Brief History

In 1908, a German chemist, Heinrich Blitz, synthesized diphenylhydantoin (phenytoin). He sold PHT, along with other compounds, to Parke-Davis, the company did not patent it, nor did the find a use for it. It sat on their shelves for twenty-nine ears. In 1937, Putnam and Merritt, two doctors outside Parke- Davis, discovered phentoin’s first clinical use, in epilepsy. PHT was more effective than Phenobarbital and unlike that drug, it achieved its therapy without sedation. That being the day of a single drug for a single disorder, phenytoin was tagged and anticonvulsant.  On the basis of clinical experience, it was approved for safety by the FDA.

From its earliest use, there was evidence that phenytoin was more than an anticonvulsant. Reports started to appear in the medical literature of marked improvement in mood, emotional stability, and sense of well-being in the patient who took PHT. Since that time, an ever increasing number of reports and studies, by physicians from at least thirty-eight countries, have demonstrated that PHT is useful for a broad range of symptoms and disorders.

Basic mechanism studies have kept apace of the clinical studies, and make clear how one drug can have so many uses. Today, fifty years after its first use, phenytoin’s only listed indication with the FDA is still “anticonvulsant.” There is a flaw in our system of bringing prescription medicines to the public. (The “flaw” is discussed in A Remarkable Medicine Has Been Overlooked.)

Read about the evidence for phenytoin's effectiveness.

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