After reading the article “Back in the Groove” [Feb. 25, Xpress] and the [letter to the editor] by Dr. James Biddle [“Empowered Medical Consumer Reaped the Benefits,” March 11, Xpress], I feel compelled to comment on chelation therapy.
The article suggests that Mr. [Bill] Sites staved off coronary bypass surgery for 25 years with chelation therapy.
The implication that chelation therapy was beneficial for Mr. Sites and that he was an “empowered medical consumer” who “reaped the benefits” of such therapy, is seriously misleading.
While the concept of chelation therapy as a drug to bind metal ions involved in the formation of vascular blockages and thereby prevent or reverse heart disease is appealing, the evidence supporting this claim has been anecdotal and based on scientifically unsound, uncontrolled studies.
The effectiveness of chelation therapy has been evaluated in several prospective, randomized trials.
A double-blind, randomized controlled trial, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA. 2002;286(4):481-486), showed that chelation therapy had no beneficial effect in patients with proven heart disease. A review of all clinical investigation pertaining to the effectiveness of chelation therapy for coronary heart disease (Ernst, Am Heart J 2000;140:139-141) concluded that there was no evidence that chelation therapy was efficacious beyond that of a placebo, and furthermore that this treatment should be considered obsolete.
Chelation therapy is not covered by health care insurance and is costly, averaging $4,000 of out-of-pocket expense to the patient.
Although coronary bypass surgery is certainly not a cure-all, it is the most scrutinized and tested procedure in medicine, and no therapies to date have had better results in terms of the quality-of-life indicators or long-term survival in patients with heart disease.
My point is that the medical consumer does need to be well-informed as to the proven, scientific effectiveness (or lack there of), potential risks and benefits for all options used in the treatment of heart disease and to remember the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
— Stephen Ely, PhD, MD