MIAMI (CBSMiami) — An ancient folk remedy for chronic pain could be buzzing into mainstream markets.
Clinical trials are being conducted to see if honey bee venom is a treatment of osteoarthritis.
Dr. Lydie Hazan treats patients with Apimed, otherwise known as standardized and purified “venom in a vial”.
“We were contracted by a pharmaceutical company which is based in Korea. They decided they wanted this product marketed in the United States,” she said. “We inject it locally in the knees of patients that are afflicted with osteoarthritis.”
Patients are monitored for months to see if their pain gets any better. The treatment must be proven safe and effective before it receives approval by the FDA.
But Dr. Hazan admits how Apimed relieves pain remains somewhat of a mystery.
“Nobody is really sure on exactly the mechanism of the honey bee venom. But it seems to have an affinity for inflammation in that it gobbles up the inflammation,” she said.
Beekeeper Rich Heryford believes trials like this one were only a matter of time.
He employs his bees to make honey, to pollinate almond crops and for bee sting therapy. Although he doesn’t make any promises, he says the medical industry is “finally catching up” to the trend.
“When conventional medicine fails to help, sometimes bee sting therapy is the only thing left,” he said.
Seventy-one-year-old Pat Henry turned to bee sting therapy 16 years ago to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Every other day she receives two bee stings to the back of her neck and four above and below her knees.
She calls the flying insects “miracle creatures,” and says her joint soreness disappears within a couple of hours of treatment.
“I’m independent. I clean my own house. [I] wake up every morning and say, ‘Okay, I made it one more day,’” she said.
Her caretaker, Chet Henry, stings himself too.
“My hands were so bad with arthritis, and I don’t have that anymore,” he said.
Pat now has her own beehive, and says she takes the bad with the good.
“I don’t want them in my hair but sometimes that happens,” she said, adding that she fears the alternative of chronic pain more than the bees.
Although the stings haven’t prevented Pat’s M.S. from weakening her legs, she’s optimistic about the effectiveness of their venom.
“I can carry on with my life and there are no side effects, and hopefully live to be 100 years old,” she said.
Dr. Hazan warns a bee sting can be deadly to those who are allergic. She recommends being tested by a doctor before trying any type of bee venom therapy.
For more on the history of bee sting therapy, visit the American Apitherapy Association.