Tag Archives: chelation

FDA announces crackdown on chelation therapy — finally!

I’ve written about chelation for many years. In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I conclude, “Evidence against (chelation’s) effectiveness in heart disease is so clear, its continued use raises serious ethical questions. The therapy is very expensive and can be very lucrative for providers. But, it’s virtually worthless for consumers.” Some of my past blogs on chelation have included: Chelation therapy for autism not only potentially harmful, it’s based on faulty premise and Federal investigators uncover major problems with chelation study. Now, finally, comes news that the FDA is going to crack down on these quacks.

The Washington Post reports that officials from the Food and Drug Administration have “announced a crackdown on” chelation, “a controversial therapy widely hawked on the Internet and elsewhere as an alternative treatment for conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by ‘cleansing’ the body.”

In fact, the FDA “said it has sent warning letters to several companies notifying them that the substances they sell without a prescription for …’chelation’ are ‘unapproved drugs and devices,’ which makes them illegal.”

The Chicago Tribune reports that the chemicals used in chelation, “which help remove metals from the body, are potent drugs that carry serious risks, including kidney damage, dehydration, and even death, said FDA Medical Officer Dr. Charles Lee.”

In a separate but related piece, the Chicago Tribune notes that the FDA letters “come a year after a Chicago Tribune investigation found chelation treatment is popular among parents of children with autism, even though the therapy is … based on a disproven hypothesis that children with the disorder are actually suffering heavy metal poisoning.”

In fact, “in 2008, the National Institutes of Health halted a controversial government-funded study of chelation before a single child with autism was treated” after investigators “had found that rats without lead poisoning showed signs of cognitive damage after being treated with a chelator.”

The AP reported that the agency’s “warning letters call on each company to immediately stop marketing and selling their products or face legal action.” The products in question are freely available online and “come in a variety of forms, including sprays, capsules and drops.”

You can learn more about chelation is the QuackWatch.com article, Chelation Therapy: Unproven Claims and Unsound Theories, or read my chelation chapter in Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook.

Chelation Therapy:
Unproven Claims and Unsound Theories

Chelation therapy for autism not only potentially harmful, it’s based on faulty premise

No treatment is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation. The influential autism recovery group, Defeat Autism Now, calls removing metals from the body “one of the most beneficial treatments for autism and related disorders.” Chelation is one of the highest-rated treatments on the parent survey of the nonprofit Autism Research Institute, the parent organization of Defeat Autism Now.
Parents trade stories and advice about chelation on large Internet groups. One Yahoo group has more than 8,000 members. The treatment takes many forms, including creams for the skin, capsules, suppositories and intravenous infusions of powerful medicines usually reserved for people with severe metal poisoning.
Families often embark on this course after seeing test results that make children with autism look like they spend their days playing in smelting plants.
A boy named Jordan King was chelated after his lab reports showed apparently high levels of mercury and tin, according to testimony at a special vaccine court formed by the government to address claims from people who think vaccines caused them harm.
It was “shocking” to see tin turn up, testified Dr. Robert Rust, a chaired professor of neurology at University of Virginia. “It’s seen almost exclusively in people who spend their careers for long periods of time working with tin,” he said.
In fact, Jordan’s troubling results were based on a lab test that is common in the world of alternative autism treatments and is practically guaranteed to give incredible results.
A child is given a chelating drug that provokes the body to excrete some of the metals that nearly everybody — healthy or not — has in the body in trace amounts. Those metals are excreted in urine, which is sent to a lab offering these tests.
Nobody knows what normal results of this test would look like, toxicologists say. But the lab sends back charts that show alarming peaks of metals graphed against a reference range that was calculated for people who had never been given a chelator.
“That is exactly the wrong way to do it,” said Dr. Carl R. Baum, director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Toxicology at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.
With Jordan and another child whose case was examined in vaccine court, “there was absolutely no reason to chelate them for any mercury-related reason,” testified Dr. Jeffrey Brent of the University of Colorado, Denver, former president of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology.
Alarmed by the rise in the use of this test to justify chelation, the American College of Medical Toxicology this summer criticized its use as “fraught with many misunderstandings, pitfalls and risks.”
Toxicologist William Shaw, lab director of the Great Plains Laboratory in Lenexa, Kan., and Jane Johnson, executive director of Defeat Autism Now, said the labs are identifying real problems and they have seen children benefit from chelation.
“Our only bedrock here is the observation by clinicians and parents that their children get better when they are given agents which are known to remove heavy metals from the body,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail.
But such anecdotal evidence is “at best good for generating hypotheses,” Baum said. “Where’s their control group? Their randomized controlled trial?”
Chelation’s popularity as a treatment for autism is driven by the unproved idea that the disorder is tied to accumulation of heavy metals in the body. Mercury, once common in vaccines as part of a preservative called thimerosal, is often pegged as the culprit.
Yet the federally chartered Institute of Medicine reported in 2004 that a review of dozens of studies had failed to show a link between vaccines, thimerosal and autism. Subsequent studies also found no connection. After thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines except for some flu shots, autism diagnoses continued to rise.
Last spring, after hearing hundreds of hours of testimony, three “special masters” presiding over vaccine court ruled conclusively that they found the argument that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and thimerosal cause autism unpersuasive.
Even when tests show normal or low levels of metals, doctors who support chelation as an autism therapy sometimes take the results as proof that the child is poisoned. They hypothesize that the child cannot excrete metals, which is why they do not show up in tests.
Colten Snyder, another child whose case was evaluated in vaccine court, underwent chelation after tests on his blood and hair over six years came back normal for mercury, court records state.
Given that the boy was immunized with vaccines containing thimerosal, “his hair mercury was exceptionally low,” said his physician, Dr. J. Jeff Bradstreet of Florida. “That’s pathological.”
Colten went “berserk” after being given a chelator, according to a nurse whose notes were cited in court records. He also had incontinence, night sweats, headaches and back pain. Bradstreet testified that the boy did not do well with chelation but later said it is “impossible to know” what caused the problems.
In her decision, special master Denise Vowell criticized Bradstreet: “The more disturbing question is why chelation was performed at all, in view of the normal levels of mercury found in the hair, blood and urine, its apparent lack of efficacy in treating Colten’s symptoms and the adverse side effects it apparently caused.”
Pediatric toxicology experts say that all chelation drugs carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children. Treatment with the medication is carefully monitored, as some drugs can dangerously deplete the body of essential metals, toxicologists said.
When rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation, said the study’s lead researcher, Barbara Strupp at Cornell University.
She said that finding raises concerns about administering chelators to children with autism unless they clearly have elevated levels of heavy metals. “I was just astounded and concerned for these kids,” she said.
After she learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings. The study was later canceled.
“Really,” Baum said, “[parents] are putting their children at serious risk.”

The LA Times has an excellent investigative journalism series on alternative therapies for autism that I’ve blogged about. You can read that blog here.

But, of all of the alternative treatments for autism, none is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation.

Here are excerpts from the LA Times report. You can read the entire report here:

The influential autism recovery group, Defeat Autism Now, calls removing metals from the body “one of the most beneficial treatments for autism and related disorders.”

Chelation is one of the highest-rated treatments on the parent survey of the nonprofit Autism Research Institute, the parent organization of Defeat Autism Now.

Parents trade stories and advice about chelation on large Internet groups. One Yahoo group has more than 8,000 members.

The treatment takes many forms, including creams for the skin, capsules, suppositories and intravenous infusions of powerful medicines usually reserved for people with severe metal poisoning.

Families often embark on this course after seeing test results that make children with autism look like they spend their days playing in smelting plants.

A boy named Jordan King was chelated after his lab reports showed apparently high levels of mercury and tin, according to testimony at a special vaccine court formed by the government to address claims from people who think vaccines caused them harm.

It was “shocking” to see tin turn up, testified Dr. Robert Rust, a chaired professor of neurology at University of Virginia. “It’s seen almost exclusively in people who spend their careers for long periods of time working with tin,” he said.

In fact, Jordan’s troubling results were based on a lab test that is common in the world of alternative autism treatments and is practically guaranteed to give incredible results.

A child is given a chelating drug that provokes the body to excrete some of the metals that nearly everybody — healthy or not — has in the body in trace amounts. Those metals are excreted in urine, which is sent to a lab offering these tests.

Nobody knows what normal results of this test would look like, toxicologists say. But the lab sends back charts that show alarming peaks of metals graphed against a reference range that was calculated for people who had never been given a chelator.

“That is exactly the wrong way to do it,” said Dr. Carl R. Baum, director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Toxicology at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.

With Jordan and another child whose case was examined in vaccine court, “there was absolutely no reason to chelate them for any mercury-related reason,” testified Dr. Jeffrey Brent of the University of Colorado, Denver, former president of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology.

Alarmed by the rise in the use of this test to justify chelation, the American College of Medical Toxicology this summer criticized its use as “fraught with many misunderstandings, pitfalls and risks.”

Toxicologist William Shaw, lab director of the Great Plains Laboratory in Lenexa, Kan., and Jane Johnson, executive director of Defeat Autism Now, said the labs are identifying real problems and they have seen children benefit from chelation.

“Our only bedrock here is the observation by clinicians and parents that their children get better when they are given agents which are known to remove heavy metals from the body,” Johnson wrote in an e-mail.

But such anecdotal evidence is “at best good for generating hypotheses,” Baum said. “Where’s their control group? Their randomized controlled trial?”

Chelation’s popularity as a treatment for autism is driven by the unproved idea that the disorder is tied to accumulation of heavy metals in the body. Mercury, once common in vaccines as part of a preservative called thimerosal, is often pegged as the culprit.

Yet the federally chartered Institute of Medicine reported in 2004 that a review of dozens of studies had failed to show a link between vaccines, thimerosal and autism. Subsequent studies also found no connection. After thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines except for some flu shots, autism diagnoses continued to rise.

Last spring, after hearing hundreds of hours of testimony, three “special masters” presiding over vaccine court ruled conclusively that they found the argument that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and thimerosal cause autism unpersuasive.

Even when tests show normal or low levels of metals, doctors who support chelation as an autism therapy sometimes take the results as proof that the child is poisoned. They hypothesize that the child cannot excrete metals, which is why they do not show up in tests.

Colten Snyder, another child whose case was evaluated in vaccine court, underwent chelation after tests on his blood and hair over six years came back normal for mercury, court records state.

Given that the boy was immunized with vaccines containing thimerosal, “his hair mercury was exceptionally low,” said his physician, Dr. J. Jeff Bradstreet of Florida. “That’s pathological.”

Colten went “berserk” after being given a chelator, according to a nurse whose notes were cited in court records. He also had incontinence, night sweats, headaches and back pain. Bradstreet testified that the boy did not do well with chelation but later said it is “impossible to know” what caused the problems.

In her decision, special master Denise Vowell criticized Bradstreet: “The more disturbing question is why chelation was performed at all, in view of the normal levels of mercury found in the hair, blood and urine, its apparent lack of efficacy in treating Colten’s symptoms and the adverse side effects it apparently caused.”

Pediatric toxicology experts say that all chelation drugs carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children. Treatment with the medication is carefully monitored, as some drugs can dangerously deplete the body of essential metals, toxicologists said.

When rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation, said the study’s lead researcher, Barbara Strupp at Cornell University.

She said that finding raises concerns about administering chelators to children with autism unless they clearly have elevated levels of heavy metals. “I was just astounded and concerned for these kids,” she said.

After she learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings. The study was later canceled.

“Really,” Baum said, “[parents] are putting their children at serious risk.”

You can read more about evaluating alternative therapies and natural medicines, in general, and about chelation, in specific, in my book Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook:

  • You can order an autographed copy here.
  • You can read the Table of Contents here, and
  • You can read a sample chapter here.

Many autism therapies are unproven and risky

In a gripping series exploring autism and its treatments, the Los Angeles Times reports that “after reviewing thousands of pages of court documents and scientific studies and interviewing top researchers in the field, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that many of these treatments amount to uncontrolled experiments on vulnerable children.”

According to results of the investigation, “the therapies often go beyond harmless New Age folly,” with many being “unproven and risky, based on flawed, preliminary or misconstrued scientific research.”

Moreover, “lab tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted,” and “the few clinical trials conducted to evaluate the treatments objectively” have yielded “disappointing results.”

The  Times reports that “up to three-quarters of families with children who have autism try at least some alternative therapies.”

While some physicians and people in the autism “recovery movement … say their treatment protocols rest on a foundation of solid science,” the Tribune discovered “otherwise after speaking with dozens of scientists and physicians and reviewing thousands of pages of research and court testimony.”

Chelation seen as emblematic of alternative therapies for autism

The Los Angeles Times is also reporting, “No treatment is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation.”

But, according to “pediatric toxicology experts … all chelation” medications “carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children.”

Barbara Strupp, PhD, of Cornell University, said that when “rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation.”

In fact, after Strupp “learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings,” and the “study was later canceled.”

Alternative therapies seen as getting undeserved credit

In their final report on the topic, the Los Angeles Times reports that stories of “children who could suddenly speak” are, “for many parents … more persuasive than what experts say.”

Nevertheless, “in evaluating a therapy, the challenge is determining how much, if any, of the progress can be credited to the treatment,” because, “over time, children with autism do develop, said” pediatric neurologist and autism expert Max Wiznitzer, MD.”

In fact, “between 10% and 20% of children with autism who were diagnosed early may make so much progress that they are indistinguishable from peers,” and whether or not they are “undergoing alternative therapies,” said Susan Levy, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, progress which parents may attribute to alternative therapies.

You can read more about evaluating alternative therapies and natural medicines in my book Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook.

  • You can order an autographed copy here.
  • You can read the Table of Contents here, and
  • You can read a sample chapter here.

In a series exploring autism and its treatments, the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-autism-main7-2009dec07,0,5807576.story) reports that “after reviewing thousands of pages of court documents and scientific studies and interviewing top researchers in the field, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that many of these treatments amount to uncontrolled experiments on vulnerable children.” According to results of the investigation, “the therapies often go beyond harmless New Age folly,” with many being “unproven and risky, based on flawed, preliminary or misconstrued scientific research.” Moreover, “lab tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted,” and “the few clinical trials conducted to evaluate the treatments objectively” have yielded “disappointing results.”
The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-hew-autism-day-two7-2009dec07,0,4327817.story) reports that “up to three-quarters of families with children who have autism try at least some alternative therapies.” While some physicians and people in the autism “recovery movement…say their treatment protocols rest on a foundation of solid science,” the Tribune discovered “otherwise after speaking with dozens of scientists and physicians and reviewing thousands of pages of research and court testimony.”
Chelation seen as emblematic of alternative therapies for autism. The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-autism-chelation7-2009dec07,0,3198790.story) reports, “No treatment is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation.” But, according to “pediatric toxicology experts…all chelation” medications “carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children.” Barbara Strupp, PhD, of Cornell University, said that when “rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation.” In fact, after Strupp “learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings,” and the “study was later canceled.”
Alternative therapies seen as getting undeserved credit. The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-autism-parents7-2009dec07,0,7076900.story) reports that stories of “children who could suddenly speak” are, “for many parents…more persuasive than what experts say.” Nevertheless, “in evaluating a therapy, the challenge is determining how much, if any, of the progress can be credited to the treatment,” because, “over time, children with autism do develop, said” pediatric neurologist and autism expert Max Wiznitzer, MD.” In fact, “between 10% and 20% of children with autism who were diagnosed early may make so much progress that they are indistinguishable from peers,” and whether or not they are “undergoing alternative therapies,” said Susan Levy, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, progress which parents may attribute to alternative therap

Federal investigators uncover major problems with chelation study

I’ve written about chelation for many years. In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I conclude, “Evidence against (chelation’s) effectiveness in heart disease is so clear, its continued use raises serious ethical questions. The therapy is very expensive and can be very lucrative for providers. Nevertheless, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine decided to do a very large study to try to establish once, and for all, whether chelation works or not.

More Information: Continue reading

Fringe Autism Treatment Could Get Federal Study

The Associated Press is reporting that the NIH is being pressured by desperate parents who are pushing them to test an unproven treatment on autistic children, a move some scientists see as an unethical experiment in voodoo medicine. The treatment removes heavy metals from the body and is based on the fringe theory that mercury in vaccines triggers autism — a theory never proved and rejected by mainstream science. Mercury hasn’t been in childhood vaccines since 2001, except for certain flu shots.

My Take? Continue reading

Most people do not need colon cleansing (colonics)

A Los Angeles Times health column advises people not to believe that “our bodies [are] awash in ‘toxins,’… and that we should therefore go to dramatic lengths, such as ‘colon cleansing’ and chelation, to get rid of all this bad stuff.” 

My Take? Continue reading