Saving on meds: From kitchen to clinic and cutting costs

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Prices for most name-brand prescription drugs have risen 208 percent from 2008 to 2016. That is causing up to 20 percent of people to either skip taking their much-needed medication or cut it in half to reduce costs.

But now, researchers are looking toward a cheaper and more natural alternative.

One in four deaths in the U.S. is due to heart disease. Now, a researcher is looking to change that starting right in your kitchen.

In a study where mice were treated with sesame oil, he was able to find progress.

“The extent to which sesame oil prevented atherosclerosis was over 80 percent, and it was stunning because even the best pharmaceutical agents do not go that far,” Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy said.

Atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the artery walls, is usually caused by high cholesterol and chronic inflammation. Current drug treatments, like statins, only treat the high cholesterol. The anti-inflammatory benefit of sesame oil also opens it up to treat other diseases.

“Inflammation is the basis for many chronic diseases: arthritis, Crohn’s disease, even Alzheimer’s,” Parthasarathy said.

This has led to a clinical trial for those suffering with Crohn’s disease, possibly providing a less harsh and cheaper alternative to medications like Humira.

“Each injection is about $5,000 to $10,000 dollars," MD/Ph.D candidate Michael Rohr said. "The great thing about sesame oil extract is that it’s cheap and easy to prepare, and the side effects are much less compared to the other types of drugs.”

“So if kitchen is beneficial, someday you may not even need to go to the clinic," Parthasarathy said. "From the kitchen to the clinic, that is my message.”

The researchers are currently recruiting for the Crohn’s trial and expect to have it up and running in early 2019. Participants must be between 18 and 75 and not have a nut allergy.

For more information about the clinical trial, call 407-266-7120.

REPORT: MB #4520

BACKGROUND: Atherosclerosis is the slow and silent closing of the arteries. It prevents blood flow to the heart and throughout the body which leads to heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. The first part of the artery damaged is the endothelium, which keeps the arteries toned and keeps blood flowing. That leads to plaque. As that plaque builds it creates a bump on the wall of the artery and leads to many health risks to the heart and body.

DIAGNOSING: You can be diagnosed with atherosclerosis through family histories, physical exams and results from tests. If positive, there is higher risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The doctor may check the blood flow in the legs or feet or even check the pulses in leg arteries for abnormal sounds. From there, there are many tests that can be taken in order to better the diagnosis. The most common test is an ankle brachial index (ABI) which compares the blood pressure in the arm to the ankle. There is also a treadmill test or a Doppler ultrasound which are conducted after taking the ABI.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Most people take cholesterol medications, water pills, beta blocker medications or other blood pressure medications to fight arteriosclerosis. There are also different surgeries such as bypass or endarterectomies that can help get rid of disease, but there are new developments that can help prevent arteriosclerosis. Dr. Sampath Parthasarathy has been researching the health benefits of sesame oil,with a potential use as an anti-inflammatory for the heart. Dr. Parthasarathy said a lot of the components that make up the oil are derived from sesaneol which is in a lot of medicine. The studies that have been conducted have been on mice and other animals, and they have positive results. Researchers are very hopeful, but they need to look at additional factors.