A new study has shown that a “fringe” alternative treatment for heart disease, called chelation, is very effective at preventing heart problems. The report, however, is so controversial that even the study’s lead author is questioning the results.
The patients involved in the study previously suffered a heart attack. They were each assigned to receive either a placebo or a series of IV drug infusions called chelation therapy, reports CNN.
The treatment is unorthodox and has been looked down upon by cardiologists for a long time. The report was the first large, long-term trial of chelation for patients with heart problems.
The chelation therapy was able to reduce the risk of heart attacks, deaths, strokes, and other cardiovascular issues by 18 percent. Dr. Steven Nissen, the chair of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, a skeptic of the study, stated:
“If this were true, it would be significant. It would put this therapy in the same ballpark as high blood pressure drugs, or drugs used to lower cholesterol.”
Dr. Gervasio Lamas, chief of Columbia University Division of Cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida, stated in a press release:
“The most exciting part of this study is that there may be an unexpected signal of benefit. We need to understand whether the signal is true, or whether it occurred by chance.”
CBS News notes that more than 100,000 Americans use chelation therapy, often because of a distrust of conventional medicine. They sometimes even use it in place of established treatments like cholesterol-lowering drugs and stents that open clogged arteries.
The controversial treatment usually costs $90 to $150 each session. The treatments are usually done each week for 30 weeks and are not covered by any kind of insurance.
Study author Dr. Daniel B. Mark, a professor of medicine and research director director at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, stated:
“We thought it might make people feel better, but we didn’t see that consistently enough. Patients weren’t any worse, but they weren’t any better.”
The results of the chelation therapy study were presented at a conference instead of being published in a medical journal or being vetted by independent scientists.
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