In this double-blind study, American and South Korean researchers evaluated the potential of purified European honey bee (Apis mellifera) venom biotherapy (HBV) to treat osteoarthritis (OA) knee pain and physical function. Their findings were published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
The researchers recruited 538 patients with Kellgren/Lawrence grade 1-3 radiographic knee OA and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain scores equal to or greater than 2.
They randomized the patients 1:2 to either the control group or the HBV group.
After a dose escalation period, the researchers gave the patients 12 weekly dermal injections of either histamine (control) or HBV.
At each of the 12 weekly visits, they administered a set of 15 dermal injections at prespecified acupuncture points (i.e., five on each knee knee: top, eye-1 medial, eye-2 lateral, ST 34, BL 40 and five near the spinous processes: BL 19, 21, 23, 25, and 27).
Each injection contained 2.75 micrograms (mcg) histamine or 100 mcg HBV.
The researchers assessed WOMAC pain and physical function subscales, visual analog scale (VAS), patient global assessment (PGA) and physician global assessment (PhGA).
They also monitored patient use of rescue medication (acetaminophen) and routine safety parameters.
The researchers reported that, compared with the control, HBV biotherapy significantly improved WOMAC pain scores and WOMAC physical function after 12 weeks. These improvements were sustained for four weeks after treatment.
HBV also significantly improved VAS scores, as well as PGA and PhGA evaluations, indicating that the patients responded more favorably to their overall OA condition with HBV treatment.
Acetaminophen use was similar between the groups.
Although HBV caused more injection site reactions than the control, overall safety profiles were comparable between the two groups.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that HBV biotherapy can significantly improve knee OA pain and physical function.
Conrad VJ, Hazan LL, Latorre AJ, Jakubowska A, Kim CM. EFFICACY AND SAFETY OF HONEY BEE VENOM (APIS MELLIFERA) DERMAL INJECTIONS TO TREAT OSTEOARTHRITIS KNEE PAIN AND PHYSICAL DISABILITY: A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 15 August 2019;25(8):845–855. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2019.0121