Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is an industrial solvent that has become a legend in its own time. In 1963, Dr Stanley Jacob introduced DMSO to reduse the swelling and pain of arthritis. Quickly, a wide variety of unsubstantited claims were made, and enthusiasm apprently precluded careful studies.
In fact, the compound has a number of interesting pharmacologic properties that may be beneficial to patients. Its ability to penetrate intact skin, carrying a variety of chemicals, offers hope for eliminating many painful injections; its inhibition of certain prostaglandins offers hope that various inflammatory diseases may be suppressed; its local analgesic properties may reduce cutaneous pain from burns and injuries; its ability to dissolve compounds such as amyloid and collagen might be harnessed; and DMSO's ability to reduce increased intracranial pressure in head injuries could reduce morbidity if not mortality.
But research has not yet demonstrated that the potential of DMSO can be safely fulfilled. Clinical research was suspended in 1965 when injury to the lens was found in animals, but inasmuch as no human injury was detected, limited studies were permitted again in 1968. Asked for an opinion in 1972, the National Academy of Sciences stated that the compound should remain an investigational drug. During this period many papers detailed anecdotal results of cutaneous, intravenous, or oral use, and in 1978 the FDA approved Rimso (50% solution of DMSO) for the treatment of interstitial cystitis, the only approved use of the drug today. In the same year the Arthritis Advisory Committee to the Food and Drug Administration rejected the new drug application approval of DMSO based on the submitted studies.
- Copyright © 1983 by the American Academy of Pediatrics