Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dr. Burt Berkson and Low Dose Naltrexone

 2015 UPDATE

It was 6 years ago this month that I saw Dr. Berkson and began my journey using Low Dose Naltrexone to treat Hepatitis C.  I just had new labs done including a Fibrosure test as my new Gastro is trying to get all of his patients on Harvoni. Some of those results are here along with a much overdo update on Nola Hepper.  Will be adding more labs as I get them soon.

2015 Update - Fibrosure Test

  2013 UPDATE

This post was written almost 4 years ago in 2009 after I had gotten back my first labs since seeing Dr. Berkson.   Hard to believe that it's been 4 years -  but 4 years of normal liver enzymes and very low viral load (11,500-36,500)   Latest labs:

2013 Labs

And some of the below has probably changed over the years.  I have received so many messages from folks who went to see Dr. Berkson - one couple met in his office and ended up getting married.  I would love to see him again and might some day.  Meanwhile, if I ever want to do it, my own integrative doctor offers IV ALA treatments.

Dr. Burt Berkson and Low Dose Naltrexone

When I first started this blog, it was to detail my life in New Orleans with Hepatitis C and my daily struggles in post-Katrina New Orleans. However, after having such wonderful results with Low Dose Naltrexone after visiting Dr. Berkson in his clinic in New Mexico, it has become more about promoting LDN than anything else.

My own integrative doctor told me about Dr. Berkson and his work with Hepatitis C and Alpha-Lipoic-Acid in 2007 but I had heard of him before.  A few of of the online health groups had posts about him.  He was the United States FDA principal Investigator intravenous Alpha Lipoic Acid for 23 years and also (and still is!)  a CDC expert, intravenous Alpha Lipoic Acid and hepatotoxic poisoning, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1990-present.

I began taking his regimen of ALA, milk thistle and selenium in his recommended dosage - my liver function tests did improve overall but the inflammation and fatty liver continued.  Dr. Berkson prefers the use of European sourced Lipoic acid, where it is available by prescription - Metabolic Maintainence - and Bio-Tech.
I was taking 300mg 2x daily along WITH a B complex 100 with every dose.  Sometimes I would take 3 a day.  You can probably shop around and find them less expensive - sometimes is a good place to go.
However, my own integrative doc recently insisted that I switch over to the Jarrow Sustain brand of ALA - I fought her tooth and nail over this! How could I argue with Dr. B? But I had very good lab results, including my AFP, which was the lowest it had been in years!

A couple of people that I knew through various Hepatitis C forums went to see Dr. Berkson and both had good experiences with him, so I decided to go. I still had a little money left from the settlement that I had gotten after losing my house and possessions due to the flooding after Katrina. Not much, but enough to cover the air fare, rental car, IV ALA treatments and misc.costs.

I called his clinic and was told to fax them a few medical test results - a PT (Prothrombin time - which tells how long it takes your blood to clot), platelet count, LFT'S (liver function tests) and I believe, HCV viral load test - I can't really remember exactly. I ended up sending a lot of stuff - to the point that it cost me 27.00 at Office Max to do so - I don't have a fax machine.. The woman on the phone was very nice, though a bit rushed, and she took down other information.

They called me back the next day and set up an appointment several months away, but later in the day, they called me back and said that Dr. Berkson had reviewed my lab work. Could I come in two weeks? Well, this unnerved me because I thought that he had seen something really horrible in my labs. But, it turned out that they had a cancellation and were just trying to fill it. I couldn't make it on such short notice, so they made another appointment for six weeks later - which was fine for me and months earlier than what they had originally told me. I've since heard that this is common with Dr. Berkson's office so don't get discouraged it they tell you that it will be six months before you can get in - if they have a cancellation, they will try and get you in earlier.

I flew into El Paso, Tx. on a Saturday in mid-February, 2009 as my appointment with the doctor was on a Monday and the place that I was staying at's office was closed on Sunday - I didn't want to rush it by flying in Monday morning. From there, I drove the 40 miles to Las Cruces, New Mexico. I had booked a room at Value Place as they offered kitchenettes. - plus it was fairly cheap compared to staying at a regular hotel - about $225.00 for the week. With my gluten/dairy free diet, I needed a place where I could prepare my own meals and save money. The motel offered for sale a cooking set, but I bought what I needed from a nearby Big Lots.

Dr. Berkson's office was two exits from my motel and easy to find. I was surprised that it was a "regular" doctor's office and not an enormous clinic - actually kind of on the small side. After about 45 minutes wait time (I chatted with Dr. Berkson's lovely wife, who worked in the office) ,I met with Dr. Berkson. I told him that it was an honor to meet him. He reviewed my labs which my own doctor had recently ordered and seemed satisfied with what I had with me, otherwise, he would have ordered others. After taking my history and examining me, he told me what he wanted me to do while I was there as well as follow-up instructions, which mostly centered around diet. He went over which foods to eat and which to avoid and stressed too, the importance of exercise every day.

for more on supplements and nutrition

He wrote me a prescription for 3.0 mg. of Low Dose Naltrexone, as well as a prescription for valium as he said that the LDN usually caused initial sleep disturbances. Our time seemed very short, although it was close to an hour appointment, but I wanted to ask more questions - he told me that we would meet again later on in the week. I might add that I had originally planned on a two week visit instead of the one week that I ended up staying due to one of my beloved cats going into renal failure right before I left town.

I was whisked immediately into the "treatment room" - a small comfortable room that probably had about 8 chairs with IV poles next to them. They asked me if I had eaten something as they insist that you do so prior to getting any ALA treatments. The nurse was very nice and matter of fact - she was great with her IV (btw - they use the "butterfly" set up's that was placed into my hand) - it took about 30 minutes and near the end, I was given a B-12 injection in my upper arm. I've since heard that they might have changed this over to a B Complex injection but I am not sure. At any rate, I felt fine and had no ill effects. Afterwards, I went to the front desk and checked out and was told the office schedule - they wanted me to come two times a day for IV's. I was also given directions to the Rexall drugs that provided the LDN and sleep aid prescription - I think that it was about $63.00 for a 90 day supply.

In the next week, I received 4 IV Alpha-Lipoic-Acid treatments and Vitamin B injections while I was receiving the IV treatment. The ALA uses up the B vitamins and it is important to take a good B complex while taking any ALA. The clinic also stressed that one must eat prior to getting the IV treatment, as the ALA can also lower blood sugar.

The treatment room was always full, with a variety of people getting treated for various disorders. Everyone was very nice and pretty cheerful for a medical clinic! I thought back to my years of being treated at a teaching hospital and the hours of waiting miserably in the waiting rooms. This was more like it!

They were disappointed that I could only stay for the week, but I told them that one of my beloved cats, Brooks, had just been diagnosed with end stage renal failure and that I had to get back to care for him. I had my last treatment on Friday morning and flew back to New Orleans the next day.
During the months that passed, I really didn't feel much better and thought that the LDN wasn't working. However, this was a period when I was so stressed out over my cat, Brooks, and his renal failure disease, that all I could concentrate on was his care, as well as caring for the other cats - taking Brooks to the vet every 2 days for sub-q fluids and almost losing him a couple of awful times. Fortuntately, Brooks finally allowed me to do the fluids on him myself and he stabilized after awhile. But the stress of his illness was having a toll on my well being.

Until..... I had my 4 month blood work results and doctor's appointment in early June and was floored by the results. My liver function tests were completely normal! My ALT/AST fell from 174/90 to 23/30 in 4 months - normal levels for the first time ever! And my viral load test went from over a million to 49,400! Amazing!

On a side note, check this out - back in 1986, a friend and I went to a road side garage sale and we bought a strange wall hanging for $1.00 - it "spoke to us":

It's still hanging on my wall - so when I got out to New Mexico, I saw nothing but red fire hydrants and took this picture:

Far out - maybe that poster wall hanging in 1986 was an omen of things to come - I just found it weird...  ok, back to LDN and Dr. Berkson.......

I began to read more about LDN and joined several online LDN support groups, including "Hepatitis Children and Cam Alternatives", where several members were also using naltrexone to treat their various liver disorders. One member had treated her adopted daughter for Hepatitis B and eventually achieved sero-conversion - her liver enzymes also returned to normal and her viral level was undetectable.
Here is her story:

Treating Hepatitis B With Low Dose Naltrexone

Updated LDN May 2010 Labs

Updated Lab Results September 2010

More info about Low Dose Naltrexone:

LDN info

LDN Database


The Promise of Low Dose Naltrexone

From the recent 2009 Low Dose Naltrexone Conference where Dr. Berkson was the keynote speaker - he talks about ALA with LDN for treating Hepatitis C, Liver Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer, Lymphoma and many other disorders:

Introductory remarks - ALA - Hepatitis C


2)Pet Scans - Treatment Protocol - ALA Explanation - Pancreatic Cancer with Mets to Liver (case to be published in December)


Pancreatic Cancer with Mets to Liver - Hepatitis C with Liver Cancer -


RA with Lymphoma from Humira - B Cell Lymphoma - Breast Cancer - Rheumatoid Disorders - Dermatomyositis -


RA - SLE (Lupus) -


ALA and purity; Asian products vs European - ALA discussion - Epstein-Barr Virus -

6) Dr Berkson Q & A Part One

Lab Tests - Dosing of LDN and ALA - R Form Lipoic Acid - B Complex -

7) Dr Berkson Q & A Part Two:

Pancreatic Cancer & Thoughts on Treatment - ALA Gene Expression - Misc.

8) Dr. Berkson Q & A Part Three:

Dr. Berkson interviews - must listen to or read!

Honest Medicine