It’s not exactly the hot topic at dinner parties, and some find it embarrassing to bring the topic up with their doctor, but more than half the population will develop hemorrhoids, usually after age 30, according to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
Hemorrhoids form when increased pressure on the pelvic veins causes veins in the anal canal to swell and gradually stretch out of shape.
They are an occupational hazard for airline pilots. Just ask Terry Leysath, who’s been flying for Southwest Airlines for 23 years. He spends almost all his work day in the captain’s seat. Sitting exacerbates hemorrhoids.
About five years ago, he developed the condition. He was a ffected off and on and tried over-the-counter creams.
“They did nothing for me,” he said.
No surprise there — the best-selling cream is an 85-year-old formula and initially was sold as a sun tan lotion.
Then his hemorrhoids began getting worse and episodes lasted longer.
He went to see Dr. Joseph Thornton , a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon who has been practicing in Las Vegas since 1978 and done thousands of surgeries for hemorrhoids.
After discussing options, the doctor handed him a bottle of TushMD, a formula he invented to address the condition. He told the pilot to try the pills.
“I was a science major in college,” said Leysath. “The science major in me said, ‘This isn’t going to do me any good.’ “
But he went home and took it as prescribed, and within two days, he said, the hemorrhoids went away. He now takes one a day to make sure they stay away.
The supplements use natural ingredients, such as bromelain from the pineapple plant, long known to promote digestion, and psyllium, used for easing hemorrhoids. The key to TushMD, Thornton said, is the balance and concentration of the various ingredients.
Thornton was prompted to formulate the pills after his patients complained of the cost of the prescriptions. What had cost $15 per tube when he first began practic ing was now costing $300 … and people needed to buy four or five tubes for the course of treatment.
“It’s an example of how health care costs are out of control here in the United States,” Thornton said.
He often sent patients to the health food store for supplements instead. They would report good results but asked if there wasn’t something stronger.
Thornton looked into making his own formula for supplements.
“I consulted with master chemists,” he said. “I wanted (the ingredients) to stay in the area of ‘supplement’ to keep the price low.”
The result: TushMD.
He began handing it out to his patients and made it available online at tushmd.com. Local compounding pharmacies, such as Lam’s and Partell, carry it.
“My office staff told me to stop giving people the pills because they kept getting calls to cancel surgeries,” he said, adding they predicted he’d put himself out of business.
Terry Cater, pharmacy executive at Lam’s, said the product is a consistent seller.
“We work closely with the doctors we fill prescriptions for,” he said.
Cater said the company was not averse to carrying something from a local doctor “as long as there is good science behind it. … I can’t call it a cure because then it becomes a drug, and drugs are regulated by the FDA,” he said.
Thornton’s practice partner, Dr. Leslie Browder , had a patient scheduled for surgery. She put him on an accelerated program of the pills for the two weeks before, thinking it would make surgery less involved.
The man was put on the operating table, prepped and rendered unconscious.
“She went to remove them, and there was nothing there to operate on. … There is a whole generation of physicians that have never been exposed to the benefits of many natural supplements,” Thornton said.
Since trying the product, Leysath has told fellow pilots about it.
“I think a lot of pilots are skeptical people, but it made a believer out of me,” he said.
Contact Summerlin View and Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or