Hepatitis C: Medical Treatment or Herbs – Your have a choice!

 


Asma is a 67-year-female from Indonesia. In 2005, she felt lethargic and had pains in the sternum (chest). She came to Penang and was diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C infection (HCV – subtype 1b). She was subsequently put on interferon therapy and at the same time, on Copegus, an oral medication. Asma received a total of 16 interferon injections. Each injection cost RM 800.00.

The following are the results of her blood test from 2005 to 2011.

After the interferon therapy, Asma’s condition deteriorated. The levels of her haemotcrit, platelets and neutrophils decreased while the lymphocytes increased. With continued treatment, blood test on 21 December 2007, showed the levels of her white and red blood cells, haemoglobin, haemotocrit, platelet and neutrophils tumbled down further while the level of lymphocyte remained high –  a greater deterioration of blood conditions.

The doctor terminated the therapy after four months although the treatment was scheduled for six months. The doctor wrote: I have advised her to continue regular checkup with a view to resuming interferon therapy perhaps at a lower dose. Meanwhile she is only on Revicon. I suggest a repeat of her viral titre in three months’ time.

(Note: Revicon Forte Tablet is a nutritional supplement that provides essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids to maintain general good health).

Asma came to seek our help on 22 February 2008 but did not bring any medical reports. She was unable to explain what was wrong with her. We requested that she go back to her doctor and ask him to write her medical history and treatment. On 27 February 2008, Asma and two friends came to see us again. She was then started on herbs: Capsule A and B, Liver P and LL-tea.

The following are excerpts of our video-taped conversation on 27 February 2008.

Chris: Comparing the time before you had this treatment and the time when you were having the treatment (sixteen injections) – did you feel any difference about your health?

Asma: Yes. After I received the injection I felt lemah (weak – lack of strength).

C: So from your point of view, did the treatment bring you any benefit?

A: No.

C: It now appears that the virus is still there – not killed. Ibu (Mama), you need to take care of your diet. Avoid all forms of meat, oil, white sugar, dairy products and fine table salt. After this you can try some herbs that I am going to prescribe to you. There is NO medicine for me to kill the virus in you. But if the herbs can suppress the virus in you, that would be good enough.

Female friend: Can she eat fish?

C:  Yes, but avoid the toxic type of fish. But remember again to avoid proteins from animals and eggs. These are not good for you.

C:  Ibu, three years ago (before the treatment), you said you were tired. Did you suffer from any other problem?

A: I felt pulling pains on my chest. After the treatment, the pains were gone.

Female friend: Now there are no more pains but the doctor said there is still virus in her.

Male friend: Initially the doctor said the treatment would be for six months. After four months of treatment the doctor said she could not proceed with the treatment anymore.

C: Why?

A: According to the doctor, if I continue with the treatment I can either die or become “lumpuh” (lack of strength and would be unable to walk).

Male friend: If she continued with the treatment she might die or become lumpuh.

C: Was that what the doctor said?

A: Yes.

Male friend: After the four months, the doctor was afraid to continue with the treatment. The blood was no good.

C: Oh, now I understand. You come here because the doctor told you that he could not treat you anymore. When did he tell you that?

Female friend: Last Thursday. The next day, Friday (22 February 2008), we came to see you.

Male friend: The doctor said, “Just go home first”.

A: The doctor said I am already old.

Female friend: But four months ago, before the treatment, her age was not a factor. At that time the doctor said she was not old and she could undergo the treatment.

On 30 August 2008, Asma came to see us again with her blood test results.  All parameters were within normal limit. The numbers are a far cry from the time when she was under treatment.

We asked Asma the following questions:

Chris: You came to see us on 22 February 2008 and now it is 30 August 2008 – essentially that is six months ago. Are you on the herbs all this while?

Asma:  No, in total I took for about three months only. This is because I could not find anyone to come and collect herbs for me. (Note: the patient is from Aceh, Indonesia).

C:  Tell us frankly, how do you feel now compared to those days before you were on the herbs?

A:  I feel much healthier now. Before I took your herbs I felt lethargic – no energy. My appetite was poor and I was not able to sleep well. I was also constipated.

C: One interferon injection cost RM 800 and you have done a total of 16 injections. Were you getting any better than before you started with this treatment?

A: I was not better at all. I felt tired. But the pulling pains at the chest had disappeared.

C: Now after taking the herbs are you better?

A: Yes, I am better. I am more energetic. I have good appetite and I sleep well. My bowels movements are good.

C: You have just gone to see your doctor. What did he say?

A:  He wanted me to continue with my interferon therapy again in November 2008. No, I am not going to go for this treatment anymore.

On 17 April 2009, Asma came to CA Care again. She was still doing well although she had not been taking herbs regularly.  We reminded Asma that there is no such thing as a permanent cure for hepatitis. She has to take care of her diet and also continue to take the herbs. She should be responsible for her own well being.

On 22 July 2011, Asma came back to see us again, after almost one and a half years of absence. Since the past  three and a half years, she has been taking the herbs off and on.

C: You took herbs since 2008 – more than three years ago. You came in February 2008 and it is now July 2011. Okay, how have you been doing?

A: I am well. No problems.

C: Not tired?

A: If I work too much, I felt tired, otherwise I am okay. My son just passed away and I felt tired.

C: Sleep well?

A:Yes, before the herbs it was not good.

C: Before you said your appetite was not good?

A: Now, it is good.

C: Before you had pains in the chest?

A: No more pains but if I am tired I will feel the pains.

C: After coming here and starting to take the herbs, did you ever go back to your doctor? Took any medication from the doctor?

A: No, never seen any doctor and I did not take any doctor’s medication.

C: Tell me again, are you really healthy? You started to take the herbs three over years ago.

A: I am healthy and better off today than when I was on doctor’s medication. I am a lot better now.

C: What do you mean by better?

A: I don’t feel lethargic anymore. And I feel healthy.

C: Thank God for this. I did not expect such healing. You are indeed blessed. If you wish to continue taking the herbs, go ahead. Take care and know that this illness will not go away completely.

Comments:  According to Dr. Gabriel Ionescu, physician in the Division of Gastroenterology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, USA,  the decision to start treatment for hepatitis C must be shared by doctor and patient. While this advice is most commendable, it is unfortunate that it did not happen in this case. Asma is a soft spoken and timid lady. Even to this day she is totally ignorant of what is going on or what is happening to her. She just accepted what was “dished” out to her without having the slightest clue of what the treatment is all about. Often we would say to patients: Patients educate yourselves! But this message has no meaning to such a person as Asma.

Unknown to Asma, a diagnosis of HCV doesn’t necessarily mean she needs any treatment. According to the Mayo Clinic website: If you have only slight liver abnormalities, your doctor may decide against medical treatment because your long-term risk of developing a serious disease is slight, and the side effects of treatment can be severe. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs).

Even if when treatment is deemed necessary, patients may not know that the treatment helps some, but cure remains elusive. Once HCV is contracted, treatment or the body’s defenses can cure a small portion of patients. In most others, however, HCV’s frequent mutations allow it to evade the immune system, defeating attempts to develop a cure. Some treatments are available, but they don’t work for all patients.  (FDA Consumer, http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1999/299_hepc.html).

Let me quote the Australian Prescriber, Not everyone infected with the virus requires drug treatment. Hepatitis C itself is often not going to cause severe liver disease. It is the combination of the viral infection plus factors such as alcohol excess, obesity, diabetes … that leads to more severe liver disease. Addressing the secondary factors will lead to significant changes in liver function (http://www.australianprescriber.com/magazine/29/2/36/9/).

From this statement it appears that a change of lifestyle and diet is even more important than the treatment itself. But in this case, Asma was given the treatment but the doctor did NOT tell her to address the “secondary factors” that are so important for her protection.

In this case, there is no doubt at all that the interferon treatment made her worse. Her blood parameters deteriorated; compelling her doctor to stop the treatment, otherwise she might just die or become “lumpuh”.  She was told, After all you are already old. But the irony is that, according to the doctor’s letter, when Asma’s blood had improved or returned to normal, the doctor wanted to resume the interferon therapy again. And this time at a lower dosage – is this REALLY necessary or wise? Why use a drug that did not work anyway?

Based on the natural history of the virus, only 5% to 20% of infected patients would go on to develop liver cirrhosis over a period of 20 to 30 years. And 1% to 5% of them would develop liver cancer and die. Noting that Asma was already 64 years old then, could it be that she would develop liver cirrhosis when she is 84 or 94 years old? Even with cirrhosis she would not die yet. Even more so if she takes care of her diet. But the doctor did not tell her about the need to take care of her diet!

This story was left unfinished for many months. It was only when Asma came in again in July 2011 when we thought there is a good reason to finish it and publish! Now, let us get to the crux of the case.

Asma was on medical treatments for her hepatitis for three years. She spent a good amount of money for that treatment. What then was the result? She ended worse off than before receiving the interferon injections. The doctor prematurely terminated her treating saying that she just might die or become paralysed from it.  It was only then that Asma came to us for help. She was on the herbs. It has been more than three years and Asma is still healthy.  Asma said she is better off today than when she was on medical treatment.

Take and pause and reflect of the following:

  1. If herbs are harmful, what could have happened to Asma after her medical treatment was abandoned? Given at that time, the blood parameters were “bad.” If the herbs were harmful, the numbers would have become worse! But she got better instead.
  2. They say medical treatments – the Interferon or the Copegus are FDA-approved, scientifically proven. Proven to do harm or proven to cure in this case?
  3. One amusing advice which I gathered from the internet is this (see notes below). We are told that patients can help keep the hepatitis from getting worse by not taking any herbal supplements unless the doctor tells it is okay.  What do you think of such advice? What do doctors know about herbs? Can doctors give a knowledgeable and unbiased opinion about herbs?

What you need to know about Hepatitis C (information obtained from the net)

What is hepatitis C infection?

Hepatitis is a Latin word for inflamed liver. In this case, the inflammation is due to virus. Currently five viruses, A, B, C, D and E have been identified to have the ability to attack and damage the liver. Of these five, Hepatitis C virus (HVC) is viewed as the most serious.  It can cause irreversible scarring or cirrhosis of the liver which later can lead to liver cancer or liver failure.

Hepatitis C infection is often referred to as a “silent epidemic” and is a worldwide problem. Millions of people are infected with this virus for years. The virus may just lie dormant and many people may not experience any symptom – no symptoms of liver damage and the liver enzymes are at normal levels. In other cases, HCV can be detected in their blood and the liver enzymes are elevated.

It is said that of every 100 people infected with the hepatitis C virus about 75 to 85 people will develop chronic HCV infection. Of those with chronic HCV, 60 to70 people will go on to develop chronic liver disease, 5 to20 people will go on to develop cirrhosis over a period of 20 to 30 years and 1 to 5 people will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer.

In severe cases of HCV, patients show symptoms of liver damage such as:

  • yellowish eyes or skin (jaundice),
  • fatigue, or an extreme feeling of being tired all the time,
  • pain or tenderness in the right upper quadrant of the body,
  • persistent nausea or pains in the stomach,
  • lingering fever,
  • loss of appetite,
  • diarrhea,
  • dark yellow urine or light-colored stools.

Treatment of Hepatitis C.

A diagnosis with HCV does not mean that you must receive treatment. This is not necessarily the best option because the drugs used to treat HCV have serious side effects, are expensive and do not work for everyone. That being the case you need to “wait and see” and monitor your liver function enzymes to know how well your liver is working.

Studies have shown that current drugs are effective in up to 50% of patients with genotype 1 and up to 80% of people with genotype 2 or 3.

The drugs for treating HCV are:

  • Pegylated interferon alfa-2b (Peg-Intron) or pegylated interferon alfa-2a. In Malaysia pegylated interferon alfa-2a is sold as Pegasys (by Roche) and comes in a pre-filled syringe with fine gauge needle. Patients can bring the syringe home and inject the drug him/herself once a week.
  • Ribavirin. This oral drug is available in Malaysia as Copegus (by Roche) and comes as a 200 mg tablet. Patients generally take 3 tablets, twice a day. Taking Copegus alone without Pegasys is not effective for the treatment of chronic HCV infection.

The length of treatment depends on the type of the hepatitis C virus or genotype. For genotype 1 generally the treatment lasts for one year, while genotypes 2 and 3 are treated for six months.

If the drug is ineffective after three months, the treatment is usually discontinued.

Patients are advised to avoid this treatment if they drink alcohol, have advanced cirrhosis or liver damage, have severe depression or other mental health problems, are pregnant or might become pregnant, have autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and advanced diabetes, heart diseases or seizures.

Dietary habit and life style change and NO herbs:

According to medical advice as found in the internet, patients can help keep the disease from getting worse by:

  • Stopping the use of alcohol.
  • Eating well.
  • Not taking any herbal supplements unless the doctor tells it is okay.
  • Seeing a doctor regularly.

Side effects of drugs

Interferon can cause severe flu-like symptoms (chills and body ache), irritability, depression, concentration and memory problems, skin irritation, decreased thyroid function, constant fatigue, headaches, fevers, nausea, and insomnia.

Ribavirin can cause a low red blood cell count (anemia), itchiness, nasal congestion, skin irritation, and fatigue. Ribavirin accumulates in the testicles and ovaries and causes birth defects. Combined therapy of pegylated interferon and ribavirin may cause suicidal behaviour in some patients. Patients may also suffer from nausea, cough, shortness of breath, rash, itching, insomnia, and loss of appetite.


Healing of Metastatic Liver Cancer

Kelantan is situated in the east coast of northern Peninsular Malaysia. I know this place as a poor and backward state. But this is where I was born and brought up.  Though the people there speak Malay, the Kelantanese lingo is often not understood by people of other states in Malaysia. And the Kelantanese are proud of their lingo. This lingo is like a thread that binds the Kelantanese together – irrespective of whether you are Malays or Chinese. In this video, you will hear how we talk.

On 27 August 2010, Mat (not real name, H382), 62-year-old man from Kota Bharu, Kelantan; came to see me. He and his son walked into our centre without any medical report. I told them this is not the way we do things. I am not a village medicine man who dishes out herbs without knowing what is actually wrong with the patient. I need to read the medical reports, blood test results and see the X-rays or CT scan.  So, I told him: I am blind.

It was not possible for me to send him home empty-handed. He had travelled a whole day by bus to come here. So, I had to do what I could to help him – blind or not.

Mat said he had a cancerous lump in his right neck many years ago. This had since been removed by surgery. He was okay.  But for the past seven years he had liver problems (?). I did not know what that meant. Anyway he had consulted a specialist of a private medical centre in Kota Bharu before he came to CA Care. He was told there was something in his liver. His son said, he saw the CT scan with a “big hole” in the liver. Mat pointed out to me that his abdomen was hard.  The doctor wanted to give him chemo. He refused. His son learned about CA Care from the internet and decided to bring his father to Penang and seek another way of treating his father’s liver.  He also told the doctor that he wanted to come and see us. The doctor agreed and said there is nothing else he could offer him except chemo. Since Mat did not want the chemo, then he should go to Penang instead.

At his first visit, Mat presented with poor health. He was unable to sleep, had no appetite, bowel movements were difficult, was breathless after walking a short distance, and his abdomen was hard. He lacked energy and was always tired – sleeping most time of the day.  Based on these presentations, I suspected that he might have liver cancer – a hepatoma? Mat was prescribed Capsule A + B, LL-tea, Liver 1 and Liver 2 teas.

Honestly, I did not expect to see him again! That is the way it is with many people. They come with their problems. Unload their stories unto us. Take the herbs for about a week or two and never ever return.  They think we are magicians dishing out instant cures! I have made a study. Only 30% of those who come are serious enough wanting to find healing for themselves. The remaining 70% are just shopping for instant cures.
To our surprise Mat came back to see us again on 5 November 2010 – some three months later. He appeared happy and satisfied. And more important, he had regained his health.

Watch this video. The subtitles will help you follow our conversation.

Mat said he had regained his energy –  not tired as before. He could go fishing with his son riding the motorbike, something he could not do before. His appetite was great – he could not stop eating. And he ate a lot. Three meals a day and wanted more but his son stopped him from eating too much. He was able to sleep well. His urine flow was good – strong stream unlike before. His bowel movements were also good. His hardened abdomen had gone softer.

This is an amazing healing story, beyond our expectation.  My conversation with Mat that night was hard hitting. But I said it all with the “gentleness” of the Kelantanese lingo. So we all took it in good spirit. Mat got my points  very clearly and he appreciated them, with no offence.

Mat said: “I am sorry. It is my mistake. I was complacent. I felt so healthy that I forgot to come and see you after I finished the herbs. Boss, it was my mistake. I know that Boss is going to get angry with me. But all the same, I decided to come back again for more herbs. ”

“ I know why Boss is angry with me. This is because Boss wants his patients to get well. He wants to save their lives. So it is right if he is angry when we don’t follow what he says.”

My response to Mat that night were hard.

“That is normal. When they are dying, patients will follow what I said. But when they become well, they will immediately forget my advice.”

“What is this – you took herbs for a month but you stretched them until three months before you come back again. What are you trying to do? You know, cases like yours could be serious. You can die anytime soon. By right if you get well you should continue taking the herbs without stopping.”

“Anyway, it is your life. You are responsible for it. It is up to you, you want to die or you want to live. It is your choice and your responsibility.”

“Your healing is most unexpected. I don’t expect you to get well so soon. But you did. Consider this as a blessing from God. It is a real gift from God. Appreciate it or you throw it down the drain. It will be a waste if you throw it away. Know that this is indeed a blessing. ”

“Remember, to remain healthy or to get sick is your choice and your responsibility. I have shown you the way. You have already experienced the healing. Now, it is up to you take the road and proceed further. Nobody can walk this road for you.”

To those patients reading this case study, I would say the same thing to you. Just one reminder, please bring all your medical records when you come!

Let me conclude by saying this: “All said, I like Mat – this man from Kelantan. I am glad that I was able to help him!”

5 December 2010: Mat came back to see us again – exactly a month after his second visit. My earlier message (“scolding”) got across to him. Wonderful! On top of it he brought along his medical reports.

Medical History: He had painless, neck swelling since 2000. CT scan of head and neck on 28 August 2003 indicated an enlarged “right submandibular gland. It measures 2.3 x 2.7 x 4.2 cm. Right maxillary sinus mucocele and concurrent chronic siniusitis.”

Surgery was performed to remove the lump. Histopathology report confirmed “adenoid cystic carcinoma. Tumour extends to the outer capsule of salivary gland.”

Ultrasonography of the liver on 4 December 2010 (a day before his present visit) indicated “liver is enlarged (21 x 11 cm) and irregular. Heterogeneous parenchymal echo texture with many nodular masses with varying sizes and texture with irregular outlines. A big nodule  10 x 8 cm in size in the inferior part of the right lobe crossing segmental boundaries showing necrotic centre. Ascitic fluid is present. Impresion: multiple metastatic lesions of the liver.

My first question to Mat was: “How are you doing?” Without hesitation he replied that he was good and well. During this visit he was accompanied by his son and daughter. Four points were highlighted.

  • The son pointed out that before taking the herbs, Mat’s abdomen was enlarged. Now, the swelling had subsided significantly although the abdomen is still hard.
  • Mat has more strength. He said he is strong for a man of his age – 62 years old.
  • Mat is able to go fishing, unlike before.
  • His pale palms are now pink. His face is flushed. He looks and feels healthy.
  • One problem Mat is facing now is his ferocious appetite. Mat said: “ I just liked to eat.” His daughter said: “Every time he wakes up he wants to eat.” I told Mat: “Most cancer patients have poor appetite. In your case you always want to eat. I don’t have herbs to stop your appetite!”

Mat promised to come back again. In the meantime he will stick on with the good diet and herbs.

Comments: According to the oncology books; Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine 15th Ed., pg.589: “If untreated, most patients die within 3 to 6 months of diagnosis.”  Martin Abeloff, et al.  in Clinical Oncology, Vol: 2, pg. 1697 said: “Median survival of Hong Kong patients with inoperable HCC – tumour larger than 6 cm in diameter and receiving no treatment – was 3.5 weeks.  Tumour doubling time ranged from 1 to 19.5 months, with an average of 6.5 months.”

More related stories:

Liver Cancer: Surgery and Chemo Did Not Cure Him

A Great Failure and Let Down

Surgery for Liver Cancer: Eighty Percent Success?

Liver Cancer: He Died After a RM 10,000 Open-Close Surgery

The Doctor Said: “No More Hope” After a 60-Million-Rupiah Operation for Bile Duct Cancer