Physician (1910 – 1980)
John Lycoudis was the physician who first discovered that gastric ulcer was primarily caused by a bacterial infection, now known to be H. pylori, and used his own treatment consisting of a combination of antibiotics to cure thousands of the disease. A man way ahead of his time, he faced extraordinary opposition from the medical and pharmaceutical establishment both inside and outside of Greece. Widely dismissed and discredited by the academia, he was justified 4 years after his death and his work accepted worldwide after almost 50 years.
Lycoudis practiced medicine in his hometown, Mesolonghi, where he was known as the “Doctor of the Poor” for not charging money for his visits. This resulted in him being very beloved by the people and was elected mayor of Mesolonghi twice. The money he earned went to a public pharmacy, which he had established for the poor.
His discovery was not my chance. Lycoudis suffered from chronic gastritis himself and in 1958 he suffered from haemorrhagic gastritis. This led him to search for a cure by himself. Believing that peptic ulcer was caused by a bacterium, he tried different combinations of antibiotics to see which would cure the disease. His discovery was patented and published in 1961 under the title “A method for the production of a pharmaceutical mixture for the treatment of peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers and gastritis”.
The new drug which he had created, named Elgaco (from the Greek words ἔλκος, γαστρῖτις and κολῖτις meaning ulcer, gastritis and colitis respectively), was used successfully to treat an estimated of 30.000 patients suffering from peptic ulcer. Elgaco was never allowed to circulate in the market by the Greek authorities. Clinical trials were never performed by any university in the world that he had contacted to prove its efficacy. Throughout the following years, Lycoudis lectured around Greece in attempt to raise awareness about his treatment method.
The medical establishment and the academia did not remain apathetic to Lycoudis’ discovery. In spite of his enormous treatment success, the medical establishment, driven by profit and envy, sent him to court, charged him for “Creating and distributing unapproved drugs… He was using his method to attract patients to earn money from it” and fined him 4000 drachmas (11 euro).
Lycoudis was ultimately vindicated four years after his death in 1980, when scientific validation came from the other side of the globe by two Australian doctors, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall. The two won the Nobel Prize of Medicine in 2005 for Lycoudis’ discovery. Barry Marshall, who had been treated in a similar way by the academia, said “If he had been accepted by the scientific community, then he would have won the Nobel Prize 20 years before myself and Dr. Warren”. When asked about the Nobel Prize, Lycoudis prophetically replied “Bring it to my grave, when it has been discovered that I was right”.
In 1999, an article was published in the eminent medical journal The Lancet titled John Lycoudis: An unappreciated discoverer of the cause and treatment of peptic ulcer disease, in honour of John Lycoudis and his work. In 2002, Barry Marshall dedicated an extensive text to him in his book, entitled John Lycoudis: The general practitioner in Greece, who in 1958 discovered the cause of, and treatment for peptic ulcer disease. Marshall would always cite Lycoudis in his lectures. He was posthumously awarded by the Academy of Athens, the same people who 50 years ago had restricted him from treating his patients.
Today, 50 years later, Lycoudis’ reputation has been restored and his name is known worldwide as the man who challenged the medical world with his radical discovery, considered the greatest medical discovery in modern Greek history.
- Δημ. Γουλές – Ι. Σουφλερή. Γιάννης Λυκούδης: Ο Μεσολογγίτης ιατρός των φτωχών, το ΕΛΚΟΣ και το Νόμπελ. MEGAMED. Megamed.gr. Web. November 20, 2016.
- Παπαβασιλείου, Ευστάθιος. Αφιέρωμα στη μνήμη του Ιωάννη Λυκούδη. Πρακτικὰ 11ου Ελληνικού Συνεδρίου για το Ελικοβακτηρίδιο του Πηλωρού, Αθήνα, 2006. eemep.gr. Web.
- Ρογδάκης, Αθανάσιος. Ιωάννης Λυκούδης. Πεμπτουσία. Pemptousia.gr. Web. May 26, 2011.