Because folks keep asking about this stuff, perhaps it’s worth noting that in the last 5 years, no new information has emerged regarding this compound. By comparison, in the same period of time, multiple placebo-controlled trials have been published on fish oil and more recently, NAC (n-acetylcysteine). Not that these are alternatives to the Canadian compound; they’re different, and have different targets. But I think the lack of data in that time probably means something. Granted, there are probably “political” reasons that could account for some of this difference. But probably not all that difference, I figure.
Now back to 2008 or before . . .
This is a “dietary supplement” of sorts. It’s a collection of about 40 different trace minerals, vitamins, and a few other compounds (including inositol, which has been studied itself as a treatment in bipolar disorder, particularly for depressionChengappa ; and which has even been recently reported to share some properties with other mood stabilizersWilliams). Availability may become limited due to political/economic and possibly scientific interference with the company, but as of the legal developments reviewed below, hopefully this will no longer be a problem.
There are case reports which support use of this approach.Kaplan, Popper Here’s a testimonial from woman with an important perspective as someone who’s seen long-term benefit (an opposite experience is reprinted below). At the same time, there are intense arguments about whether this stuff is “real” or just a another wish that is making it’s manufacturers a bunch of money even while they themselves believe it to be helpful.
A legal battle with HealthCanada (equivalent of the U.S. FDA) halted research on this treatment approach for several years. The court recently cleared TrueHope and chastised HealthCanada for their inappropriate emphasis on rules (a minor triumph for all who dislike bureaucratic non-thinking). That story appears in two articles from the Calgary Sun from August 2006: one on the legal issues and one with more testimonials from users. However, these articles may not tell the whole story — but unfortunately, whatever real story needs to be told about this legal issue has been obscured by the emotional energy behind claims and counterclaims from involved and peripheral parties. I’ve published excerpts from and links to these parties but now apparently my comments have been used in that continuing battle.
So while there are now many testimonials about this product, we still do not have any evidence from the most respected and most standardized form of research: a “randomized clinical trial”, the gold standard of evidence in medicine. Now that such research is reportedly back underway [update 2015: nothing yet, something must have gone wrong…], I hope we can all step back and wait for those data. Any further comments from me reflecting a “pro” or “con” view appear to be at risk of misinterpretation.
Update 3/2008: here is a testimonial I received unsolicited from one True Hope client; reprinted with permission (minor editing for clarity). Of course we cannot know if her experience is representative but for it to happen once is not good. On the other hand, see the other testimonial which follows this one.
i am a former i guess you would say empower plus guinea pig. i turned to it when i was told i was treatment resistant to meds, which i was clearly: they only worsened my symptoms. After researching true hope and many testimonials about people who had recovered i decided it was my last chance.
Slowly they weaned me off what meds i was still on and put me on their program. Each time i called and told them i was still clearly rapid cycling and getting worse they blamed it on something else: it was the seroquel withdrawal, i wasn’t absorbing it, i needed to add insositol, choline, take lithium orotate, so months went by and money down the toilet, my symptoms worsened i became more suicidal. But since meds clearly hadn’t worked i stuck with them for over a year at two hundred dollars a month.
Every time i called to see if i could talk to someone that knew what was going on, i was told it wasn’t possible. When i demanded they let me talk to one of the doctors or people in charge they said they had waiting lists and i didn’t qualify, so basically i was getting advice from a call centre of people who were taking the product apparently with good results but were not in a position to help others. When i was honest about my situation on the message boards they took my account away and said i might scare potential customers.
So eventually i went off true hope [which] caused me to have no hope, and so i wasted a year on a product that gave hope but had no backing.
i am sure you have heard many stories like mine i don’t know if you are still fighting them but thanks for trying.
sick people will do anything when desperate and there will always be people to take your money, but clearly what they are doing is inhumane.
best of luck
hopefully something good will come out of this
On the other hand, here is a testimonial sent to me by a mother who read my TrueHope pages and thought another view was warranted:
I notice you discuss EMPower+ on your site, and that there isn’t much current research supporting it. I know the plural of anecdote is not data, still I thought you might like to hear from someone else who has used it. In our case, we used it for our daughter, who’d been on Depakote since she was [less than 10]. She was sensitive enough to it that we could tell within a few hours if she missed a dose, or that the generic wasn’t working for her, even on the XR version. She is now 16. The usual sign of missing a dose – it usually was her evening dose – was nightmares or night fears, or both, the night of the missed dose.
The year she was [in her teens], her blood levels were too high, so we were told that although it worked well for her, we needed to find something else. After failing the first few trials we took her for a second opinion to [another physician] to see if he had any ideas. … Among other things, he suggested trying Empower saying he’d seen it work with some of his patients, and that a Dr. Popper at Harvard was researching it. Without that we would have been even more skeptical than we were about it, although we really didn’t expect much. However, since it was easy enough to start, as we didn’t have to go through a doctor for a prescription or anything, we figured, why not try it.
So…we didn’t tell her we were switching, I just started loading the capsules into her daily pillbox. She took them, and eventually we started cutting down the Depakote dose as TrueHope recommends. She had been on a daily dose of 1250 split into 500 am, 750 pm doses. She’s been off completely since [about 6 months]. We haven’t seen any nightmares, fears, anxieties, grandiosity, etc. There were none when we cut her Depakote dose down, and then off. We have seen the occasional racing thoughts, and racing speech, often associated with less sleep than normal, or illness. Otherwise, they’re associated with me decreasing her EMPower+ dose too much, trying to get her down to their recommended maintenance dose.
When I told her the other day that she wasn’t taking Depakote any more, and hadn’t been for months, she was shocked.