(CBS News) - An unusual treatment for osteoarthritis is creating much buzz in the medical industry.
Honey bee venom is an ancient folk remedy that's been used for a number of years by alternative practitioners. But now the treatment may enter the mainstream markets; Axis Clinical Trials in Los Angeles is testing honey bee venom for the treatment of osteoarthritis. The new drug, known as Apimed, is standardized and purified "venom in a vial," which is injected into a patient's painful joints.
A Korea-based pharmaceutical company contacted Dr. Lydie Hazan, who is currently recruiting U.S. trial participants. In order for the treatment to gain approval by the Food and Drug Administration, Hazan and her team will need to monitor the patients for six months and prove the injections are safe and effective.
Hazan admits little is know about how Apimed works. "Nobody is really sure on exactly the mechanism of the honey bee venom," Hazan the told CBS2 Los Angeles. "But it seems to have an affinity for inflammation in that it gobbles up the inflammation."
However, Hazan warns a bee sting can be deadly to those who are allergic. She recommends being tested by a doctor before trying any type of bee venom therapy.
Rich Heryford, a beekeeper in Costa Mesa, uses his bees to make honey, pollinate almond crops and for bee sting therapy. Although he doesn't make any promises, he says the medical industry is "finally catching up" to the trend.
"When conventional medicine fails to help, sometimes bee sting therapy is the only thing left," he said.
Seventy-one-year-old Pat Henry of Yucaipa, Calif., turned to bee sting therapy 16 years ago to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. She said she fears chronic pain much more than the bees.
Every other day she receives two bee stings to the back of her neck and four above and below her knees.
Henry now has her own beehive and calls the flying insects "miracle creatures." The bees won't prevent the progression of her multiple sclerosis, but she says the venom does alleviate her joint soreness within a couple of hours of treatment.
"I'm independent. I clean my own house. [I] wake up every morning and say, 'Okay, I made it one more day,'" she said.