Patients could save thousands of pounds a year by taking medication prescribed for heartworms and other parasites, and other treatments, in a trial conducted by the Ontario Society of Clinical Laboratory Medicine.
The society, which was founded in 1891, has been conducting research into alternative treatments for the parasitic worms and other parasitic diseases for more than 50 years.
It is the largest independent laboratory in Canada, with an annual budget of more than $4 million.
“It’s a significant investment in the community,” said Dr. Sarah M. Kuchenbacher, chair of the society’s advisory board.
A study published last month in the journal PLOS One showed that patients who took an apathy treatment for heartworm parasites had an 80 per cent reduction in their risk of having a stroke.
The trials, which are in their second year, will be the first to examine the effectiveness of the medications in the general population, said Dr Kuchensberger, who is also a member of the group’s board.
“It’s very important to understand that we can’t just prescribe apathy medications, because that’s not good enough,” she said.
An apathy medication, which is used to treat patients with anemia, is typically taken orally.
Mild symptoms can include fever, headache, chills, nausea, and vomiting.
Serious side effects can include kidney damage, blood clots, and death.
Patients can use apathy medicines to reduce the symptoms of the worms, but they must also take the medication for five days a week to keep their heart functioning normally, said David J. Leeson, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Medicine and the co-founder of the apathy medicine study.
Leeson said he was surprised by the results of the study, which focused on about 1,400 patients in Ontario.
He said the results show the drugs could be very beneficial for many people, but also said it could be dangerous.
Many of the patients taking the medications were taking them to treat their symptoms of mild to moderate heartworm infection, he said.
“The patients were taking it for two or three weeks before they started having serious symptoms.
They were doing all kinds of stuff that we’re not even aware of,” he said, adding that there was a risk of people getting heartworm-related complications.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. David McLeod said that the findings of the trial are not a reason to abandon the medications altogether.
“[It’s] just something that we’ve looked at and we think is worthwhile, and we’re really happy with the results,” said McLeod, who has published several studies on the drug.
Heartworms are common in Canada and are generally found in people with diabetes, heart failure, or other conditions.
Symptoms include fever and low blood pressure, and heart palpitations.
The worms can be found in the feces of infected humans, and are usually passed on through food or water.
Diagnosis and treatment are often difficult.
Kuchenbsacher said the society is considering extending the trial to include a larger group of patients, but it could take years to get that done.
As part of the research, the society will conduct a clinical trial of a new medication for treating heartworms.
Another trial is in the early stages.
Researchers said that while the results will be beneficial to the community, they will not be able to predict how many people would benefit from taking the medication, nor how much it will cost.
Dr. Kuchner said that for people who have severe symptoms, there may be a better use of a placebo.
And patients with moderate symptoms should avoid taking the pills.
People can also try using apathy treatments for heartburn, and for the common cold.