The Broad Range of Clinical Uses of Phenytoin

If one looks at the Physicians’ Desk Reference, one will find that phenytoin’s only listing with the FDA is as an anticonvulsant. This is a narrow description of a drug that has been reported by thousands of physicians throughout the world to be useful for over fifty symptoms and disorders. (This was written in 1988. Today the figure is larger.) The misunderstanding of the broad clinical usefulness of phenytoin amounts to a great catastrophe. Millions of people—in this country alone—suffer because of it. This is not the fault of the FDA. It is not the fault of our physicians. There is a flaw in our system of bringing prescription medicines to the public.

The purpose of this Bibliography and Review is to put together, in one place, for the convenience of the physicians and the government, a comprehensive summary of the world medical literature on phenytoin (other than epilepsy).

A Personal Note

Dear Physician:

In 1963, a great piece of luck led me to ask my physician to allow me to try phenytoin for depressed moods. He had not heard of such a use, but allowed me to try it. It worked promptly. At first, we both attributed my recovery to coincidence. It seemed almost impossible that uses of a drug could have been overlooked for twenty-five years.

In the course of the next year I saw six other people, in succession, have similar benefits. The probabilities had changed. From being almost impossible, it became highly probable that PHT had been overlooked. PHT had taken me out of a miserable condition, and I had no obligation to investigate its potential for others.

I thought it would be easy to sponsor studies on phenytoin, and that the medical profession would then take over. I was mistaken. It became necessary to leave my businesses in Wall Street to spend full time in research on this matter.

The evidence about PHT is no longer at issue. Since its first clinical use, thousands of physicians, in hundreds of medical journals, have reported its usefulness for a broad range of disorders. Only a fraction of this work could be seen by a single physician, unless his or her life were spent reading over 3,000 medical journals.

Jack Dreyfus

Read a brief history about phenytoin