Study of chelation therapy is $30 million black eye for NIH

Troubled study at heart of therapy debate

With $30 million of taxpayer money, researchers set out to conduct one of the largest studies ever of an alternative medical treatment, a controversial therapy for coronary artery disease.

The project was marred with problems from beginning to end.

Because the treatment was so out of step with mainstream medicine, it was difficult to find enough patients to take part.

The researchers failed to inform the subjects that one risk of the treatment was death. In consent form documents, they made a confusing statement about the study drug, implying it was safer than it was.


The researchers overseeing the study stepped up background checks on the doctors involved after some physicians ran into disciplinary problems unrelated to the chelation trial. Two doctors consulting on the trial have been convicted of crimes.

@EdzardErnst on Twitter

Scientists say it’s fine to study a potential treatment without knowing exactly how it works — but there needs to be compelling evidence to suggest that it does work.

Chelation to treat coronary artery disease didn’t have that either. Three randomized, double-blind clinical trials found no meaningful difference between chelation therapy and a placebo.

Here is another example of the benefits of practicing science-based medicine over evidence-based medicine. [See yesterday’s post in “Related Posts” below.]

What a boondoggle. Ernst (also quoted in the article) noted that this was the “worst study ever funded by NCCAM”. Now there is waste and mistakes in all areas of business, for sure. But trouble should prompt evaulation and changes that prevent such things from happening again. In an agency propped by special moneyed interests, that procedure has been short-circuited.