Fumaric Acid for MS and Psoriasis - The Little Molecule with a Giant Price Tag
Updated: Jul 23, 2019
A New Mediction - Fumaric Acid
Psoriasis and Multiple Sclerosis sufferers are commonly offered drugs referred to as biologics these days to control their symptoms. These drugs can work very well but because of their potent suppressive mechanisms can lead to immune depression which puts a patient at risk for significant side effects including certain types of cancers, immune and blood disorders and serious even deadly infection.
A new medication has entered the market, fumaric acid. It also goes by Fumaderm in other countries or Tecfidera in the US, which is an FDA approved treatment for MS. Studies in psoriasis using this medication shows that about 75% of patients achieve excellent control of their psoriasis. Studies in MS shows that relapses and progression in MS is controlled for several years in about 50% of MS patients.
A little Pill with a BIG Price Tag
In contrast to most biologics, fumaric acid is generally considered fairly safe with only rare serious complications of treatment. The prescribing physician will track labs to ensure no problems with the liver or decreases in white cells occur, but these are reversible side effects and not common with appropriate use. The typical side effect is flushing and diarrhea, but these are avoidable if the medication is slowly increased to an effective dose. A prescription for Tecfidera sadly can run well over $55,000 per year.
The irony is that fumaric acid, a compound that is naturally produced in the body during energy production, has been used safely and effectively in Europe since the 1950's. It is and has been readily available as an over-the-counter supplement, food additive and lab compound for many years. Because it is a naturally occurring compound, it cannot be patented and taken off the market by drug manufacturers.
The prescription form (Tecfidera) is protected because it has been chemically modified to make it "original and proprietary." Even today a person can purchase a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of "food grade" or "lab grade" fumaric acid online for under $30. Both grades are highly regulated for purity.
Of course the pharmaceutical company will argue that there is danger in doing so, and of course that is true and it would be unwise to use a compound like this without physician supervision and lab monitoring. The physician and the labs are the cheap part of treatment and well worth the expense.
Ponder why there needs to be a profit margin of over $55,000 per year for patients to get treatment that is readily available for much less, then go see a good naturopath.
Be well. Stay well. Doc Griffith.