WDDTY vol 5 no 9 contains a question and answer about colitis and Crohn's disease. The end of the answer described Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization as something about which there is lack of data on the long term effects. Readers are warned that you
The article gives a fair description of the neutralizing technique, but this has nothing whatever to do with EPD. Most patients with complex illnesses who are treated by EPD remain in contact with their doctors at least once a year for many years. In addition, several hundred of the patients treated more than 10 years ago are members of the National Society for Research into Allergy and have remained in contact with that organization. As a result it is probably true to say that there are very few forms of medical intervention which have been so well followed up for a period of between 10 and 20 years.
At the present time the doctors in America who use EPD have a computerized system of audit which has received the blessing of an FDA inspected investigational review board. In this country, a similar scheme is just off the ground now.
My chief concern is that while your newsletter is prepared to damn a rather useful and very safe treatment on the basis of a totally inaccurate account, it fails to be equally concerned about the long term follow-up and harmful effects of herbal treatment. In the same issue is the suggestion that tincture of berberis is a safe alternative to antibiotics. I have recently dealt with a patient treated with berberin for supposed candida by a herbalist, during which time he developed symptoms of neuropathy in his legs with absent ankle jerks. One of my own patients had a nasty reaction when I prescribed berberin for a resistant blastocystis infection. Once berberin was stopped, both patients recovered. Dr Len M McEwen, Henley-on-Thames....
Thank you for pointing out our confusion in lumping together neutralization and EPD desensitization, which you pioneered in 1966. Although both aim to desensitize the allergic patient in a similar way, the technique for each is very different. In neutralization, which we described, the individual's allergies are located. He is then tested with different potencies of the allergy until the potency is found that "switches off" allergic symptoms. This potency is given to him for some months either by injection or under the tongue until he becomes "immune" to his allergy.
The EPD method, on the other hand, is less individually tailored and perhaps more comprehensive. A weakened and highly purified mixture of a wide selection of the most common allergic inhalants and foods is mixed together with an enzyme called beta- glucuronidase, found in the human body. This is administered either by injection in the skin, or through the skin, by scraping a small area of the thigh or forearm and administering the EPD "vaccine" by holding a cup over the scraped surface for 24 hours.
Thank you also for the two papers, showing the treatment's success in treating hyperactivity (The Lancet, March 9, 1985) and ulcerative colitis (Clinical Ecology, 1988; 5 (2): 47-51). Both definitively show that EPD can work for those conditions. According to our Alternatives columnist Harald Gaier, most reports demonstrate that EPD works well with inhaled allergies such as dustmites and hayfever, but is less definitive with food or contact allergies.
EPD and neutralization are undoubtedly lifesaving for many people crippled by multiple allergies. However, the problem is that we have no scientific data on the effect of these "vaccines" over the very long term. I'm sure you will agree that although the anecdotal evidence you cite is encouraging, no patients have been followed over time in a scientific way. According to Dr Sybil Birtwistle, The British Society for Allergy and Environmental Medicine is attempting to address this problem with a strict follow-up on all new cases.
We agree that alternative medicine has the potential to be as toxic as conventional medication. For an entire year WDDTY's editor suffered side effects from Chinese herbs containing 11 different estrogens-the equivalent of a very strong birth control pill (we later found out through the Poison Control Unit, which analyzed them).
Berberis and most herbs are being subjected to safety studies in countries like Germany. According to Pizzorno and Murray's Textbook of Natural Medicine, berberine and berberin-containing plants are "generally nontoxic". In studies on animals, large intravenous doses produced no lethal or gross toxic effects. That does not mean that some patients will not react to the herb or that we should treat it any more cavalierly than we would a prescription drug.
Our policy at WDDTY is to regard all treatments with a degree of suspicion until they have been proven safe. Our Alternatives column attempts to apply that principle to alternative treatments: even the most seemingly benign and encouraging medicines are guilty until proven innocent (and effective).