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Larry King Live

How Can Arthritis Pain Be Alleviated?

Aired April 3, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's an Oscar-winning actor who says he's beating arthritis: James Coburn joins us from Los Angeles. Also in L.A. with her arthritis story, the wonderful actress Cyd Charisse. In New York, funnyman Alan King. He's got arthritis too. Plus, Dr. Ronald Lawrence, co-author of "The Miracle of MSM, the Natural Solution for Pain." And CNN medical correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Debbie Reynolds was also due to be with us on tonight's show on arthritis. She had an automobile accident. She will join us by phone in a little while during the program. We'll be including your phone calls.

Our subject tonight is one of America's most dreaded diseases, arthritis.

Let's start with Dr. Salvatore, our own CNN medical correspondent in New York, with a definition. What is arthritis?

DR. STEVE SALVATORE, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, arthritis is a general term, Larry. There are different types of arthritis, but when we think of arthritis, for the most we think of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the one that affects most of us as we age, and that's the one people think of.

That's when the cartilage in our joints breaks down and degenerates, and essentially the cartiledge works like a cushion in the joints so that when you walk or move your fingers, the joints don't hurt.

But when that cartiledge is degraded or broken down, you get bone rubbing against bone, and the joints get stiff and sore, and they really do hurt a lot. That's the one that most people know about.

L. KING: And what's rheumatoid?

SALVATORE: Rheumatoid arthritis is an arthritis that is caused by an abnormality of the immune system where your body actually starts to destroy the lining of the joints. And in rheumatoid arthritis, the treatment is somewhat different because it's caused by that immune system problem, very different than osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis affects like 20 million people. Rheumatoid affects about 2 million people.

L. KING: Can you die of arthritis?

SALVATORE: Well, you can die from severe complications from rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause systemic symptoms, and in many cases can cause an inflammation of the heart sack, can cause problems with the lungs, the liver, the kidneys. And it also affects children. And there are also some other conditions that cause arthritis.

So in relation to those, you can. But from osteoarthritis, you generally don't. It's really a chronic disease.

L. KING: In a minute we'll find out everybody's story. Of course, we have to find out first what we're talking about.

Dr. Lawrence, are you a specialist in this?

DR. RONALD LAWRENCE, CO-AUTHOR, "THE MIRACLE OF MSM": Yes, I have been dealing for 50 years, I've been practicing 50 years. And osteoarthritis is the wear and tear type of arthritis, which I differ a little with the doctor, because when you get that type of arthritis, you become so disabled that it sets you up for heart disease, even cancer. We have studies, you know, in regard to that.

I've been very interested in sports medicine. So we do have those things, and stroke.

L. KING: No cure?

LAWRENCE: No cure, but we see things happening now -- actually, arthritis, believe it or not, is diminishing to some degree.

L. KING: I'll get to all of that. And no prevention?

LAWRENCE: There is prevention, yes.

L. KING: There is a way to prevent getting it.

LAWRENCE: There is a way of preventing it.

L. KING: I'll get to that.

Cyd -- we'll start with ladies first -- when did you get this? How long ago? When did you first notice?

CYD CHARISSE, ENTERTAINER: Well, dancers are really under a lot of stress and strain, and of course, all those joints get a working over, as the doctor knows. And that is really what dancers have to face sooner or later.

I just -- at MGM one day, I was doing a number coming down a big, big level thing, and I jumped once, twice, and the third time, I heard something rip, and it was my knee. Now, that was the beginning of my arthritis from that -- and of course, I was in a cast from my hip to my ankle for two months. But after that, you know, I was going: "What's the matter with my knee? Oh, what's the matter here?" "Oh, a little arthritis."

L. KING: Does it get progressively worse?

CHARISSE: Well, yes, I think the older you get, you know, you notice it more and more.

L. KING: So you've had it for how long?

CHARISSE: My lord, for years.

L. KING: Years and years.

CHARISSE: Very early (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in my life because of the dancing so much.

L. KING: Alan -- and you have osteoarthritis, right?

CHARISSE: Osteoarthritis.

L. KING: Alan King, when did you first acquire this malady?

ALAN KING, COMEDIAN: Well, I have Jewish arthritis...


... which is where you complain more than it hurts.


L. KING: A common malady, yes.

A. KING: Yes.

L. KING: When did you...

A. KING: I come from a long line of arthritics. My mother had arthritis, her father. My mother's cat had arthritis, you know?

L. KING: When did you first notice something?

A. KING: I started...

L. KING: I mean, what's the first thing?

A. KING: Well, I was an athlete, played a lot of tennis, a lot of golf. And when I started walking slow -- you know, first, you get up in the morning after playing golf or tennis, and you feel that the aches and pains are just because you overdid it. And then the pain doesn't go away. It becomes constant, and you realize that, oh, here it goes, my mother's curse, you know?

And it's -- it's not -- to say the least, it's not pleasant. I make fun of it, because, you know, if I didn't I would cry a lot.

L. KING: But it gets worse, right?

A. KING: Oh, yes, although I -- although I come from a family of doctors , I think there's a way of, in a sense, beating it: not beating it but making it easier to live with.

L. KING: But do you have pain every day, Alan?

A. KING: Every day, every day. I get up -- oh, when I get up in the morning -- my wife is so upset with me. I couldn't get out of bed unless she kicked me out of bed.


A. KING: No, I have to -- hot showers. You know, I have to do all those things.

L. KING: And Cyd, you have pain every day?

CHARISSE: Yes, but I find the more I exercise, the less pain I have. I feel that when you exercise with arthritis it helps you a great deal.

L. KING: Now James, you have the worst kind, right, rheumatoid?

JAMES COBURN, ACTOR: Rheumatoid arthritis, yes.

L. KING: And I see your fingers are...

COBURN: Yes. Well, see, that happened because the tendons got shortened and it pulled, you know, during the really bad part of my arthritis.

L. KING: What was the first thing that happened?

COBURN: The first thing -- playing tennis. My wrists -- not right when I was playing it, but two days afterwards it would start stinging, really hurt. And I was just in pain. And then I was getting a divorce and negative emotion set off a -- what I assume is an Irish -- Scotch-Irish gene that's prevalent in many arthritics throughout in America, because the Scotch-Irish and the Irish -- they came through America, planted their seeds, and then moved on where the Germans and the Dutch and everybody...

L. KING: So you think your depression, that part of it, added to it?

COBURN: Well, you know, you become depressed because of it. It doesn't start with that. It comes after that.

L. KING: Let's pick up on this in a minute. Our guests are Coburn, Charisse and King. They all have it. Dr. Lawrence and Dr. Salvatore work and hopefully help people from treating it -- hopefully not getting it. Debbie will be joining us on the phone. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) L. KING: Arthritis refers to maybe a more than a hundred different diseases. It affects the joints, sometimes the muscles and other tissues. There are treatments. There's no known cure. Doctors still don't know what triggers it. It's our suggest for the evening. We have two doctors and four patients, one of them is joining us now by phone. She was due to be with us for the whole hour on set, but she had an automobile accident, so she'll be with us for a couple of segments.

The great Debbie Reynolds is with us. What happened to you, Debbie?

DEBBIE REYNOLDS, ACTRESS: Oh, I just started to get out of the car, and we have those gusts of wind here, and it just blew the door back in with the glass part. And so it sliced open my cheek, gave me a black eye,

I look terrific.

L. KING: Are you home and in bed, one hopes?

REYNOLDS: I am. I'm sitting in bed talking. I want to be there, and I apologize, but you wouldn't like how I look.

L. KING: All right. Tell us about your -- by the way, did this accident affect your arthritis at all?

REYNOLDS: No, my cheek doesn't have arthritis.


L. KING: When did you first notice that you had some problems?

REYNOLDS: Well, it always starts like Cyd says. It's unexpected for a dancer, because we dance. We eat right. Vegetarians. This happens, and overnight you suddenly -- you're aching more than usual.

I think always dancers and athletes just think it's pain from the job, and so for years I paid no attention to any of it, because I just thought it came with showbiz, dancing. And then I found out last year because of the bone density tests I have osteoporosis with the arthritis. So now I am very...


... the MRI showed up the arthritis, which is in the shoulders and in the lower spine.

L. KING: Are you in pain a lot?

REYNOLDS: I think everybody is that has it, especially in the morning and sometimes during the night -- a lot in the night. I know that everyone there experiences moving pain. It's in your knee. It moves down to all different types of -- keeps you up all night.

Do you all have that? L. KING: Do you have that? Are you up all night a lot, Cyd?

CHARISSE: No, no, I really don't stay up all night. I have a little liquid painkiller.

L. KING: Or you have your Arctic Spray, right?

CHARISSE: Arctic Spray, and...

L. KING: You spray it on, and that works for you?

CHARISSE: Spray it on, but it's very cold, and it takes the swelling down and it gets you right off to sleep.

L. KING: And you will be talking about what MSM is, which you use, right?

COBURN: MSM is my savior. I mean, have no pain. I go to sleep. I mean, the only pain I have sometimes is in my head from, you know, thinking I'm so stupid not to have gone with something like this really early, because I couldn't walk.

L. KING: Alan, do you sleep through the night?

A. KING: Oh, I have to get up to urinate. So, that's the exercise, walking back and forth five, six times...

L. KING: I mean, do you get up from pain?

A. KING: No, no, I don't. I have a little scotch malt with due respect to the medical profession.


I've got a bartender that treats me. I haven't had pain in years.


L. KING: Dr. Salvatore, we don't know the cause of this, do we?

SALVATORE: No, they really don't know...

L. KING: The root cause.

SALVATORE: ... exactly they don't know the root cause of it. And that's what makes coming up with these treatment so difficult, because if we really could nail down the cause, we could have a better shot at coming up with better therapies. But for osteoarthritis, for the most part, things are aimed at relieving the pain and trying to block some of that inflammation that goes in the joints. And there are some new things, though.

L. KING: Before we ask -- before we ask about MSM...

(CROSSTALK) I'll get to those too. Before we ask about MSM, Debbie, can you describe what the pain is like?

REYNOLDS: Well, my particular pain, after I exercise, diminishes. But during the evening as I sleep, it will awaken me, because it seems to just start to live again, and it's in the knees and in the calves, and it seems to just walk around and visit each other.

So I have to -- I put hot -- hot-water bottles on it. I use Tiger Balm. I'm in the Epson salt baths a lot. I take a number of baths at night to relieve it.

But I want to look in this MSM...


REYNOLDS: ... that James is talking about.

L. KING: I'm going to ask about that now. Dr. Lawrence, are we all going to get arthritis?

LAWRENCE: Eventually most of us will get arthritis, degenerative arthritis.

L. KING: Problem of age.

LAWRENCE: It's a question of aging. It's cartilage deterioration of the -- that is the common type of arthritis.

L. KING: What is MSM?

LAWRENCE: MSM is a natural anti-inflammatory substance.

L. KING: You buy it in health food stores.

LAWRENCE: You do. Lignisul MSM, which is the one that's used here in the United States in all these different brands, is the natural stuff, and you can buy it anywhere. And 3 1/2 million Americans take it, Larry.

L. KING: And what does it do?

LAWRENCE: It's been around for 38 years. Every veterinarian knows it because dogs get it, pussycats get it.

COBURN: Horses got it.


L. KING: What does it do? It takes down inflammation. It actually is an anti-inflammatory. It works like the NSAIDs, the non- steroidal anti-inflammatories, but without those horrible side effects.

You know, 17,000 people died last year in the United States from taking the NSAIDs unfortunately.

L. KING: Really?

LAWRENCE: 110,000 hospital admissions.

L. KING: What's the most typical -- what's the most typical arthritis medicine? Advil? Stuff like that. Tylenol.

LAWRENCE: Advil, Tylenol. Tylenol is OK. That's not killing people, but of course you've heard that it causes kidney damage.

L. KING: Now, Cyd, your Arctic Spray cools it?

CHARISSE: Yes, it's very cool when you spray it on, and ice is the best thing, you know, for swelling. So naturally (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cool off the spot.

L. KING: What do you use, Debbie? What do you take?

CHARISSE: I'll send you some of my Arctic Spray.

L. KING: You ought to exchange all these products. Debbie, what do you take now for the pain?

REYNOLDS: Oh, well, I just take glucosamine and a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- that's sulfates, you know, that is a natural health...

L. KING: And you -- and James, you take only MSM?

COBURN: I take only MSM. I take a lot of vitamins. I take, you know, lot of stuff. I work out every day.

LAWRENCE: Glucosamine is very good, by the way, in supplementation. That's more for the degenerative arthritis.

L. KING: Alan, without kidding around what do you take?

A. KING: Well, first what I did was I lost 25 pounds about a year ago, and I swear I felt the difference in my body.

COBURN: Oh, yes.

L. KING: Really?

COBURN: Oh, yes.


A. KING: I did. I did. And then -- when I know this does is -- it may be -- I use magnets. I have certain points that hurt, and I use these little magnets that are very controversial, but they work for me. They really do.

L. KING: The doctor is wearing one.

LAWRENCE: I'm wearing a magnet. I wrote a book on -- called magnet therapy, which has sold 175,000 copies.

L. KING: You're kidding?



A. KING: Well, I don't read.

L. KING: Let me get -- let me get a break here. We're all over the charts. We'll be right back. We'll hold Debbie a little while longer, and continue with our panel. We'll include your phone calls. Don't go away.


L. KING: Before we ask about magnets, Dr. Salvatore, why don't the strong painkillers like the Vicodins work?

SALVATORE: Oh, well, they do work, but the thing is that, you know, they're just a quick temporary fix. They're not a solution in the long term to the problem. As soon as your Vicodin wears off, you know, you need another one, and eventually you develop a tolerance to those types of narcotics. So narcotics are really frowned upon, because they do cause dependence and they really don't help with the inflammation. They just block pain. So...

L. KING: What do you think of -- what do you think of MSM?

SALVATORE: Well, you know, MSM is, according to the Arthritis Foundation, is an unproven therapy for arthritis. Now, I know that there are people that take it. It's very popular. Most of the evidence to support its use is anecdotal. And according to most rheumatologists, most medical societies, there are no really strong clinical studies, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies that show that this compound works.

Now add to that fact the point that these -- this compound is not regulated by the FDA and you run into a problem, because you don't really know about the purity of the compound you're getting.

Now, recently there were some studies done looking at glucosamine, and when they studied that compound they found that some -- some products didn't even have glucosamine in them. So we've got two problems. We've got the fact that this stuff isn't studied well enough, and then you don't have enough regulation on the quality of the product.

L. KING: And doctor, how do you respond to that, Dr. Lawrence?

LAWRENCE: Well, I published a study, double-blind, on a small group of osteoarthritic patients. We had 82 percent effectivity after six weeks.

We this year -- the Lignisul people have funded this year eight studies. We're going to have 200 osteoarthritic patients. I agree with Dr. Salvatore, I agree with the foundation: There has to be more work.

The problem is MSM is very cheap, very inexpensive. It isn't like the expensive drugs, and it's tough to get...

L. KING: But if it's not regulated, how do I know I'm getting it?

LAWRENCE: That's good. You have to -- I head up a thing called the Council on National Nutrition, nonprofit agency. We're trying to evaluate those things. Many of the things that are on these labels -- this is a new industry.

L. KING: I know. Do you think the FDA should control it?

COBURN: No, definitely not.

LAWRENCE: I believe no, that the FDA should not control it.

COBURN: Absolutely not.

LAWRENCE: Definitely, James feels strongly...

COBURN: No, no. They're interested in pharmaceuticals because they can sell them and make a lot of bread out of it.

L. KING: Obviously, it's helped you.

COBURN: Well, what? MSM? MSM helped me in three days. It took the pain away in three days.

See, I can tell that because I am speaking from experience. I don't need a double-blind, 9,000 people taking the goddamn stuff. I took it, and I know exactly how it works.


L. KING: And it only works on...

COBURN: And I've given it to everybody. And everybody that I've given it to works on them.

L. KING: It only works on rheumatoid arthritis.

LAWRENCE: Oh, no, no, no.


L. KING: Debbie, would you try it?

REYNOLDS: Oh, absolutely, I'm going to try it.

COBURN: You better, baby, because it'll work for you, kid.

REYNOLDS: Well, I'm going to get the number from James, because my brother goes into surgery on the 10th to replace his complete knee, because he has all the cartilage, it's just bone-on-bone now. And he has very severe arthritis. It runs in our family. Again, we're Scotch-Irish.

COBURN: Scotch-Irish will do it to you.

Cyd, would you try it?


REYNOLDS: Should have been born Jewish.

CHARISSE: I just found myself a new doctor.


L. KING: You put on your Arctic Spray and you take your MSM.

CHARISSE: Well, they're two different things.

L. KING: And Alan, I'm going to get back to magnets. Would you try MSM?

A. KING: No.

COBURN: You're a doctor, that's why! Now, come on.

A. KING: No, no, no. Wait a minute. I'm not a doctor...



L. KING: One at a time.

A. KING: You've got to have...

COBURN: You have a good bartender.

A. KING: No, no. I have three brothers that are doctors, and my father lived to be 96. And if he had a cold, he went to a chiropractor.


COBURN: You're right. That's what they should all do, man!

A. KING: So we're not -- we're not doctor lovers. I wouldn't let my younger brother cut my nails.

COBURN: Yes, right.

A. KING: But I must say, I've tried, you know, alternative medicine. I -- the magnets work for me. I don't care if it works -- it works for me. I put them all -- when I go out to play golf, the only problem is they can't get me off the locker. I'm stuck to the locker for 15 minutes.


L. KING: Let me get a break. Hold it. We'll come right back. You have got to look at all things amusingly too.

More on arthritis, your phone calls too. Don't go away.


L. KING: Dr. Lawrence, do magnets work?

LAWRENCE: Magnets work to a degree.

L. KING: How.

LAWRENCE: Increased flood flow. I measured the blood flow increase in myself with a thing called plethosmography (ph). I am a neurophysiologist. We know that magnets do work.

Hey, R.E. Florsheim shoes now, one of the greatest, puts magnets in their shoes, that they're selling a whole line of shoes now. Why would a big company do that?

L. KING: Don't Dr. Salvatore -- am I correct, there are a lot of charlatans in the arthritis game?


SALVATORE: Oh, one of the biggest industries that has charlatans is the arthritis game. And you know, Larry...

COBURN: Mostly doctors.


SALVATORE: You have to understand that we're not saying that these things do or don't work. The point is that we need the scientific data. We can't just go by anecdote, and that's what we're talking about here.

Mr. Coburn takes this medication. He feels better. He says it works.

We've heard about this...

COBURN: I know it works!

SALVATORE: ... a hundred times.

I agree, and I'm sure that you feel that it works...

COBURN: And I know everybody that I've given it to -- no, I know that it -- it's not a question of feeling that it works. I know it work, man. SALVATORE: Right, but in order to set up a standard, medicine has to set a standard, and they do that by doing studies. And the big thing about it is so many of these products don't do studies and don't really step up to the plate and put forth the guts to say, look, test my product against, you know, the standard because they know it may not come through.

I'm not saying these products don't work, but the studies are not strong enough. That's the problem.

LAWRENCE: How can they work -- how can they do that if they're not making the kind of money that the drug industry makes, which is $110 billion a year? This industry at max is making 18 billion, and they've got 20,000 people in it. So getting the money is hard.

L. KING: Do you trust alternative medicine, Cyd?

CHARISSE: Yes. I'm willing to try it any time.

L. KING: Someone in pain would try anything, though, right?

CHARISSE: Yes, absolutely.

L. KING: So you're going to try to alleviate the pain.

CHARISSE: Absolutely.

L. KING: Alan, wouldn't you try anything to alleviate pain?

A. KING: Well, I want to say I have never seen an arthritic patient more beautiful than Cyd Charisse.


CHARISSE: Oh, Alan, my dear, Alan.

L. KING: She's an advertisement for arthritis.

A. KING: I mean, without, with arthritis. I would -- I tell you -- we haven't mentioned it yet, but I've had great success with Asian, you know, with...

COBURN: Herbal...


A. KING: No, acupuncture. I've had acupuncture, and I've had great success...

L. KING: Well, can we say...

A. KING: ... great success.

L. KING: Can we say, Debbie, that whatever works for you works?

REYNOLDS: Well, I think you should try it all, and if you have immediate results, as Jim did with his MSM -- I'm going to try that next. And I have tried the glucosamine and the chondroit, and sulfates, they work. And so why not use something that's not going to knock you dizzy with being a heavy drug?

COBURN: Absolutely.

L. KING: The thing is we're not definitive, right? We don't definitively know...

LAWRENCE: That's right.

L. KING: ... what brings this on.

LAWRENCE: If someone is not injured or hurt by something, and it isn't costly, and it isn't costly...

L. KING: As long as they're not fooled.

LAWRENCE: As long as they're not fooled -- I'm against that, and basically tremendously against it. And there are a lot of quack remedies in this area, as the doctor said, because it's one that so many people suffer from. And you look -- you seek relief. I know when I had an inpatient pain clinic years ago at UCLA, the pain that these poor people went through...

L. KING: It's got to be terrible.

LAWRENCE: And if you can get rid of that pain in any way that is safe, why not do it?

L. KING: Do your hands hurt, Jim?


L. KING: They don't hurt. They look like they hurt.

COBURN: They look like they would hurt. I mean, when I stretch them out, because of the tendons they pull, they hurt. But a year ago, in order to move that arm out like that, I would have to go like that, like...

I can do that now, man. I couldn't do that. I couldn't even dance. I couldn't even stand up.

L. KING: Dr. Salvatore, you can't argue with him if it works for him, right? I mean, if it works, it works.

SALVATORE: You know, Larry, interestingly two-thirds of people who have arthritis have tried an alternative therapy. And if it does work...

COBURN: Maybe not this one.

SALVATORE: Well, if it does work, it does work.

COBURN: Yes, right. SALVATORE: But you have to consider what are the long-term risks associated with taking this medication: Do you want to find out 10 years down the line that this caused a problem with you? If you're willing to take that chance and it works for you, go for it. There's no problem with that.


LAWRENCE: It's been around 38 years.

COBURN: And it's not toxic.

SALVATORE: Well, it's been around...

LAWRENCE: And has been used.

SALVATORE: Just because a drug has been around 38 years doesn't mean it's been taken long term by people.

COBURN: It's not a drug. Not a drug.

SALVATORE: I mean a compound that's present in the body.

COBURN: Not a drug! A nontoxic element!

L. KING: All right, one at a time. Alan King, don't you think to reduce pain you would take anything?

LAWRENCE: It has. It has been tested.

COBURN: It has been tested.

LAWRENCE: I'll send you a copy of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Steve.

L. KING: Alan.

A. KING: I found that you cannot give in -- I know this sounds like a very broad -- you cannot give in to the pain. Stretching -- I get up in the morning. I take a hot shower, and then I start stretching: the legs. I do the towel, I do all of these things I got from the sports medicine people. And I do feel a great relief by stretching, by exercising, by walking.

You know, years ago, arthritis patients, people were afflicted, would sit in wheelchairs, and now they tell you go out and walk, go out and run, go out and hang, you know, do -- I really believe that exercise is a great help in -- in relieving arthritis.


L. KING: Hold, hold on, hold on one second.

A. KING: Cyd, you...

L. KING: Hold on one second, Al.

Debbie, you're at a disadvantage on the phone. Do you want to stay with us a little while?

REYNOLDS: Oh well, I just -- I agree with the exercise, what Cyd is saying. I'm agreeing with everybody there. And I'm doing what they're all saying to do, and therefore, we're going to be better than we were.

You can't ignore it. You have to exercise. I do every day, and otherwise I can't move and walk around.

L. KING: Take care of yourself, Debbie. Thanks for being with us.

REYNOLDS: OK, no more car doors, right.


L. KING: She said no more car doors.

REYNOLDS: No more cars. Thank you.

L. KING: We thank Debbie Reynolds. Thank you, dear, for joining us.

COBURN: Get healthy, baby.

L. KING: We'll be right back with James Coburn, Cyd Charisse, Alan King, Dr. Ronald Lawrence, and Dr. Steve Salvatore on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Take your calls next. Don't go away.


L. KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Our guests are James Coburn, who won the best supporting actor award, Oscar last year for "Affliction."

Shhh! Everyone gets excited about this.

Cyd Charisse, she has osteoarthritis, a problem in her right knee, injured in an MGM movie leap. Her mother also suffered from it. And she uses a product she's involved with called Arctic Spray.

Alan King has ostheoarthritis. The disease runs in his family, as he said. He exercises, stretches, uses magnets, works hard at this.

Dr. Ronald Lawrence is the personal physician for James Coburn, dealing with arthritis, and co-author of "The Miracle of MSM."

And Dr. Steve Salvatore in New York is CNN's CNN medical correspondent.

And we go to Boston. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Coburn, my mother has rheumatoid arthritis and has taken MSM on your recommendation. But what preventative measures can I take in my 30s? COBURN: The same. Just take -- I mean, you have to kind of take -- I take the powder. The powder seems to be the purist and there are some people that sell it over the counter, at health food stores...

L. KING: She should take it as a preventive?

COBURN: You take it absolutely as a preventative.

L. KING: No harm at all?

COBURN: It makes your fingernails grow, your hair grow. It helps your skin. It helps your digestion.

L. KING: You're making this a wonder product.

COBURN: It is. It is. It truly is.

LAWRENCE: Well, I feel like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) snake oil, and you start, you know -- God forbid. But the fact is as people phone your program later or whatever they do, they can get a number where they can get a generic kit, which has the toxicological studies, $145,000 worth. And again, I come back to 38 years of...

L. KING: But now, your mother had it, right, Cyd?

CHARISSE: My mother, yes, had very bad arthritis.

L. KING: You couldn't do anything to prevent getting it, could you?

CHARISSE: Well, not that I know of...

L. KING: Does anyone know...

CHARISSE: ... and especially I being a dancer, it's like an athlete. You just go with it, you know.

L. KING: Dr. Salvatore, if you know your parents have it, can you in any way prevent getting it?

SALVATORE: There's no way that you can a hundred percent prevent getting osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but there are things that you can do to help beat it or make it less of an impact -- have less of an impact on your body. For instance, if you exercise regularly; if you have a good diet; you avoid certain things like omega six fatty acids, go with like omega 3 fatty acids; if you are not overweight -- obesity is a problem. Overuse is a problem. This is why athletes and dancers have these kinds of of things.

So there are certain things that you can do to help avoid it, but really, if it's in the cards for you to have rheumatoid arthritis, it's a genetic thing, you will probably develop it.

L. KING: But osteo you can -- you can prevent...

SALVATORE: Sure. LAWRENCE: That -- you do your yoga, which is a wonderful form of stretching, and you take some of these supplements on a long-term bases.

L. KING: In other words, work your muscles?

LAWRENCE: And exercise, exercise.



LAWRENCE: ... exercise.

L. KING: Brooklyn Park, Minnesota -- hold on. Go ahead. Who was saying something?

A. KING: I just wanted to ask that acupuncture, it seemed to just go by the book, but I have found myself and friends where this -- this acupuncture does relieve pain and help on the long term with the...


LAWRENCE: Yes, I was one of the first of the two doctors -- MDs in the United States to do acupuncture. I have studied in China, et cetera. Acupuncture works, but not in the preventative way, I don't think, but it works when you have pain.

L. KING: Why? How does it work?

LAWRENCE: It works through the autonomic nervous system, which is the third nervous system. It affects that third nervous system, which we have. We have the motor, sensory and then the autonomic system, which is the sympathetic in there as well.

It works because acupuncture -- and this has now been proven. You know, here in the United States it's become so accepted, the FDA has approved acupuncture needles, believe it or not, within the last year or so.

COBURN: Finally.

LAWRENCE: And the reason is because it affects those nerves, those sympathetic nerves to increase blood flow, and the yin and yang aspect of the way the Chinese look at it, it helps to balance the system.

L. KING: Have you ever tried it, Cyd?

CHARISSE: No, I've never tried it, but you're convincing me to...

L. KING: We're changing Cyd's whole life here tonight.

COBURN: He's my acupuncturist. L. KING: You do it, too.

COBURN: He's been treating me for 15 years.

L. KING: Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, hello.


Hold it. Brooklyn Park, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I was wondering if this is habit forming and are there any known side effects.


LAWRENCE: It is not habit forming, but it does -- if you stop it, your pain will come back. And the only side effects, very rare, skin rash, mostly with the Chinese MSM, I'm sorry to say, the stuff that comes in from China, which has impurities in it. But for the most part, some people get a little digestive upset, which goes away if you take it with food.

So it's very, very safe.

L. KING: Any diet...

LAWRENCE: You can kill a rat faster with water than you can with MSM.

L. KING: Can diet help?

LAWRENCE: Diet, yes.

COBURN: Yes, sure.


L. KING: Overweight is bad? You've never been overweight.

LAWRENCE: Diet is very important.

L. KING: Well, Alan King, you gave an example. You lost 25 pounds and had less pain, right?

A. KING: Oh, absolutely. I could feel -- I could feel relief in my -- I wasn't carrying around this lump, you know, and so the bones were not under such stress.

L. KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. We'll include more phone calls too. The subject is arthritis. Don't go away.


L. KING: We're back. Another call. Kissimmee, Florida, hello. CALLER: Hi, Larry. I have a question that I would like to address to the doctor. I have had arthritis for 20 years now. I'm 44. And I finally have been on a medication, one of five that's finally working, which is Enbril (ph), and it's extremely expensive. It's a thousand dollars a month.

Right now, I'm very fortunate that my husband works and I have insurance to cover that. But should the day sometime that I don't have the insurance, what is going to happen? I mean, it's just finally something that works.

L. KING: Ma'am -- ma'am, when you say it works -- ma'am, the pain goes away?

CALLER: It improves a great deal. I can't say that I'm pain- free, but I am able to do things that I have not been able to to do in 20 years.

L. KING: And you've had it since you were 24 years old?

CALLER: Yes, that's correct.

L. KING: Dr. Salvatore, is that unusual, that early to have arthritis?

SALVATORE: Oh, no, arthritis can affect young people. I mean, unusual, it's not the most common, but many young people can suffer from arthritis.

L. KING: Do you know that drug that she mentioned?

SALVATORE: Yes, it's one of the brand-new drugs that's out there. That's probably why it's so expensive. It's one of those new disease-modifying rheumatoid arthritis drugs. And it holds a lot of promise.

And the problem with these new drugs, as we all talked about, is that, you know, millions of dollars are spent on research, and when these drug companies make a hit, the -- you know, the prices are very, very high while it's still patented.

L. KING: But a poor person with arthritis -- well, insurance covers it? I guess it would.

SALVATORE: Oh, sure. You know, it's an FDA-approved drug and it's been shown to be effective. And it's one of the more promising new drugs in the treatment of arthritis.

L. KING: Granite City, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, my name is...

L. KING: I don't need your name. What's the question?

CALLER: Sorry. I got my RA when I was 15. And my question is for James Coburn. And I want to know if he's ever had any hand surgeries for his deformities?

COBURN: No, I haven't. And I haven't had it because I haven't really wanted it.

L. KING: Why?

COBURN: Because it was -- I mean, in order to get my hands straightened out, they told me what it was. It was like the implants have a lot of different kind of rubber knuckles that go into the thing. And.

L. KING: Put your hand down again so we can see this...

COBURN: My hand -- my hand would be -- these would all be rubber knuckles. This would -- I would have no more strength in it than I have now, and it's a plastic hand. And just the recovery time for a right-handed person, that's just a drag.

L. KING: Does it affect your getting roles?

COBURN: Well, I don't know. Maybe it does.

L. KING: Must.

COBURN: Well...

L. KING: You would think it would.

COBURN: You would think it would. Well, it doesn't affect me nearly as much as it did when I couldn't walk.


L. KING: Is Arctic Spray available everywhere?

CHARISSE: Yes, it is.

L. KING: At health food stores.

CHARISSE: And we have an 800 number.

L. KING: You do?

CHARISSE: Someplace, yes.

L. KING: OK. Pittsburgh, Hello.

CALLER: Hi. I've had RA for four years. I'm 32, and I've tried everything there that you've mentioned. But I wanted to know if anyone there has had a problem with certain foods affecting their arthritis.

L. KING: Alan, have you had a food that affects the arthritis?

A. KING: I never met a food I didn't like. I'm kind of Will Rogers. (LAUGHTER)

L. KING: Dr. Lawrence, do we -- do we know...

A. KING: No, I don't find -- do you -- I don't think that -- I don't know or can even remember any food that sort of brought on anymore pain.

LAWRENCE: Jim has avoided -- and he can tell you -- he's avoided certain things, like the nightshades.

COBURN: Well, the nightshades -- when I first got this thing, I went on a long fast. I did colonics for 13, 15 days: every other day for 15 days I did it. And when I broke the thing, I broke it with what I thought was really a very healthy salad it. I broke out in hives. I became -- I found out that I was allergic through a cytotoxic blood test that I had, which is, you know, disclaimed by everybody else. But I found out that I was allergic to 45 foods out of 70 that I was tested for, stopped eating those foods, and immediately started getting better.

L. KING: You and Nick Nolte working together must have been a riot.

COBURN: We had a ball.

L. KING: You did "Affliction." You won an Academy Award. We had him on this thing. The two of you on every break must have been...


COBURN: Well, he should have won...

L. KING: Have you taken your colodnic corona (ph) yet? Have you taken your 63 pills?


You must have been a riot.

COBURN: Oh, no, we had a great time together, man. He's a brilliant actor and I love him a lot. He's great.

L. KING: Do you hope, Cyd -- I mean, do you think you're going to get better?

CHARISSE: I always think I'm going to get better.

L. KING: Because there is no cure, right? We know that we can maintain, we can try to feel better. But...

CHARISSE: Well, I'm positive about it. I'm positive about things like that. And I do like to try other things that I haven't tried before.

L. KING: Dr. Salvatore, do we know of anybody in the medical field who's gotten over it? Had arthritis, doesn't have it?

SALVATORE: No. I mean, there -- as far as I know, there are no cases of anyone...

L. KING: No miracles?

SALVATORE: ... that's been cured. No, no miracles. And that's always a thing you have to look out for. When someone says there is a miracle, or you know, a cure, you have to be careful.

But you know, Larry, just jumping back to diets, there have been some things with diets. For the most part, the Arthritis Foundation recommends a well-balanced diet. But they do think, though, diets that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids are better than diets with omega 6 fatty acids, which you find in like corn oil and safflower oil. You should maybe go with things like olive oil instead. That might help some people.

L. KING: Salmon...

LAWRENCE: Salmon is excellent for the omega 3s...


LAWRENCE: ... and the cold fish.

L. KING: And everyone agrees exercise?

COBURN: Oh, yes.

L. KING: But can some arthritic patients can't exercise?

LAWRENCE: Yes, and it can make it worse with exercise. You have to be careful. You do have to check with your physician and make sure.

L. KING: But I man, what...

LAWRENCE: But yoga is particularly -- I wish that I knew about yoga 40 years ago, and I've been just so impressed...

L. KING: Can some people not exercise though?

LAWRENCE: Some people cannot exercise in that sense, but everybody can do something in the way of exercise. Even people that are chair-bound, there are books written. There are people that are chair-bound. I saw in the old-age homes, at convalescent hospitals teaching people to exercise in the chair and improvement shown.

Studies have shown that five minutes a day will change the cardiorespiratory status of a patient over a period of as little as six weeks. So you've got to move. Movement is life and life is movement. You have got to move.

L. KING: By the way, is it always discernible, Dr. Salvatore? Can any physician pick up that you have it? SALVATORE: Arthritis?

L. KING: Yes.

SALVATORE: Well, arthritis is usually a diagnosis made with a bunch of different thing. They look at exercises. They go by your history, things you complain about, things like that. Rheumatoid is a little bit different. There are some blood tests.

But osteoarthritis, pretty much is a history and physical, and then with x-rays. So most doctors can tell you if you have arthritis or not.

L. KING: We'll be back with more and more phone calls, right after this.


L. KING: Pleasant Grove, Utah, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, my question is for the doctors. I have a 6- year-old son who was just recently diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Does the MSM also apply to children or is that just for adults?

He's currently on Natrosin (ph) and Methotrexate but suffers severely with inflammation. And I'm just wondering if there's anything else I can do to help it and to prevent...

L. KING: Dr. Lawrence?

LAWRENCE: MSM can be taken safely with the drugs. Always, by the way, check with your doctor. But being such a severe disease, it would be worth -- of course don't take him off the medications but add the MSM at half what the adult dosage is, which is usually one gram, 3,000 a day.

So you can add in half of that dosage into the situation.

If you have any difficulty, you can always stop it. I don't know what difficulty you would have. But...

L. KING: Dr. Salvatore, 6-years-old you could have this?

SALVATORE: Larry, I respectfully disagree. And I don't think you'd find a rheumatologist in the country that would recommend giving this to a child. I'm sorry.

L. KING: Why?

SALVATORE: There's just no evidence to...

COBURN: There's evidence all over the place.

SALVATORE: There's no strong evidence anywhere. I can't debate it. COBURN: There's no written evidence down there.

SALVATORE: I'm sorry. I just can't recommend it. I wouldn't.

L. KING: A disagreement?

LAWRENCE: There is disagreement.

COBURN: I disagree.

L. KING: Grant, Nebraska, hello.

CALLER: Hello, yes.

L. KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: My question is if you continue -- if you just take MSM, does it decrease the amount of damage being done to the joint?

LAWRENCE: That's a good question. We have a study now, and I can't -- we believe after six months of usage, similar to the studies done with glucosamine, supposedly also a chondroit, but certainly with glucosamine, that there appears to be a sparing action on the cartilage. There have been some excellent papers written with glucosamine.

We are now doing this study, which we are using MRIs on before and after six months to see whether there's any changes.

L. KING: And?

LAWRENCE: And we believe it may be...

L. KING: Doctor...


Dr. Salvatore, are you saying you would never -- you would never tell a patient to use MSM?

SALVATORE: You know, Larry, there's something I learned in medical school, and that was you never be the first or last to prescribe a drug. And I certainly don't feel comfortable. You know, I have to go to sleep at night, and I can't prescribe a medication to somebody that I don't feel is proven.

If it can cause -- if it can potentially cause harm. If you're thinking of magnets, acupuncture, things that, you know, they're relatively benign, they don't cause any problem, that's one thing. But if you're talking about taking a substance every day for the rest of your life, until it's proven -- and I'm telling you, I'm not saying it doesn't work. I'm just saying I don't see strong enough evidence and I couldn't prescribe it.

COBURN: What would you prescribe?

SALVATORE: Well, I would just go by the standard therapy that the American College of Rheumatologists is prescribing.

COBURN: But what do they know about it? They don't know about MSM. They don't even talk about it. What they think about MSM, oh, well, maybe, maybe somewhere down the line we'll look at -- well, a lot of people will stop suffering if they take a little bit of it. There's no harm to it.

L. KING: My guess would be, if I were in pain, I'd give it a shot.

COBURN: Absolutely. What have you got to lose?

L. KING: Alan would not, right? You would not give it a shot? In pain?

A. KING: No, I wouldn't. No, no.


L. KING: OK. We've got -- we've got a split on the panel.

A. KING: Well, I'm really -- first of all, I know more about arthritis than all the doctors put together because my audiences now are all arthritic.


L. KING: We'll be back -- we'll be back in our remaining moments with our panel. Get another phone call or two in. Don't go away.


L. KING: Dr. Salvatore, we've got about 4 1/2 minutes left, so we'll get to each of you. Is the Arthritis Foundation helpful?

SALVATORE: I think the Arthritis Foundation is helpful. They have a lot of good information for people. You can access all of their information on the Web site. They tell you what you can do, you know, all of the things we mentioned: exercise, diet, things like that. There have lots of other links that you can go to get help, support groups and things like that, because, you know, as we started saying early on in this discussion, arthritis can cause people to be upset. It can cause them to be depressed. It's a disease that's very difficult to live with. And Larry, one in six of us lives with some form of arthritis. So I think the Arthritis Foundation is helpful.

L. KING: Cyd, does the pain come and go, or is it constant?

CHARISSE: Well, it depends. If I exercise a lot, I really don't notice it nearly so much. I feel exercise is very, very important.

L. KING: Did you have arthritis pain today?

CHARISSE: Well, yes, I do. I have a little problem with my foot right now.

L. KING: Right this minute.


L. KING: All right. What kind of pain are you having?

CHARISSE: Well, it's a sensitive thing that I have on the top of my foot that the doctor was explaining to me, and it just creates, I guess...

LAWRENCE: She has arthritis in the joint right at top, and when she wears a shoe or anything, it hurts, because arthritis, there is a bursitis that goes along with...

L. KING: So if she weren't wearing shoes, she wouldn't have the pain.

LAWRENCE: She'll have less pain if she doesn't have the shoe rubbing over it.

CHARISSE: Have a shoe that happens to be across it.

L. KING: Are you pain-free, James?

COBURN: I am indeed.

L. KING: Pain-free?

COBURN: Pain-free.

L. KING: No pain today.

COBURN: No pain today. I mean, if I get up tomorrow morning and have a little pain, because I ran all night long or I went for a long hike, I sometimes get stiff, but like most people do get stiff a little bit. And...

L. KING: Alan, did you have any pain today?

A. KING: No, I just have -- if I may, I'm not Norman Cousins, but I think that what you can do not to alleviate the pain, I think that mentally by lightning up -- I know pain is difficult. I have lived with it a good part of my life. But make fun of it, read, go out, do whatever you can rather than sit in that chair, you know, and say, well, I'm crippled.

COBURN: Right.

A. KING: I think mentally, I think you can do so much for your body by setting your mind to living with it and then trying to alleviate it by joy, music, laughter. I -- it really -- I know it works.

L. KING: Do you agree with that, Dr. Salvatore?

SALVATORE: Oh, yes. I think -- studies have shown, Larry, that biofeedback, positive attitude, imaging, hypnosis, all of these things -- getting up and fighting things mentally -- help all kinds of illnesses. A positive attitude is very important.


L. KING: The understanding of pain -- in many cases, Dr. Lawrence, pain is very good, right? It indicates trouble. Arthritis pain isn't good.

LAWRENCE: Acute pain is OK. Chronic pain, no. And chronic pain, anything that exists beyond 30 days, it...

L. KING: Do you understand how people live with it? I don't understand how people live with it. I mean...

LAWRENCE: People -- you know, life -- life is quite a task. I take it as -- I'm 74 years old, and as I go on, you know, and see people my age -- it's a battle, but it's a battle worth fighting. It's a wonderful, wonderful world. And even if you're strapped into a chair and you can see something and see the beauty of the Earth, you know, there are -- that's why there are so many books out now on the mind. And many of the people that have been recommending surgery and drugs, who are good writers -- and you've had them on -- are now writing books about the mind and how...

L. KING: By the way, Wednesday night, Wednesday night, Dr. Andrew Weil will be here.

LAWRENCE: Yes. Who believes a lot...

L. KING: Who believes a lot in alternative medicine as well.

Cyd, are you very optimistic? Do you stay up? Do you...

CHARISSE: Oh, I always do. It's the only way to go.

L. KING: And the angry at times Mr. Coburn...


L. KING: Yes.

COBURN: I'll fight for my right to take MSM down to the last!



A. KING: Larry.

L. KING: Thank you all very -- yes, quickly.

A. KING: Larry, Larry...

L. KING: Yes.

A. KING: I just noticed, I think growing a beard helps arthritis. (LAUGHTER)

L. KING: On that note, we'll leave you. Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND."

I'm Larry King. For all of our guests, stay well. Good night.



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