of functions in various models that could potentially be useful in slowing progression in patients with ALS. However, convincing data to support any positive effect on human ALS do not yet exist. Furthermore, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about safety in patients with ALS including the need for a concomitant carbohydrate-deficient diet which might induce unwanted weight loss, and an anecdotal report of accelerated progression on this supplement. Until carefully controlled, well-designed human efficacy and safety studies are performed, ALSUntangled does not support the use of luteolin or any luteolin-containing products in patients with ALS.
Additional pharmacologic studies of LDN are needed to clarify its mechanisms of action. Some of its proposed mechanisms such as immunomodulation and neuroprotection could potentially be useful in ALS. However, there are no convincing data thus far to suggest that this is the case, and some limited data even raise a theoretical potential for a harmful effect. The benefits reported by a small Patients Like Me cohort are not consistent across participants, nor are they objectively verifiable. A small pilot study of a drug with similar mechanisms found no objective benefits in patients with ALS. Although reported costs are not exorbitant, there are reported and potential side-effects including liver toxicity. ALSUntangled does not recommend LDN use by patients with ALS at this time.
The Hickey Wellness Center infrastructure is clean and professional. Dr. Hickey has a good bedside manner, and clearly believes in his protocol (indeed he himself is on it, and has had his own fillings removed). However, at this time, we are not convinced of a link between heavy metal toxicity and ALS. The metal testing performed in the Center is un-interpretable given the lack of ‘normal’ post- chelation metal ranges. Similarly, concerning are the lack of validated diagnoses, an appropriately detailed informed consent form, a consistent protocol across patients, objective outcome measures, or even adverse event tracking. As a result of these problems, ALSUntangled cannot currently condone most of the Hickey Wellness Center’s approach toward ALS. We do endorse two of Dr. Hickey’s practices: stressing hope, and once all the important information about an alternative therapy has been provided, respecting a patient’s wish to pursue it even if it is against our advice.