Be Aware of These Nine Questionable Clinics

John Watson

Disclosures

August 20, 2018

In This Article

Chelation's Unlikely Institutional Support

In the 1950s, chelation therapy (the process by which heavy metals are removed from the blood) began to be used by some to treat atherosclerotic disease. Then considered an alternative treatment, it arguably breached the mainstream when the $30 million Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

TACT was initially mired in controversy owing to allegations of impropriety with the patient-consent process, as detailed in a 2011 Medscape article. When the results were eventually published, they attributed chelation therapy using ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid to a modest reduction in the risk for cardiovascular problems in patients with a history of myocardial infarction.[5] Critics have catalogued a host of potential flaws with TACT's design[6,7] and accused it of spinning a negative result into a positive one.

The use of chelation has been extended to such indications as cancer and autism, as well as somewhat vaguer uses.

"There's the naturopath use of chelation therapy, where they often claim that many diseases or chronic illnesses are due to undefined toxins that are heavy metals," Gorski said. "Never mind that it can be potentially dangerous. It can cause hypocalcemia or hypomagnesemia and also cause death due to cardiac arrest, including in one 5-year-old child who was being treated for autism back in 2005.[8] Basically, it's all risk and no benefit."

Criticism of chelation's institutional support looks unlikely to die down any time soon, as it was announced in 2016 that the NIH is funding a $37 million TACT follow-up study in diabetics with cardiovascular disease.[9]

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