Her new book, "Honest Medicine," focuses on four of these overlooked treatments, including the ketogenic diet for pediatric epilepsy; intravenous alpha lipoic acid for terminal liver disease and some cancers; Silverlon for non-healing wounds; and low-dose naltrexone (LDN) for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, as well as HIV/AIDS and some cancers.
I had an opportunity to do a Q&A with Schopick to discuss her book in greater depth — in particular, the discussions on autoimmune conditions, including autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimoto's and Graves' disease.
Mary Shomon: What made you decide to become a patient advocate and write this book?
Julia Schopick: I've been a public relations consultant for 25 years and never planned to become a patient advocate. But in 1990, my husband of five years, Tim Fisher, was diagnosed with a very serious, cancerous brain tumor. For the first five years after his diagnosis, we dutifully followed his doctors' orders and recommendations. Tim had surgery and underwent chemotherapy and radiation — the commonly prescribed treatments for his condition.
But after five years, it became clear that the side effects and complications from the treatments were becoming more severe and were, in fact, beginning to take over our lives. These complications included a radiation-caused stroke, hydrocephalus (water on the brain), and intermittent seizures.
Tim was hospitalized many times, and had a number of additional surgeries to deal with these complications. I decided that, if I was to have Tim around for many more years — and in relatively good shape — I'd better start looking for therapies and treatments that might increase his survival and his quality of life. I took my role as Tim's advocate more seriously, and found many such treatments, and to my delight Tim lived 15 years after his diagnosis - 12 years longer than his doctors had predicted.
Because of my success advocating for Tim, my friends and colleagues started seeking my help. This led to the creation of my website, HonestMedicine.com, where I began posting information about innovative treatments that many patients and doctors wouldn't know about because they get marginalized by more commercially known treatments.
Along the way, one situation in particular made me determined to spread the word about effective, non-toxic, inexpensive treatments. In 2002, Tim had a recurrence of his brain tumor and, after this surgery, his suture line wouldn't heal. The doctors performed eight unsuccessful additional surgeries in eight months, trying to close and heal the wound. The repeated surgeries made him worse, until finally he was brain injured and paralyzed from the surgical assaults on his body.
I was frantic and searched everywhere for answers. Finally, through a doctor friend, I heard about a treatment — Silverlon — and it worked overnight. I was thrilled, and assumed his doctors would be too.
But they weren't. In fact, they weren't even open to learning about it.
So I set out to tell the story of Silverlon, along with other treatments that were also inexpensive, life-saving and had stood the test of time. And I highlighted several of the most time-tested and promising of these treatments in Honest Medicine.
Mary Shomon: Why is there controversy in the conventional medical world over these four treatments?
Julia Schopick: The main reason is that for the most part, while smaller and promising trials have been conducted on these treatments, they haven't gone through the research "gold standard," namely, large class-1 randomized double-blind studies. And they aren't likely to be researched to that extent, because pharmaceutical companies conduct most of the studies, and, frankly, these treatments I write about are relatively inexpensive, and don't promise a profitable return on investment.
Mary Shomon: My community of readers include many people with autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimoto's and Graves' disease. Can you tell us a bit more about what you learned about one of the treatments you feature in Honest Medicine - low-dose naltrexone (LDN) - and its use for autoimmune diseases?
Julia Schopick: I think that the story of low-dose naltrexone is perhaps the most amazing story in my book. Dr. Bernard Bihari was a very creative, curious neurologist. In the mid-1980s, he found that naltrexone in very tiny doses helped people with autoimmune diseases. Naltrexone was approved by the FDA in higher doses for drug and alcohol addiction.
Unfortunately, Dr. Bihari died last year, but his friend and colleague, Dr. David Gluck, contributed a chapter. In Honest Medicine, Dr. Gluck writes:
LDN is absolutely unique. And that's part of its problem, in that it's a brand new paradigm, a new way of thinking of treatment. Instead of the medication actually doing the work, LDN goes into the body and essentially tricks the body by forcing it to double and triple its output of endorphins and metenkephalin, also known as opioid growth factor (OGF). Those endorphins and metenkephalin, in turn, cause the immune system to strengthen. A nice way to think about LDN is that it is not like any other medication whatsoever. It is a way to strengthen the immune system.I couldn't have said it any better myself.