Vail health story: Medical foods are exactly that |

Vail health story: Medical foods are exactly that

HL Medical Foods DT 11-11-11

Pat Mitchell has been a skier, snowboarder, tennis player, first division soccer player and successful at all sorts of athletic endeavors.

In his late 50s now, Mitchell has some pain and inflammation.

He tried everything. Then the Edwards resident tried one more thing – medical foods.

He says it helped him so much he signed on as the Rocky Mountain consultant for PDR Medical Management. He sells Physician Therapeutics, one brand of medical foods, to local doctors.

Physician Therapeutics is “a specialty pharmaceutical company that develops and distributes proprietary prescription medical food products and generic drugs to physicians and their patients in the United States and Japan,” according to the company website,

Support Local Journalism

Medical food products are pills made of molecules already natural to the human body, said Dr. Lisa Muncy, one of a handful of local doctors selling the product.

“My philosophy is to use molecules that are already natural to the human body,” Muncy said. “With medical foods that’s what I get. Molecules useful to the human both or produced by the body. It’s not a new-to-nature molecule.”

Medical foods are intended for dietary management of a disease or condition that has nutritional needs that cannot be met by normal diet alone. In other words, you can’t eat that much of the foods you need.

You have to be able to take it orally or through a feeding tube. It has to be labeled for a specific disease or condition for which there are distinctive nutritional requirements.

They’re amino-acid-based foods designed to help treat chronic conditions such as post-operative pain, sleep disorders, anxiety/stress disorder including PTSD, obesity and weight control. They’re supposed to reduce the side effects from traditional prescription drugs.

For example, Theramine, one of nine products listed on, is designed to manage nutritional deficiencies associated with acute and chronic pain syndromes, including fibromyalgia.

Medical foods are FDA-approved and doctors can sell it directly to patients, bypassing pharmacists.

Providing nutritional support optimizes prescribed drugs, which makes prescriptions more effective while minimizing side effects, said Dr. William Shell, CEO of Physician Therapeutics, which is based in Los Angeles.

“We are not advocating use of medical foods in place of pharmaceuticals,” Shell said. “We see these as adding to and increasing the efficacy of those medications.”

The Food and Drug Administration regulates drugs, dietary supplements medical foods. The FDA recognized medical foods in 1972. For example, Pedialyte, the common electrolyte supplement often times given to sick children, is considered a medical food.

The FDA does not regulate medical foods the same way it does prescription drugs, according to pharmacists with the Vail Valley Medical Center.

The FDA approved medical foods, but also said medical foods are not reviewed for safety and effectiveness the same way drugs are.

What qualifies as a medical food, as opposed to a drug, has to do with both the ingredients in the product and the claims made on the label, the FDA said. While a medicine treats a disease, a medical food might help manage it.

Dr. Joseph Ferrera, another local doctor who sells the products, said medical foods are a great idea. He said Physician Therapeutics is well recommended, legitimate and recognized by the FDA.

The data is “pretty good” to say it helps limit pain, Muncy said.

The data is not there to say that if you take some of this medical food it will cure Alzheimer’s, she said.

Medical foods and dietary supplements are not interchangeable, said Richard Isaacson, an assistant professor of neurology and medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Medical foods are medical products for a specific nutritional purpose as opposed to dietary supplements, which are a consumer product to supplement the diet, Isaacson said.

To learn more: Contact Pat Mitchell at 970-393-3292 or Visit

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

Support Local Journalism