Chelation therapy does not benefit patients with ischemic heart disease

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Chelation with EDTA, an alternative therapy touted as a treatment for ischemic heart disease, provides no more clinical benefit than does placebo, according to the findings of a new study.

"Despite testimonials to the contrary, we were unable to confirm that this therapy improves function or quality of life," Dr. Merril L. Knudtson, of the Foothills Medical Center in Alberta, Canada, told Reuters Health.

Because calcium is often found in atheromatous plaques, some proponents have suggested that EDTA treatment, which removes calcium as well as lead, iron, copper and other metals from the body, may benefit patients with ischemic heart disease, the investigators explain. Several other possible mechanisms for EDTA have been suggested.

Seventy-eight patients with ischemic heart disease completed the 27-week study. For the first 15 weeks, participants received a twice-weekly infusion of either EDTA or placebo. The subjects then underwent chelation or placebo once a month for the remaining 12 weeks. All patients also took a multivitamin during the trial.

Participants underwent treadmill testing at baseline,15 weeks and 27 weeks, and also answered questions about their quality of life.

Both groups of patients improved on exercise testing, but the differences were not statistically significant, the researchers report in the January 23/30th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Neither group was more likely than the other to experience improvements in quality of life, according to the report.

"We could detect no benefit of EDTA," Dr. Knudtson told Reuters Health.

But according to Dr. Knudtson, the results "do not definitively rule out any benefit of chelation therapy in coronary disease in some other aspect of cardiovascular functioning." He pointed out that the study did not address whether chelation therapy affects the rates of death, heart attack, heart failure, and hospital admissions.

A much larger study would be needed to answer these questions, he said. The Canadian researcher added that the study was also too small to evaluate the safety of the therapy.

For patients who do not have diabetes or kidney disease and who receive chelation therapy from a qualified provider, the treatment is "likely safe," although expensive and time-consuming, according to Dr. Knudtson.

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