What is the evidence of using bee venom injections for arthritis pain?
Q) My 37-year-old-daughter has had juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) since she was two. We tried all avenues to help her, including some visits to a homeopath when she was 17–18. The homeopath decided on a course bee venom injections.
The results were absolutely amazing. Almost overnight she went from being unable to walk short distances without pain to being 'normal' and walking quite a long way.
But the effects seemed short-lived. A combination of leaving for university and one very unpleasant injection, coupled with the miracle wearing off, meant that the injections were no longer pursued.
My daughter now regularly injects herself with an anti-TNF product, which concerns me. Recently she suffered a very nasty streptococcal infection. I’d be very interested to hear of any further developments with bee venom trials.
Glynis, via email (Spring 2015)
A) Bee venom therapy has been around for thousands of years. Reference to the treatment can be found in ancient Egypt and Greek medical writings. Also known as apitherapy, the technique is more widely used in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America.
A number of animal studies have shown that bee venom has significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. High-quality trials in humans are needed to define any future role of bee venom for arthritis but I'm not aware of any that are being undertaken.
This answer was provided by Dr Tom Margham for the Spring 2015 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.
Send your questions for Dr Tom Margham to firstname.lastname@example.org
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