Dr. Guyer is a family physician and Director of The Advanced Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana,* where patients are offered a unique blend of traditional and integrative therapies for ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia, and a number of other health-related problems.
Antiviral medications have generated considerable scientific attention in the primary and adjunctive treatment of CFIDS and FMS - in the subset of the population with a viral component as part of individual etiology.
Through the years, I have noted a few good additive results with medications such as FamvirTM, ValtrexTM, and occasionally AcyclovirTM and AmantadineTM. Over the last year, thanks to the work of Dr. Jose Montoya at Stanford University, I have found that ValcyteTM offers another option that can really be the proverbial “icing on the cake” for many afflicted with CFIDS. Like other clinicians, my own experience with antiviral medications is that they are often very helpful with occasionally dramatic benefits, adding another viable alternative to the landscape of treatment options.
Some years ago, I had doubts that antiviral meds could add significantly to the management of CFIDS. Retrospectively, the doubts stemmed largely from becoming accustomed to observing good results with therapeutic strategies I was already using.
On many occasions, I have noted that comparatively simple treatments often deliver extraordinary results - Transfer Factor,1 oxidative therapies, Intravenous Vitamin (IV) therapy and vitamin B12 shots, to mention a few. Obviously, no protocol represents a “one size fits all” strategy. Clinicians are still required to find unique treatment strategies for unique patients.
Recently, I followed two male high school students who were very physically active prior to development of severe cases of mononucleosis. Following the episodes over the next six months, I noted that both students exhibited the classic findings of CFIDS. Both also responded almost immediately to a cocktail of IV Therapy, Transfer Factor and broad-spectrum nutritional supplementation. One patient eventually competed in an international martial arts competition in Germany, while the other returned to twice daily football practice in the heat of the Indiana summer - a challenge even for those without CFIDS!
In addition, my earlier opinions were based in large part on not observing impressive results with antiviral medications - at least not as good as I came to expect from other therapies.
Along the way, a good friend - Kristin Loomis, who in addition to being very knowledgeable is also the Executive Director of the HHV-6 Foundation - encouraged me to continue to give antivirals a try. I must say she, as usual, proved correct. Last year, she introduced me to the research of Dr. Montoya2, a Stanford infectious disease specialist; and since then I have seen often very good success with Valcyte.
In 2007, we began collecting data on the results of adding Famvir and Valcyte to individual treatment plans as clinically warranted. The formal results will be presented at the International College of Integrative Medicine meeting in Nashville in March 2008. In the meantime, I want to share observations that I have made over the last several months on very intriguing clinical findings that include the broad array of subjective improvements patients report while on antiviral therapy.
n One interesting case involves a gentleman undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder for years. During his last office visit, he remarked that since starting Valcyte not only did the CFIDS symptoms reduce substantially, but he also noticed more motivation - for example, mowing the lawn and enjoying it, something he had not done in years. The patient reported that his lithium dose was reduced from 1200 mg daily to 300 mg daily.
n Others have reported a restored sense of joy and humor - feelings absent for years, in addition to improved libido, decreased anxiety and depression, improvement in asthma and allergic symptoms, positive clinical changes in autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even one case of rare ALS type progressive motor neuron disease.
As our clinical experience demonstrates, our evolving understanding of the pervasive role viral activity in human health expands. We are beginning to understand that chronic viral activity may be present in the population at levels higher than previously assumed and not just involved in the etiology of CFIDS.
Can we predict which patients will do well with antiviral therapy?
Overall, it would appear that patients who fare better have a classic “viral” provoke history - i.e., they had a case of a “viral-like” illness, never got better, and over time keep going downhill. Duration of symptoms may be six months or 20 years. I have observed a few cases where these symptoms started after receiving a vaccine, such as the flu vaccine, and another case that appeared to begin after receiving a tetanus vaccine. In addition, patients will have consistent lab findings, including: depressed natural killer cells, low adrenal function, hormone deficiencies, elevated RNase-L3 levels, and elevated viral antibodies to Human Herpesvirus Six (HHV-6), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and occasionally other viruses.
As a rule of thumb, individuals who experience milder symptoms of shorter duration [accompanied by elevated levels of] IgG (Immunoglobulin G) to EBV seem to do well with Famvir. However, patients more severely affected for a longer duration with antibodies more skewed to HHV-6 or CMV will often need Valcyte.
Younger individuals with shorter duration of symptoms tend to get better faster, while people over 40 or those with several years of symptoms may need a few months to start getting back on track. Often even after six months of Valcyte or Famvir, we will maintain some individuals on a low dose of Famvir or Valcyte in the 50 mg range (a dose we compound because it is not commercially available).
Another important issue is the necessity to take a comprehensive view of CFIDS.
Often, physicians desire to treat CFIDS simplistically like we might address a sore throat - one cause, one solution. Undoubtedly, theories come and go relating to CFIDS, but in my experience, physicians who get optimal results evaluate all contributing factors, listen well, and integrate therapeutic support strategies to address contributing issues, such as: adrenal dysfunction, sub-clinical hypothyroidism, neurotransmitter imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, endocrine problems (depleted levels of DHEA, growth hormone, testosterone) - to name a few.
In my experience, taking a more comprehensive approach accelerates the process of restoring health, while simultaneously diminishing the likelihood of feeling exhausted, depleted and miserable while taking antiviral medication.
The inclusion of antiviral therapy in CFIDS has in my experience been a great addition. Like any stand-alone therapy, it may not offer the big difference we want to see; however, when combined with other supportive therapies, it offers a giant step forward in restoring wellness in individuals with CFIDS.
* The Advanced Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, was founded in 1997 by Dr. Guyer. New patients are welcome. For more information, including glossaries explaining some of the therapies, nutritionals and tests mentioned, visit http://www.daleguyermd.com (where you will need to download flash player) or call (317) 580-9355. To listen to a detailed lecture on CFIDS/FMS, log onto Dr. Guyer’s website.
1. For more information on transfer factor, see recent articles in the ImmuneSupport.com Library such as "Transfer Factor and the Importance of a Healthy Immune System" by Aaron White, PhD, author of the highly rated new book A Guide to Transfer Factors & Immune System Health.
2. To learn more about the HHV-6 Foundation, research relating to HHV-6 in ME/CFS, and Dr. Montoya’s continuing Valcyte research at Stanford, go to the HHV-6 Foundation website.
3. RNase L is part of the body’s immune defense. When activated it puts a cell in the antiviral state – highly resistant to viral attacks, and ready to destroy viral RNA and ‘commit suicide’ if infected by a virus. For more about RNase L anomalies in ME/CFS patients, see “Dr. Kenny De Meirleir’s Breakthrough Research and Recommendations for CFS Testing & Treatment”
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.