Thursday, July 01, 2010

Chelation therapy quack sues Quackwatch

You may have heard of chelation therapy: it involves using chelating agents, such as EDTA either IV or orally to scavenge metal ions in the blood and promote their excretion in the urine. It is a standard of care therapy for heavy metal poisoning. However "alternative medicine" proponents have been touting it as a miracle "detoxifying" treatment for all kinds of ailments from coronary heart disease to autism. And it's not without concerns, according to wikipedia:

"side effects include fever, headache, nausea, stomach upset, vomiting, convulsions, bone marrow depression (dropping blood cell counts), a drop in blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory arrest, and hypocalcemia. Other concerns include kidney failure, which can require permanent life-limiting and expensive dialysis, or cause death. "

Chelation therapy has been responsible for over 30 deaths, many of which were autistic children. The reason is quite simple: we need metal ions for our body to work. If you've ever looked at a periodic table you know that elements essential for life such as sodium, calcium, iron, potassium are also metals so it's not just lead and mercury you're removing.

To justify the detoxifying, many of these quacks perform urine analysis after giving a "provoking agent" which artificially increases metal excretion in the urine to scare patients into getting treatment. not only is that deceptive, but there is absolutely no evidence, despite numerous studies, that chelation therapy has any benefits outside of heavy metal poisoning.

Quackwatch, a site which is a beacon of reason and often the lone voice to expose quacks is being sued for $10M by one of these companies. How typical. These companies are flush with cash from taking advantage of credulous patients and when you point out that the treatment has no scientific validity and is potentially harmful they fight reason with the blunt tool of litigation. Libel law is the greatest threat to free speech since lone individuals often cannot afford to legal proceedings against larger corporation. But, if you feel so inclined, quackwatch is taking donations to help cover the cost... At least we can fight back by exposing these quacks. Suing only attracts more attention to you, hopefully knowledge and reason can do the rest.


Liz Ditz said...

I've written up a post on the background and rationale for Dr. Barrett to have written the articles Doctor's Data objects to. As I sometimes do, I have a running list of blog posts and articles commenting on the issue. I've included yours.