In the last several months, I have written several blogs that suggest vitamin D will help treat systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE). Mainly these studies show that SLE patients with the highest levels have the fewest symptoms and their disease markers are better than SLE patients with low markers. However, these are association studies and not open studies or randomized controlled trials showing vitamin D supplements effectively help treat patients with SLE.
Now comes a report from a medical conference that an open study showed that vitamin D is beneficial and normalizes T regulatory cells and showed positive clinical results for patients with SLE. This, according to a paper presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Rheumatology (held from Nov. 5 to 9, 2011 in Chicago) led by Drs Benjamin Terrier, MD, Patrice Cacoub and Nathalie Costedoat-Chalumeau, from the Internal Medicine Department of the Pitié-Salpétrière Hospital in Paris.
Open studies are the next best thing to randomized controlled trials. Say 20 patients with lupus are tested and examined. Then they take vitamin D. And then six months later physicians test and examine them again, comparing the results of the first set of tests to the last set of tests. Studies have shown that most open studies are later confirmed by randomized controlled trials. However, they cannot be considered a “gold standard” in medical science, as investigators cannot rule out a placebo effect.
Unfortunately, it was not a daily dose. Rather it was 100,000 IU per week for four weeks then 100,000 IU per month for 5 more months. Although it showed a treatment effect, what effect would 5,000 IU/day show? Remember, Paleolithic man spent virtually every day in the sun, not one day a month. The first part, 100,000 per week, was probably okay, but 100,000 a month increases 25(OH)D the first two weeks, but levels fall the last two weeks. However, the great advantage of using 100,000 IU/week is that the scientists know the patients are taking it because they usually give it to them in their office and watch them swallow it.
Furthermore, I hope this is finally the death knell for the “Marshall Protocol,” which calls for no vitamin D, avoidance of all sun exposure, combined with a senseless combination of antibiotics. However, I’m afraid the true believers that constitute the following of this electrical engineer (who sold used cars when he first came to this country), will not be deterred by dozens of such studies. Religion is like that.