Antibiotics as Rheumatoid Arthritis Therapy

Sky and pillarsOnce in a while, a question is posted about the “Marshall protocol” or the “antibiotic protocol” for treating Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’ve been told by a couple of people that this is the Rheumatoid Arthritis “cure” if only it would get enough attention. There are those who forcefully promote antibiotic treatment for RA. At times, I’ve been challenged to disprove the antibiotic protocol if it’s wrong. Well, I’m not doing that; but, here an introduction: 

Are antibiotics approved by the FDA for use as DMARDs?

I’ve been told several times that they are. It is stated on numerous websites. However, I cannot find any evidence that it’s true. From what I have read, the FDA has not approved antibiotics to be used as DMARDs. However, they have been used by some patients, and tested to some degree. Some medical books and the American College of Rheumatology do mention their use with treating symptoms of mild RA. See this list of FDA approved uses of minocycline and a discussion of its off-label use with mild Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Antibiotics to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

Some antibiotics have mild anti-inflammatory properties. A drug has a primary mode of action, such as killing bacteria; but there are usually other effects which would be considered secondary. Years ago, it was discovered that minocycline does have an anti-inflammatory effect. It is a mild effect compared to the powerful NSAIDs and DMARDs of today, so it is not usually used as an anti-inflammatory. Another obvious reason that minocycline is seldom used in place of DMARDs is that we now know that overuse of antibiotics leads to development of resistant strains of bacteria.

It’s not the antibiotic property of minocycline

If the antibiotic (anti-bacterial) mechanism of minocycline were the reason it can improve some Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms, then other antibiotics would have a similar effect. You would also think that stronger antibiotics would work even better, but they don’t. According to one scientist, that is because the effect of minocycline on RA is due to its effect on the inflammatory pathways.

In a post in Arthritis Today, a pharmacist explains to a patient that minocycline does not work against Rheumatoid Arthritis because of its antibiotic properties: “It isn’t the antibiotic properties, but the effects on the immune system and the ability to inhibit enzymes that break down cartilage and connective tissue that make minocycline so effective.” If that’s true, it might be better compared to low dose prednisone than a DMARD.

Marshall’s antibiotic protocol writing and RA

Trevor Marshall was an engineer who claimed to have success treating his own sarcoidosis with minocycline. Many in the movement promoting the antibiotic protocol base their claims upon his writing. From what I’ve read, he was able to receive “orphan drug status” from the FDA for treating sarcoidosis with minocycline, but renewal is conditional upon submission of regular reports which some say are lacking. That link at Science-Based Medicine contains some sarcasm, but a lot of science if you are interested in reading more about his theory. Scientists sound certain that they have disproven Marshall’s theory about bacteria and autoimmune diseases. And here is a more sympathetic account of Marshall’s view from About .com.

Edit: 5/6/18 Updated outgoing links that had been changed.

Recommended reading:

Kelly Young

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. Through her writing, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more accurate awareness of Rheumatoid disease aka Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creating ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and bringing recognition and visibility to the Rheumatoid patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of about 950 pages and writes periodically for other newsletters and websites. Kelly served on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. There are over 42,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She has lived over nine years with unrelenting Rheumatoid disease. See also http://www.rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

51 thoughts on “Antibiotics as Rheumatoid Arthritis Therapy

  • September 13, 2010 at 8:32 am
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    About 3 months ago I had an infection in my lower right gum around a back tooth and had to stop my meds so I could take antibiotics. I felt WONDERFUL that week! No pain, swelling went away…I felt NORMAL again. As soon as I stopped the antibiotics the pain and swelling immediately came back. I asked my doc about it and he said he had not had success with treating RA with anitbiotics and put me on Enbrel along with the methotrexate that I was already taking. Enbrel is working too but I had more energy and felt better while taking the antibiotics.

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    • September 13, 2010 at 9:33 am
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      Sherron, I’ve had an opposite experience. Enbrel did nothing for my RA. I’ve been on antibiotics several times since I’ve had RA and it did not help me at all either. RA is so inconsistant that it’s very hard to study. That’s why we can’t generalize by our own experience. Yes, docs I ‘ve talked to say they had no success at all with it either. Why does he say it helped you? What kind of antibiotic was it?

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      • September 14, 2010 at 11:11 am
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        I was taking Amoxicillin. My husband and my parents could not believe the difference it made for me.

        This has led me to be put on a waiting list to get an appointment with a doctor in another city that feels in some cases antibiotics can be the answer. It may not be the answer for me but I feel I have to explore all possibilities.
        The downside is they will not be scheduling any more appointments until February 2011. There is a LONG waiting list of people wanting to see this doctor.

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  • September 13, 2010 at 9:21 am
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    I believe McPherson-Brown have a similar protocol. You can read about it at roadback.org
    I tried it years ago when I was first diagnosed, but I was too scared to go off my Enbril.
    I did not give it a college try…but I have serious #’s with an RA factor of 5500.
    Don’t think I was the right candidate.
    There is also a book called the Infection Connection.

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  • September 13, 2010 at 10:11 am
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    Thanks for the info. I read quite a bit about antibiotic therapy and your info seems to corroborate with what I found.

    Be forewarned though…I pretty sure you will be inundated with antibiotic users telling you your info is wrong, claiming you a part of the “big pharm” conspiracy…

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    • September 14, 2010 at 11:47 am
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      Thanks, Lynn. I can assure you I’m not part of a conspiracy, although I have gotten a couple of emails like that. LOL – not bad out of the many emails to get only a couple like that I guess!

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  • September 13, 2010 at 11:20 am
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    I am currently doing the antibiotic therapy for my RA. Seven months in and doing great. I take Minocycline and Doxycycline at low doses on alternating days, drugs that are in the tetracycline family. I was severe and on my way to being disabled, and now I feel I am aboout 70% improved and my life has come back. From what I have read, trials of these drugs have enough evidenece of effectiveness and would most likely allow FDA approval of tetracyclines use for RA, but would not be practical for drug companies to pursue because since they have been aroung for a long time and generic versions are available it makes it commercially not feasible. I believe in the infection connection and that this therapy works. I have a brother who had severe RA, did this therapy for 1 year and has been in remission for over 2 years now. I have no side effects, the drugs are low cost, and I would much rather be taking the antibiotics over all the other RA drugs which have a long list of serious side effects.

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  • September 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm
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    It seems reasonable that infection could generate mild symptoms similar to RA. Several years before my diagnosis I was put seriously out of commission by a flare-like event. My family med doc said it was probably human parvovirus–though looking back, I wonder if that was my first flare. Even having your thyroid out of whack can cause joint pain. My rheumy has said that RF can be positive for reasons other than RA. He doesn’t trust blood tests alone for diagnosis–either positive or negative. He also considers family history, the symptoms, and their responsiveness to steroids.

    So my question is “What were the diagnostic criteria for the study of this antibiotic?” As Kelly mentioned above, there are so many variables–between patients and within the course of one patient’s disease. Add a few patients whose mild “RA” symptoms are caused by something else, something that happens to respond to a drug, and the data is skewed.

    For me, with no signs of underlying infection or other illness, there’s no way I’d risk it. I’m doubling down on biologics and hoping. But one thing I’m learning–there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for this disease.

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    • September 14, 2010 at 11:42 am
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      Well thought through comments. I agree. I’ll add that we are in a middle ages of understanding this disease – it is more complex than other very complicated diseases that we also cannot understand or treat. If anyone doubts how extremely complicated RA is, they sould read the articles I linked to & look up the links in those articles. Trying to untangle the words just enough to read through is very revealing. A good exercise to see what the scientists are dealing with trying to unravel RA.

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  • September 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm
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    I talked my rheumatologist into letting me try minocycline 4 years ago. At first I couldn’t tell any difference, replacing Enbrel with minocycline while still taking MTX. But slowly I noticed that I was hurting more, more fatigue and joint pain. After 4 months I chose to go back on Enbrel, but I was glad that I at least was given the chance to try it. I know some people have success with it, it just didn’t work with me though.

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  • September 13, 2010 at 11:08 pm
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    It’s so funny that you posted this today Kelly! My husband just told me last week that the doctor he saw last week said she had RA, did a year-long antibiotic regimen soon after diagnosis, and has been in remission for four years now. I’m going to see the same doctor tomorrow for Alana’s appointment (it’s for her Aspergers screening; last week was an initial parent visit) and I was scared she was going to corner me about trying this method that worked for her. After reading the responses here and in the links you posted, it’s not really an option for me since I’ve developed an allergy to tetracycline antibiotics. But I feel better knowing that the psychologist who will be treating my daughter is not crazy! 😀

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    • September 14, 2010 at 11:36 am
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      Aub, I have no idea whether she’s crazy. LOL. Just kidding. It’s possible she has a type of RA in remission or a reactive arthritis or something similar which are treated w/ antibiotics too. Either way, I hope Alana’s appt. went well. :heart:

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  • September 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm
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    I have noticed that when I get sick with a serious illness or infection my RA will sometimes get better. I think it is because my immune system is simply too busy to attack my joints and an an infection at the same time. It can work either way though sometimes I’ll get sick and suddenly all my joints will become very active too. Drugs almost always have more than one effect. Viagra was invented to treat the heart but we know what it is usually used for!

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  • September 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm
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    I don’t think that I would ever try the antibiotic option, there are so many more effective, proven choices available.

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  • September 15, 2010 at 7:59 pm
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    “There are those who forcefully promote antibiotic treatment for RA.” Could you post samples of this forceful action? And what is the difference between someone forcefully promoting their Rituxan success, if Minocin works for someone else and chooses to share their excitement? I am surprised at your word “forcefully”, which sounds demeaning or derogatory to RA/AI antibiotic treatment successes.

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  • September 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm
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    Several years ago my foreign-born rheumatologist phoned in a prescription for me that he called “pred pak”. Unfortunately the pharmacy thought he said “prev pak” and I received huge doses of antibiotics. I remember protesting to the pharmacist’s aide that I had arthritis, not an infection; she replied “Oh, that’s good for everything!” Not true in all cases. As a result, I experienced cramps, increasing bloody stools and a colonosocopy because my physician thought I had cancer. All ended well, but I now ask for paper prescriptions.
    As a result, I have been very wary of antibiotics, and would have to read a lot of studies to convince me that antibiotics would be helpful.
    However, this reaction may only happen to me. I say if it works for you, go for it!

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  • September 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm
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    I am currently trying an AP approach. I am six weeks into it and am beginning to see signs of improvement. I have chosen this approach as my first line of attack against RA. I was diagnosed with seronegative RA over a year ago and my symptoms began two years ago. I recently replied to someone that left a post on my blog under my AP diary and wanted to copy it here in the event that it might help or encourage even one person. And I would like to add to the reply below for those unfamiliar with the work of Dr. Brown and his successes recorded in his book–The Road Back–that the patients he treated ranged from those completely bed ridden to those simply limited in their daily activities. He treated people that had suffered for years.

    Here is part of my reply:
    “You are so right about the unpredictable nature of treatments. And we all know that even if something works for one person, it might not work for another. But I always feel encouraged by the fact that the pioneer of AP, Dr. Brown, successfully treated over 10,000 patients before his death. It is sad to me that simply because there are not double blind studies touting it’s success (which are not an accurate reflection of what AP has done for many since it can take up to a year before some see improvement and double blind studies are completed after only six months) and FDA approval (which is meaningless to me personally since they approve things that cause cancer and are banned in foreign countries, i.e. allura red, http://www.3dchem.com/molecules.asp?ID=402) that many people write off AP treatment. I am also extremely encouraged by the multitude of success stories on the Road Back Foundation, http://www.rbfbb.org/.

    Wrist is still feeling great. I can’t help but do push ups through out the day to check on it. I’m still amazed by this new ability. Another neat thing is that the pinky on my right hand that I could only close half way for the last eight months or more has full range of motion now. This particular pinky is what alarmed my last rheumy and prompted him to urge me to start a biologic ASAP since he said I was experiencing “permanent deformity”. Well, it’s back to normal. I can hardly believe I can touch it to the palm of my hand without any trouble at all. I can’t help but check on this often too. : ) My morning stiffness has also significantly diminished. Still feel improvement in my feet today. More improvement than I have experienced since my feet came under attack. Don’t get me wrong, I am still walking funny. But I’ll take any signs of improvement any day. Of course, I am holding my breath until I feel that any progress made becomes consistent and long lasting. But I haven’t seen progress since symptoms first began two years ago (aside from the two weeks of relief from a depo medrol injection that incidentally made me worse after it wore off). But I have to tell you that simply feeling like I have my brain back is out of this world wonderful. There is nothing better than feeling “with it” again. It got to be noticeable and embarrassing when I was having conversations with people. I would lose my train of thought constantly.”

    When looking at the side effects associated with the current drugs offered for RA, it is surprising that people do not consider AP more often as an option. Higher doses of antibiotics are given to teens for acne on a daily basis than the doses often prescribed for RA. And as we all know, the current drugs offered do not treat the cause, they simply address the symptoms. That is not to say that remission is not possible, and if AP does not work for me that I will not consider them. But when looking at all of the options and the science behind Dr. Browns approach, I believe AP is an option worth trying.

    I would highly encourage people to watch Dr. Brown’s video on the The Road Back Foundation website and read testimonials and more information on the site before simply dismissing the approach based on studies that don’t accurately reflect the possibilities AP can offer. I read Dr. Brown’s book The Road Back which is within the book The New Arthritis Breakthrough and felt for the first time in my life that someone accurately described the disease. It is an incredible read. I discovered the AP approach through Southern Gal with RA’s blog. She has experienced significant improvement on this approach and discusses Dr. Brown’s and his work as well.

    Many blessings to you, Kelly!

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  • January 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm
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    I’ve been on Minocycline as my DMARD for the last year and a half. Prior to starting Mino I was having difficulty walking and within one week of taking the antibiotic I was able to move more easily. I’m a sero-negative RA patient and was diagnosed 10 years ago with moderate RA. They started me on Plaquenil for the first two years, then I took oral gold for 5 years followed by Sulfasalazine which didn’t help much at all. The antibiotics seem to be helping in my case but I can totally understand why people would be hesitant about long term antibiotic use. Personally I’m much more frightened by the “biologics” and don’t want to be a guinea pig for big Pharma. I was given high doses of Celebrex for several years when I was first diagnosed and I now have to take blood pressure medicine every day to deal with the resulting side effects from that wonderful new drug.

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  • February 23, 2011 at 10:42 am
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    they thought I had RA, was in pain for 7 months like hell, refused to take any meds or pain killers but opted for diet instead. it didnt do much so i hired a reputable naturopath. diagnosed with high levels of lead in my body so i was chelated and that diminshed my pain greatly and cured my chronic fatigue indefinitley ( my immune system got a boost against the bugs but then lost.) afterwards my GP told me to try minocycline and said it was my only shot to not take the other drugs. took the mino for 6 months and ive been pain free ever since. now officially diagnosed with reactive arthritis. I eat healthier now, work out, got a job on the fire dept and im enjoying life again. minocycline is definitley not for everyone but it saved my life!

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    • February 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm
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      I’m glad they figured it out Gordo. Reactive arthritis is considered curable by some since it responds so well. I wrote about how historians think they could have cured Columbus if he were alive today.

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  • March 7, 2011 at 10:35 am
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    After the antimalarials failed I asked my rheumatologist if we could try minocycline before stepping it up to methotrexate. I wish I had not tried it. I stayed on minocycline for about three months and I ended up feeling worse than before my diagnosis. I didn’t feel like it ever worked but I kept taking it because I felt a responsibility to stick it out for the full 3 months since my rheumatologist gave it to me at my request. Silly me.
    Now I am on methotrexate. She started me out at 4 but it is not helping. So now the dose is increasing every week till I am at the full syringe…I wonder if staying on the minocycline so long let the RA get into an out of control flare because it feels very out of control right now.

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    • March 7, 2011 at 10:40 am
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      I don’t know Ruby. But I hope it gets better for you. And I hope someday they KNOW for sure what will treat RA early to make it stop in every patient. Dreaming of that today!

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    • July 15, 2012 at 10:39 am
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      You really need to read the book “The New Arthritis Breakthrough”. It really explains the minocycline. It is normal to get worse before you get to feeling better…you are supposed to ( the book explains why). You have to take Minocycline for several months before it kicks in. It is definitely working for me without all the awful side effects you get from other RA treatments. The FDA hasn’t approved it for RA but its only because the FDA only spends it’s time on new drugs…..minocycline costs me $4.00 a month!

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  • April 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm
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    Thank you for this informative and interesing blog. I would like to correct some misconceptions I saw frequently among comments in this blog about the use of antibiotics for RA.
    1) First of all literally tens of thousands of people have been helped by the antibiotic protocol. That number is not made up. I am one of them.
    2) Secondly, it’s not antibiotics in general that may help RA. It’s specifically those in the tetracycline family – particularly minocycline, brand name Minocin.
    3) According to physicians & researchers who are experienced in using the protocol it is not the anti-inflammatory effects of Minocin, but the action of the drug against some infectious organism theorized to be causing the problem. The anti-inflammatory explanation is usually given by those who don’t really believe in the infectious theory and are just trying to find a way to explain the positive results people have gotten.
    4) The causative organism is thought to be mycoplasma, which is not affected by other antibiotics, only the tetracyclines. Therefore, taking other antibiotics such as those in the penicillin family will not help. If you really know the work of Dr. Brown, you know that mycoplasmas have been cultured from the joints of RA patients, as well as apes and other animals with severe RA. When injected with the mycoplasma cultured from an animal with RA, the injected animal comes then also quickly comes down with RA.

    5)Proponents of antibiotic therapy stress repeatedly that it may take months to see improvement. Believe, me I understand how hard a pill this is to swallow when you’re in pain all over. But if you give this protocol only a few weeks or even just a few months, you are just ignoring the experience of many people who’ve had success.

    6) Physicians and patients familiar with the protocol consistently report that you may feel worse before you get better. That has definitely been my experience and it is really tough to get through.

    7) Minocin does not cause antibiotic resistance like other antibiotics. This is a medical fact. See reference to Scammell’s book below for more. Note also that it is used in a very low dose for long periods. My protocol was 100 mg taken three times per week, Mon, Wed & Fri.

    8) Dr. Marshall did not do the primary work on antibiotics and RA, Dr. Thomas McPherson Brown did. This is a man who eventually became the Dean of Medicine @ George Washington School of Medicine. He was not a “quack” or practitioner of alternative medicine. He did however challenge conventional wisdom. Medicine is very very resistant to change. Handwashing to reduce infections was once laughed at, and even the inventor of the stethoscope was initially derided. More recently, the doctors who proposed that ulcers are caused by H Pylori bacteria were ignored and dismissed for years until the late 1980’s. Now their theory is widely accepted.

    Briefly my story is that I became ill with RA in 2003 and started antibiotic therapy in 2004. It worked. At first I got much worse, then I got progressively better with milder and less frequent flares up to 2007. Then I was completely well for 4 years. During my “well” period, my crooked fingers straightened, I gained full range of motion in affected joints, and I did things I never thought I’d do again like run. In January of this year I got the flu and at the same time got sick with RA again. I have resumed antibiotic therapy, as well as the gluten-free, low-sugar diet that also helped before. Right now I’m in the phase where I feel much worse.

    While I have resisted using DMARDs and biologics myself, I am not totally opposed to them. I consider them my last line of defense, because I know they don’t always work and have far far greater risks than Minocin. I’m not waving the flag for the protocol that helped me, I just think that it hasn’t been accurately represented. Please, if you have not read “The New Arthritis Breakthrough” by Henry Scammell, please do so. It is actually a good read. It chronicles the history, theory, research and case studies re: tetracylcines & RA. Again, tens of thousands of people have been helped, many “cured.” Still, most conventional rheumatologists totally resist and many are violently opposed to the use of antibiotics with RA.

    Lastly, I have to mention that my husband is a physician who has tried the Minocin protocol with RA patients. The success rate has probably been about 80% for those who are willing to stick to the protocol and the diet he prescribes. We have found food allergies and leaky gut syndrome in almost all RA patients he’s seen. Honestly, I have personally met more than a few patients who have failed and been made terribly ill by both DMARDs and biologics. I guess that’s what initally scared me about those approaches. We have never seen such effects with Minocin – not once. In the meantime, I realize that I may have been initially biased against the more conventional approaches and am trying to be more open-minded. Your blog has helped with that. If I need those approaches they’ll be there waiting for me, but for now I’ll stick with what I know worked before. Thanks again for all the time and effort you have put into this work.

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  • October 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm
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    Got a antibiotic script for 12 months.Praying it works.

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    • October 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm
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      Sorry, I posted this question under the wrong post before. I meant it for Susan.

      It has been a year, and I was wondering it you had any success with this Susan?

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  • December 23, 2011 at 10:46 pm
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    The fundamental problem I have with the antibiotic therapy is that it is often coupled with a series of other therapeutic elements such as diet, stress reduction, etc. Diet, as an example, has been proven effective in many cases. So, how do we know it was the antibiotic or the diet or a bit of both?

    While I firmly believe on the efficacy of minocin I churn when I hear claims of 80% success rate. My rheumatologist has used it with many of his patients and report a success rate more at the 10% level. Minocin is another treatment option to consider, but not a magic bullet.

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  • December 24, 2011 at 11:32 am
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    Antibiotic protocol works for me

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  • December 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm
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    I would like to comment on Alberto’s post. The reason why diet is so important to the AP treatment is because the immune system has been surpressed with all the manmade chemicals in our food supply along with the mycoplasma infection. In order to achieve remission with this treatment, the person must use an organic diet along with M-W-F antibiotics. This diet is a life long commitment. Minocycline is not always used, I am currently on 100mg of Doxycycline. Along with a host of other organic vitamins, because the mycloplasms has blocked or used for its own environment in my body for the last 23 years.
    I am also taking 800 billion probiotics to replace what the doxy has taken away. Antibiotics doesn’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria when taken. It destroys all. (I still don’t understand why reg Dr’s prescribe antibiotics and also don’t prescribe probiotics-leaving the patient open to hosts of other infections)
    Leaky gut and hypersensitive state of the immune system is a result of an unbalanced environment of the immune system because the mycoplasma has dominated it. The mycoplasma must be destroyed by intermittent useage. And it does create a Herxheimer effect in the usual first 6 months of starting the protocol. If this not understood while starting, it may confuse you that you are having an allergic reaction to the meds. Mycoplasmas are cyclical in nature, so 6 months is usually the point of experiencing the Herxheimer effect. But as each months passes, the effect lessens and improvement can be seen and felt.
    I for one tried the bioligics but could not take them. I experienced allergic reactions to the few that I tried. Making it my mission to search for other treatments.
    I have to say after being on the AP for 11 months now, and have achieved 80% improvement in my health. Blood test are taken every 3 months, and are proof that it is working.
    A domino effect takes place when mycoplasma takes hold of the immune system. It affects every organ and immune function. So in order to reverse the destruction, it takes time to repair the damage.
    I agree with a post that reading Dr Brown’s book is a must read. Explains in great detail the infection and the repairing of the immune system. There are numerous Dr’s out there who believe and use AP and have perfected it beyond Dr Brown’s protocol.
    Biologics only treat the symptoms and not the cause. I am proof of that along with millions of others who have tried it and have switched over to AP.
    It’s your choice, I’ve made mine and have not regretted one single day.

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  • March 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm
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    I commented above on Sept. 16, 2010. I was six weeks into first try with AP therapy (rifampin and azithromycin combo). It is now almost one year and six months later. I have regained range of motion, pain levels have been significantly diminished and I have not had a single joint flare in over a year. I followed an antibiotic protocol for nine months. It was very painful for several months. Things got worse, a lot worse, before they got better. But then the improvements came very gradually and have held steady. I have been completely pharmaceutical free for eleven months. I am a living, breathing testimony that antibiotics (the very drug I try to keep out of my four children) are a potential treatment for RA. I am just one of many. Is my story worthless? Why is the treatment treated like a circus act ultimately by so many? My rheumatologist has seen remarkable results with several of his patients. I don’t understand why those suffering aren’t seeking to know more and aren’t seeking out more testimonials. Personally, if I’m going to try a drug, I’d much rather hear about someone’s experience with it over just knowing the FDA approved it. The research is there. The evidence is there. People who have had success with AP share because it grieves our hearts to know that people hurt and there is a treatment that could help them that has not been given proper attention. It is brushed aside over and over. Why? It truly demands more attention and research. And compared to biologics, it sure is an inexpensive treatment.
    Kelly, thank you for always touching on so many sides to our disease and never ceasing at getting the word out!

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  • March 19, 2012 at 10:00 am
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    Kelly, I check this site everyday and find it so informative and encouraging. I was diagnosed with severe RA last year (all factors positive) with damage already observable in my feet on x-rays. I could not walk, lift my arms above my head, or get in and out of bed many nights. I could not hold my baby, pick anything up – I was extremely disabled and in a great deal of pain. The fatigue and depression were overwhelming, and I had to hire someone to help me in the house and with my small children. Because I was still nursing my baby, the rheumatologist put me on sulfasalazine. The SSZ did not make any noticeable difference after two months, and during this time I was researching nonstop. I read dozens of testimonials about antibiotic treatment and decided I wanted to give it a try. I began with bovine colostrum (an historical natural antibiotic and immune system modulator). This elicited a strong herxheimer reaction of more than two weeks of constant low grade fever, extreme fatique, and flaring. I decided I wanted to add a low pulsed dose of minocycline (100 mg MWF) in hopes to boost the therapy. My rheumy told me he did not believe it would be effective and that people who believed in this therapy were “quacks” but he wrote me a minocycline prescription anyway. By the time I started the mino, the fevers had subsided, but I continued to flare and have extreme fatigue, though I began to notice that my hands were no longer locking up and one of my feet seemed completely released. It has been almost six weeks now since this time, and I feel 90 percent better. My hands and feet are well, I am not fatigued, I can sleep through the night, and can take care of my children and dress myself (I even took a walk the other day!). I still have a bakers cyst behind my right knee but it is continually shrinking. Antibiotic treatment does not work perfectly for everyone and I believe there could be more than one single trigger for RA, and therefore the need for various treatments, and/or types of medication or antibiotics, but it is working for me now and I wanted to share my experience. I would never judge anyone for their chosen treatment, but it is inaccurate to look at antibiotic treatment as ineffective and/or just for mild RA, despite what other authorities might say. Thank you again for all of your research and encouragement.

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  • October 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm
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    I used minocycline for 10 years, starting when I was first diagnosed. They say the younger you are ( I was 47) and the earlier you start the protocol, the better it works. Worked like a charm, then all of sudden, it was ineffective. I feel fortunate to have had 10 great years! Now I’m using 5 mg of prednisone daily and low dose naltrexone at night. Hands and feet are showing the signs. Will be looking at other avenues.

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    • December 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm
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      Did any of you have all labs and xrays come back normal when first diagnosed, EXCEPT ASO Titer (antibody for strep)?
      After much research, I am concerned with the ASO link. I am 45, and in last two months have all symptoms of rheumatoid, but no blood/bone factors to prove it. I have a history of recurrent strep and this high ASO titer, although never had confirmed strep in last few months. I am asking for AP protocol, although if strep related, I am concerned because doxy is not supposed to work for strep. Looking forward to anyone’s similar situation or feedback. Thanks.

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  • November 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm
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    I have been on the antibiotic protocol for six years now, starting as soon as I was diagnosed with RA. I started off with 2 caps of minocycline (generic) per day, then I gradually weaned myself down to one a day, then one each weekday, then one on MWF only. Successfully. Complete remission of all pains, flares, etc. Then switched to doxycycline, in order to prevent greying of teeth. However, after a year my pharmacy changed brands of doxy. And I was not aware of it, started getting the RA symptoms back. Downhill spiral for several months, finally switched back to the minocycline, all ok. Discovered the change of brands for the doxy, got the old brand again, was doing fine for several months, then suddenly the flares started again. Finally was able to discover that GENERIC BRAND DRUGS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO USE THE SAME FORMULATIONS ALL THE TIME. They are required to carry the same amt. of active ingredient always, but the “carrier” inert ingredients can and are frequently changed. That is why some generic drugs work better than others of the same type of product. Long story short, back on minocycline (a generic), got better, then after a few years another backslide. So now that I knew what might be the issue, I switched to MINOCIN and VIBRAMYCIN – the brand products. Those have never failed me. I am in complete remission (earlier this year had an issue due to having to go off my minocin and use another antibiotic, a sulfa drug, and had a horrible response. Once I got over that, I was prescribed megadoses of Potassium Citrate and again had some backsliding. My Rheumatologist said that if you have RA, Sulfa drugs will exacerbate it. And the insert for the Potassium Citrate says not to take it with any tetracyclines.). I got my RA due to a leaky gut after a year long bout with giardia. Maybe what caused/causes my RA is more susceptible to the antibiotic protocol…I do not know. But this treatment has been a lifesaver. I have no flares, no pains, full use of all fingers which can curl tightly. I pray this continues…the treatment is inexpensive, and does not have the horrid side effects that the pricier RA treatments offer. Read my blog for the full story.

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    • May 9, 2014 at 5:37 am
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      Hi!
      I am readinf your posts and it is very intereting.I have 5 year daughter.She have JIA since she was two.We have tried everything;corticosteroides,MTX,NSAID,punction in her knee and ankle,elimination diet, removing third tonzil..Now we are on AP with erithromicyne 200 mg twice a day ( at first we were on amoxicilline too) with combination of 5mg predisone every other day.We started this in december last year.She also had ASO titer positive so this can be reason that AP does not working althougt it seems to me that flars are milder.I also read tesstimonials on roadback foundation and one mother say that her daugter is in remissons since she was on AP.I start to wonder about my daughter because what if it dose not work? Am I causing more damage that benefits from this approach? I am strongly against biologics beause of its side effects and short time of use since they came out.Who knows what will be result in 10 year period if I choose biologics for her?
      Do you have some advice?
      Thank you!

      Reply
  • May 21, 2013 at 12:02 am
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    Joanne~ I was wondering, are you still doing well with the antibiotic protocol ?

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  • January 11, 2014 at 1:03 pm
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    I believe you must get your facts straight and do some intensive research on antibiotics used for RA. You are absolutely misinformed regarding this subject. The Dr. Brown theory of RA revolves around a mycoplasma infection from previous or present L strain bacteria exposure. If you test an RA patient mycoplasmic infections via IGM, you will find in large percentage of the cases, they are negative. Unfortunately, in medicine today, this test will be followed up by an IGG which is intrepreted incorrectly. If the IGG is positive (which it is in about 99% of the cases), the physican will incorrectly assume it is a latent infection or previous exposure without merit to treat with antibiotics because an immune factor is present to protect against active infection. The problem is the low grade mycoplasma infection creates an autoimmune response in individuals with RA and attacks itself as opposed to the mycoplasma. The cbc can appear normal while a mycoplasma is raging inside. The antibiotics attack the mycoplasma antigens along with any remaining L-strain bacteria. By the time symptoms appear for RA, internally the mycoplasmic infection is already in an advanced state. Hence, the long term use of antibiotic therapy to alleviate the underlying disease which is causing the RA. Predisone works by suppressing an inflammatory autoimmune response by the body. Two different animals.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 7:52 am
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    If antibiotics were not helpful in treating diseases like RA, then why is a company called Redhill Biopharma developing and currently testing RHB 104 ? Crohns Disease sufferers will also benefit, as it has now been established that these patients carry the bacteria Mycobacterium Avium paratuburculosis. I believe all these autoimmune diseases stem from bacteria.

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  • March 4, 2014 at 7:37 am
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    Why has a pharmaceutical company developed and is now testing a drug containing three antibiotics, to treat lupus, crohns and rheumatoid arthritis ? Strange a company would invest time and money on an antibiotic for these diseases if they thought there was nothing in the AP theory.

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  • May 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm
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    Why will you not allow anymore posts on this subject to be be published ? I do not believe you have only had 38 comments in nearly 4 years !

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    • October 15, 2014 at 9:26 pm
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      Never asked anyone before Nance/Marilyn, but I wonder you why came repeatedly to this site that you disagree with, and with the same ax to grind? And using different identities?

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  • July 5, 2015 at 11:36 am
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    I used the Brown method, an 8 week regimen with Flagyl (antibiotic) and vit E, Cod Liver Oil etc. I decided to try this after a heavy dose of antibiotics after appendicitis gave me about three weeks of remission, I took no other medications. My RA factor decreased from 265 to 109, I have not had to take any pain medication since January 2015 when I started the protocol. I am able to walk, and work with my hands with very little pain. Since then I have changed my diet to eliminate sugar and dairy and white flour, have included Juicing fresh live vegetables, and increasing my Vit C to about 8 grams per day. Why would I go to something that would destroy my immune system, when this is working. I only took the antibiotics twice a week for 8 weeks, so no dependency.
    I really feel that we have to look further than reducing symptoms.

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  • January 28, 2016 at 7:48 am
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    I was pretty excited to find this section of your website Kelly, mainly because I had not heard of it until last November.

    Just a little orientation on me: I am classified as severe and was I started on MTX to my horror in December of 2014. I was started on 15 mg then moved to 20 mg six months later. In November of 2015, she wanted to move me to Humira along with the MTX, and when I objected, she put me on Plaquenil, which I never actually took. I felt so bad on the MTX, especially shot nights and a day or two after. In all fairness, it did stop the damage initially, but only with ever stronger doses.

    I found Dr. Brown’s AB Protocol Therapy a couple of days after my visit with the rheumatologist and made an immediate appointment with my PCP. She listened, looked at the material I brought her, and agreed to prescribe the Minocycline for me and monitor my lab work and physical changes. I had to promise her that if I did not get better in 3 years time, or if I actively got worse, I would immediately go back to the Rhem doc. I started on this the week after Thanksgiving, and other than some major Herxing (Herxheimer reaction – which I am still working through – no surprise), I am so much better. I know that this will never “cure” the RA. At this time there is no such thing.

    But, my hands are no longer red and the joints swollen (I can actually snap my fingers now ha ha), only one big toe turned sideways on me (the other was in process but has stopped completely), I have more energy and sleep better. I just have to control the Minocycline to keep from Herxing so hard, and I usually take 2 – 3 cayenne capsules to stop it from killing my stomach.

    I know this is probably not for everyone, but I sure am happy about it. Bless everyone, and may you find your personal pathway.

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  • April 5, 2017 at 6:58 pm
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    Kelly, you are wrong. Your blog/ website/ opinions, are just so

    blinkered.

    There is research happening NOW , that is looking into microbiome.

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  • April 4, 2018 at 8:21 pm
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    I am cure complete after 30 years with severe RA
    6 months with antibiotics and probiotics, and no steroids or quimotherappy of any kind.
    Why doctors give me , prednisone, methotrexate and Orencia?
    Was giving me others deceased like diabetes, high blood pressure, they disappear widen I got treated with antibiotics for RA.

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  • April 5, 2018 at 5:09 pm
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    Hello; I have a question for anyone who can help with information.
    I am in social security income, I am going to Mexico for the treatment with antibiotics and probiotics only, cost me a good portion of my income. I can’t find a doctor who wants to give me that treatment.
    I ask my primary doctor and said no, I asked my Rheumatologist’s and said no.
    I went Mexico and within one moth of treatment i was feeling 100% better, but doctor said was 70%
    He give me a complete blood text for condition of my organs, give a complete text for all kinds of bacteria. Then he prescribes me 2 kind of antibiotics, after 3 months he live me with only one and occurs always probiotics; diet was No DIARY
    My question is , Do you know any doctor in Rancho a Cucamonga or nearby areas who can help to have him as my doctor, I am 100% feeling in good health no more RA, I would like to have checked every 6 months, i have medicare complete in USA, is not acceptable in Mexico,
    Thanks to anyone who can help, because going to Mexico have eating rice and beans and sleeping in the garage
    God blessed you
    Elsa,

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  • July 28, 2018 at 10:27 am
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    Hi Elsa,
    What antibiotics did you take? I have had RA for 21 years. Biological drugs are not helping. I wish you continued success.
    Thanks,
    Peggy

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  • March 14, 2019 at 7:11 am
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    There are those who swear by it and others who are skeptical. Here, we will talk to experts and examine the research to find out just how and where antibiotics fit in as a treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

    Reply

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