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Professor receives patent for neurological treatment

By David Zisser

Oct. 20, 2002 9:00 p.m.

Edward Tobinick, assistant clinical professor of medicine at
UCLA, recently received a patent for his new method for fighting
neurological diseases and related disorders.

Tobinick’s method uses therapeutic agents produced through
recombinant DNA technology that inhibits the action of certain
natural molecules in the body, called cytokines.

“I believe it’s the future of medicine,”
Tobinick said. “These (cytokine inhibitors) provide new
treatment methods for neurological disorders.”

Cytokines initiate and amplify the body’s inflammatory
response. The body has its own cytokine inhibitors that last a few
seconds, but the bioengineered versions, those used by Tobinick and
other doctors, can last several days.

Cytokine inhibitors have also proven to be relatively safe,
producing few or no side effects in most patients.

One patient, Phil Lamb, who saw one of Tobinick’s
associates for treatment, had constant lower back pain for 12
years.

Lamb had elected not to undergo surgery and instead went to
Tobinick’s office after hearing about the treatment. Within
minutes of receiving the subcutaneous injection, he said he felt
pain-free.

Tobinick predicts that the treatment will be licensed and
available around the world in two to three years.

“We have a responsibility to make these available to
patients,” he said.

Cytokine inhibitors were originally used to treat arthritis, but
published studies both confirm much of Tobinick’s work and
suggest a wide variety of other possible applications, including
the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

He originally discovered the effects cytokine inhibitors have on
hearing loss when he treated a patient for back pain.

Within minutes of receiving the treatment in the form of an
injection in the back, the patient, who had been using digital
hearing aids for two years, noticed that her hearing had returned,
Tobinick said.

Most patients who seek the use of cytokine inhibitors for back
or leg pain have failed all other means of treatment, mainly
cortisone injections near the spine and surgery.

Bridgette Browning, a rehabilitation therapist from Apple
Valley, finally decided to use Tobinick’s method after 17
years of “chronic, debilitating pain from head to toe”
due primarily to a tail bone fracture in 1985.

She underwent three back surgeries, but when those failed to
relieve the pain, her doctors suggested heavy narcotics. However,
Browning did not want something that merely “masks the
symptoms.”

When Browning’s primary physician told her a year ago to
see Tobinick, she was cynical. Finally, when the pain continued to
worsen, she made an appointment and was treated in July.

“In … milliseconds, I was pain free,” she
said.

It was more than pain relief, though.

“I was just going through the motions, withdrawing into
myself, because when you’re in that much pain, you start to
withdraw socially, spiritually and emotionally,” she
said.

Browning is required to have a checkup in November, but she will
not have to take another injection.

The medication is approved by the Food and Drug Administration,
but the specific procedure with which Tobinick uses the medication
is not. As a result, the procedure is not covered by insurance and
costs nearly $2,500.

Another hurdle that Tobinick perceives is a shortage in the U.S.
and international supply of cytokine inhibitors.

“There are not enough manufacturers,” he said.
“It depends upon the foresight of the pharmaceutical
companies.”

For now, at least Tobinick’s patients are reaping the
benefits of his innovations.

“I keep thinking the pain is going to return, but it
hasn’t,” Browning said. “I feel like my life is
back.”

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