The July 26 Outlook article “Still tricky after all these years,” Carl Bernstein’s thoughtful review of two new books about Richard Nixon, noted that in addition to the former president’s previously reported use of alcohol, he also took medication to alleviate stress. Curiously, the drug he used was Dilantin (phenytoin), an anticonvulsant, and the source wasn’t a health professional but rather a friend, Jack Dreyfus, an originator of the modern mutual fund. Dreyfus had publicly credited Dilantin with having successfully treated his severe depression in the mid-1960s after years of failed traditional treatment.
By the time of the 1968 encounter with then-candidate Nixon described in Evan Thomas’s book, “Being Nixon,” Dreyfus and his eponymous medical (now “health”) foundation were spending tens of millions of dollars to alert the medical profession to what were described as dozens of unappreciated physical and mental health uses for Dilantin. These were detailed in a book by Dreyfus, “A Remarkable Medicine Has Been Overlooked,” widely distributed to doctors.
Although his efforts to influence clinical practice and Food and Drug Administration labeling fell short, anticonvulsants, ironically not including Dilantin, are recognized today as effective mood stabilizers in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
Matthew V. Rudorfer, Potomac