Benfotiamine is a fat soluble derivative of Vitamin B1. Since 1993, Germany licensed benfotiamine as Milgamma for sciatica. I am told that it is also used there, rather effectively. for other types of nerve pain, like radicultitis and the pain from herpes zoster or shingles.. German physicians claim that there are no known side effects to its use. In addition, this is an inexpensive therapy which is over the counter in the United States.
Here in the US, it took much longer for us to study it. Dr. Michael Brownlee at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine studied its use in rats. His study found that benfotiamine could stop deterioration and damage within blood vessels. This is particularly interesting to Type I and Type II diabetics, because even well controlled diabetics are eventually at risk for progressive glycation of their cells and for cellular damage which may ultimately result in nephropathy, peripheral and other neuropathies, diabetic gastroparesis, etc. (In English, this means that higher than normal cellular levels of glucose result eventually in damage to the blood vessels which translate into possible blindness, kidney failure, chronic foot and leg pain, a slow and ineffective gastrointestinal system, interruptions in wound healing, disruptions in immune function, and cardiovascular damage.) Benfotiamine is suspected to prevent glycation on the cellular level thus helping to prevent these issues.
Other studies have indicated that it appears to improve wound healing and immune system dysfunction, not only in diabetics, but in others as well.
This also may be an important supplement for us to discuss with our veterinarian should we have a diabetic dog or cat. Some veterinarians would probably support a careful trial run of such a supplement.
Importantly, despite benfotiamine's great value as a preventive for potential diabetic complication, it may have other uses which may not yet have been fully appreciated. For example, those who have experienced a lightning strike and have not died, often experience significant nerve damage and pain afterward, and treatments for such are limited, expensive, and of patchy value. Benfotiamine may have value in improving the pain level and outlook in this population of patients. I suspect it may have value in those with a history of vascular disorders. Some patients with cognitive disorders have been using it, as have some patients with multiple sclerosis. Certainly, a lot more study of this substance within selected patient populations is warranted.
Additional cautions: Supplements should not be given to pregnant women unless ordered by their physicians. Patients taking a number of other medications should also consult their physicians before adding other supplements. Patients receiving treatment for cancer should run any supplement by their physicians and their pharmacists because drug interactions may not yet be fully recognized or fully known.
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Milgamma is known to be available in the following nations:
It is also being studied by the Russians.
It may be available in other nations as benfotiamine.