At 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on March 26th, 2013, the embargo was lifted on an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It is titled:
Effect of Disodium EDTA Chelation Regimen on Cardiovascular Events in Patients with Previous Myocardial Infarction [heart attack].”
We are sending out this alert because we wanted you to have access to this controversial data as soon as possible after release. It will doubtless create a lot of controversy and confusion around a highly controversial therapy. An accompanying editorial in JAMA by cardiologist Steve Nissen is highly critical of the research. As a result, many cardiologists will discount or disregard it and most physicians will likely ignore it. We think this research deserves your attention. After all, you paid for it! This 10-year study cost taxpayers $31 million.
In a nutshell: EDTA chelation therapy was shown to have “modest” cardiovascular benefit in high-risk heart patients. This was not what mainstream medicine expected. Read on to learn more about this contentious treatment.
We first learned about EDTA chelation therapy for treating lead toxicity in graduate school. EDTA stands for a tongue twister compound, Ethylene Diamine Tetraacetic Acid. When injected intravenously, this compound has the ability to circulate throughout the bloodstream and bind to or “chelate” metal ions from tissues, facilitating their removal from the body.
EDTA was first used medically in 1947 when a doctor at Georgetown University Medical Center used it to reduce toxic levels of nickel that a cancer patient had accumulated because of chemotherapy. During the 1950s doctors used EDTA to detoxify workers exposed to excessive levels of lead while working in battery factories or repainting old ships.
Some of the patients treated for metal or mineral toxicity (aluminum, arsenic, calcium, copper, iron, lead, mercury) noticed a wide array of improvements. Some reported less chest pain (angina), while others believed that their ability to concentrate improved, along with fewer aches and pains.
By the mid 1970s we were hearing from some physicians that EDTA chelation therapy was helpful for people with heart disease and poor circulation. Patients scheduled for bypass surgery were telling us that after a series of intravenous injections their chest pain disappeared, their ability to exercise improved and they postponed or completely reconsidered their plans for bypass surgery. EDTA was supposed to bind to calcium from the plaque that lines coronary arteries. Infusions of EDTA and vitamins also removed magnesium, lead, aluminum, cadmium, zinc and iron from the blood stream and from tissue.
By reducing calcium in plaque, the theory went, blood flow to the heart would improve and complications from atherosclerosis would be diminished. An antioxidant action was also believed to reduce inflammation both in arteries and in other soft tissue. By 2007 it was estimated that over 100,000 people were seeking out chelation doctors each year for this prolonged IV treatment.
Despite many glowing reports of success, we remained agnostic. In our minds there just wasn’t enough data to draw clear conclusions about the benefits or risks of EDTA chelation therapy.
Mainstream medicine seemed dead set against this approach. Many cardiologists and other physicians believed it was at best a placebo and at worst snake oil. After all, injecting a bag of liquid into veins is psychologically impressive. And patients paid a lot of money out of their own pockets for the many repeated IV infusions. Organizations like the AMA (American Medical Association), the AHA (American Heart Association) and the ACC (American College of Cardiology) came out strongly against using EDTA chelation for cardiovascular disease. It was perceived as ineffective and possibly dangerous even though there were no data on either count.
Because so many patients were undergoing this treatment anyway, the government decided to sponsor a long-term study called TACT (Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy). It was overseen by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Patients were recruited into the study if they had experienced a heart attack at least 6 weeks prior to the study. They were randomized to get either 40 infusions of EDTA plus vitamins and minerals or placebo infusions.
Between 2003 and 2011 over 1700 subjects were recruited and randomized almost equally to either EDTA or placebo. They were followed for roughly five years. This is undoubtedly the best study of EDTA chelation ever conducted.
The results, although not spectacular, were better than many physicians anticipated. Given that the expectation was that chelation therapy would be a waste of time and resources, it doubtless came as a great shock to many health professionals that there was any detectable benefit at all.
RESULTS:
• 18% composite relative risk reduction in: death, second heart attack, stroke, repeat coronary artery procedure, or hospitalization for angina. The placebo group experienced 261 of these events (30%) compared to 222 events or 26% in the chelation group.
• 18% of the patients getting placebo had to have their coronary arteries reopened (“revascularization”) compared to 15% of those getting EDTA. That was a relative risk reduction of 19%.
• 2.1% of the placebo patients were hospitalized because of chest pain (angina) whereas 1.6% of those on EDTA were hospitalized for this problem. That was a relative risk reduction of 28%.
• Subgroup analysis: high-risk patients with diabetes or “anterior MI” (aka the widow maker) had a relative risk reduction of 39% and 37% of experiencing another cardiovascular event if they received EDTA.

SIDE EFFECTS:
Overall EDTA did not seem dangerous. There were a total of 4 “severe adverse events” during the trial–2 in the EDTA group with 1 death and 2 in the placebo group with 1 death. In other words, exactly the same. Heart failure was reported in 57 chelation patients (7%) compared to 71 placebo patients (8%). Again, no statistical difference. One patient getting EDTA developed hypocalcemia (low calcium levels) that led to muscle cramping and a trip to the emergency department.
CONCLUSIONS:
We agree with the authors that EDTA chelation “modestly reduced the risk of a composite of adverse cardiovascular outcomes, many of which were revascularization procedures.” Many physicians will take that to mean that EDTA is virtually worthless. That was certainly the conclusion of cardiologist Steven Nissen in his JAMA editorial:
“…the results cannot be accepted as reliable and do not demonstrate a benefit of chelation therapy. The findings of TACT should not be used as a justification for increased use of this controversial therapy.”
What is missing from such conclusions is that drug therapy is often not that much better. The authors of this research point out that “…an 18% relative treatment effect is within the range of effects that have been considered clinically important in prior trials, such as the use of clopidogrel [Plavix] for patients with acute coronary syndromes.” When drug companies detect a lowered risk of 18% to 30% they spend millions on marketing and TV ads to the public.
BOTTOM LINE:
Based on this new research, chelation is neither the great rip-off of all times nor the great savior for patients with heart disease. It is a hard treatment to complete because it involves at least 40 three-hour long infusions over many months. Such treatment is not inexpensive. Some practitioners charge over $100 per infusion and they are rarely, if ever, covered by insurance.
This study is likely to be the last of this magnitude. That’s because such research is expensive, takes years to complete and subjects tend to drop out because of the huge time commitment. We doubt that the government will spend tens of millions more on another study and no drug company is likely to invest in EDTA research since the compound is available generically.
What’s been your experience with EDTA? We’d like to hear your story positive or negative. Please comment below.

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  1. D.R.
    Reply

    I don’t have the time or patience for IV chelation, but I would definitely
    use an oral formula if I knew of one that was effective.
    Do you have info. on any? What about vitamin K2 MK-7? I also came across
    a cream or lotion that you apply externally. Any comments will be
    appreciated
    Don

  2. PA
    Reply

    Does anyone know about the benefits of EDTA chelation therapy for peripheral neuropathy (particularly chemotherapy induced)? It was recommended to me as a treatment that might be helpful but I am having difficulty finding information about that particular connection. Thanks! Pat

  3. DS
    Reply

    I am so glad I read about it here first and am very interested to see comments. Today THIS came with the Harvard email:
    News and Views from Harvard Health Blog
    Chelation therapy offers small, if any, benefit for heart disease
    A 10-year, $31 million trial showed that an alternative treatment called chelation therapy does little to protect against heart disease. Read more.
    Needless to say, I did not “read more.” Nor did I believe the headlines. I am sure doctors will just look at the headlines and believe all the more in their heavily-advertised drugs. I do not have heart problems at 64 nor do I anticipate any, but I sure wouldn’t take the conventional medical treatment if I did.

  4. EACK
    Reply

    In the late 80’s or early 90’s when I was in my mid 50’s or early 60’s I received 30 I’V chelation treatments and then received several more on a monthly basis in the mid to late 90’s. Since there was heart disease on the maternal side of my family, it seemed a good possible preventative. I knew a person who had had exceptionally good results with the treatment for angina and arterial blockage. My most noticeable result was with the reduction of fluid retention in my feet and legs and almost complete cessation of a reaction to airborne allergens that I had lived with in one form or another since the age of 5 or 6 yo.
    I am now 79 yo and have had no heart problems. My younger sister received three stents after a heart attack about four years ago and is now on several medications related to heart health, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Her treatment for these conditions has been totally medically conventional. For whatever reason, I suffer from none of those problems. I can state with total confidence that my general health improved noticeably after IV chelation and the improvements have been sustained for many years.
    Thanks for circulating the results of this study. I have wondered for years why chelation was not more widely used.

  5. Dan C.
    Reply

    In 1986 I had non-invasive diagnostic procedures that established significant artery blockage in both my legs. My kidneys were functioning at less than 50% to remove creatinine. I had 24 treatments of EDTA with lab urine tests every five treatments. After 24 treatments my indicators had improved enough to stop the treatments. I sat in a room with 20 other patients for the 4-hour IV drip. Next to me was a doctor (M.D.) and 2 or 3 others who had been sent home to die. The EDTA began to do amazing things for the other patients.
    In my mind, EDTA may have saved my life even as it did for several others in the treatment room with whom I associated on a weekly basis. I am now 78 years old and I have no return of symptoms previously experienced. I am pretty much a vegetarian now, including the avoidance of dairy products, and I work a good bit at gardening and outside yard work. I should walk more, and drink more water.

  6. DS
    Reply

    I would like to hear what people say. How does Dr. Nissen feel about Plavix?

  7. Jamie
    Reply

    For the person who commented about the chelation therapy helping to lower their blood pressure- this is one idea I have. Lead toxicity is known to cause high blood pressure. If the chelation therapy removed lead from your body, perhaps this is why your blood pressure has now lessened. I don’t know for a fact, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other toxins or heavy metals caused high blood pressure as well.

  8. L. E. Murphy
    Reply

    My husband and I and my Mother – she at age 80 started treatments.
    Was so confused in her mind she could mot make reasonable sense talking. She took 10 treatments of chelation. She got full recovery of her thinking and could talk and answer any one perfect. She lived to be 93 and did not take more treatments, but kept her clearness of mind very well to her death. It helped her mind.
    C. L. Murphy took 25 treatments. His mind also got very good, he could not remember much at all, but he got very much better, also his blood pressure got so much lower the rest of his life. He did take some treatments when he was in his early 70ies, and it helped blood pressure and thinking.
    L. E. Murphy was not as bad as these first 2 were. But it helped the thinking, I had some heart problems which it helped. I am now 89 and doing very well – clear mind and my heart is not having failure or the routine old age effects. I know chelation did help me in many ways. I am not taking it and haven’t for the past 15 years. I highly recommend it in bypass cases, I saw several get great help there. And diabetics saved losing legs, and in many ways it helped diabetes. C.L. Murphy had diabetes and never had any problems with circulation or kidneys.

  9. CH
    Reply

    I’m currently 78; at 54 I began to have high BP(154/90) and irregular HB; took beta blocker for 6 years- BP still high, HB better. For 60th birthday started EDTA I/V; 40 treatments; B/P dropped to 130/80 range, HB excellent. I have taken EDTA (750mg) daily for the past 17 years; no side effects; I’m very active; BP at recent yearly exam 118/71. I have no idea why I benefited but EDTA at proper dosage is certainly not toxic.

  10. Grace
    Reply

    Such a time-consuming treatment may be justified for people who are having serious or troubling side effects from drugs like Plavix.

  11. AZL
    Reply

    Has chelation with EDTA (or any complexing agents) been attempted with poisoning from Chromium/Cobalt? – I’m concerned about my hips which have the Stryker modular unit associated with leaching and toxicity due to Chromium/Cobalt. Any reason to believe it would or would not be of benefit?

  12. DR
    Reply

    My husband I both took a series of Chelation Therapy
    and really felt better for it.
    I wouldn’t hesitate to do another series excepting
    the the physican moved.

  13. Mary
    Reply

    Thanks for providing us with this information. It is good to know of alternative treatments for heart disease. Before reading this article, I had only known of chelation therapy being used for cancer patients and for those that I personally knew, it did not give the miracle that was hoped for.

  14. William N
    Reply

    I had severe Angina in 1999 and was to go for Angiogram procedure. I didn’t fancy this as it was considered dangerous. I then heard of Chelation Therapy and even though it was expensive I decided to give it a try.Two or Three treatments a week for a month then tapered off to once a week and then to once a month.
    After about 20 treatments my Angina was completely gone and I went back to an active life that included walking three rounds of golf a week. I have stayed active all these years and my Angina never came back. I saw lots of success with this treatment.

  15. Linda Robertson
    Reply

    What about for high levels of chromium and cobolt resulting from metal hip replacement?

  16. L. A.
    Reply

    Would LOVE to see a study on how this treatment affects Alzheimer’s or autism. I think they don’t want to study it for fear it proves effective. (No big drug company $, lots of time, insurance would be forced to provide for it, etc.)

  17. ETW
    Reply

    I have read of EDTA for years but have yet to find it available close to me. The cost would certainly be a problem but I wonder about the effectiveness of the other two forms of chelation vis-a-vis infusion? That is oral and suppository which I have read are less effective but perhaps much cheaper.

  18. WB
    Reply

    Thanks for this treatment of the study–the most lucid I’ve read so far. I have been taking chelation therapy for @ 10 years. Began it because I heard from a reliable friend that it reduced cholesterol. It may have made a slight cholesterol difference, but what kept me coming back is that my blood pressure, which was marginally high (@ 130/92) and had been rising all my adult life, dropped 20 points on each end.
    I’ve been trying to figure other reasons why this might have happened, but the date of my starting chelation seems the only match time-wise. Still not sure about it. I’ve heard other similar reports on blood pressure benefit. With all the rumors out there–good against dementia, good for autism, good for cholesterol, heart disease, etc., I wish more testing could be done.
    Thanks again for your very helpful summary.

  19. tutorjb1
    Reply

    This is the first and only thing I’ve heard of EDTA Chelation Therapy and I’m glad to learn of the study’s findings. I am in a high-risk group for developing heart disease and won’t insist on EDTA Chelation Therapy if I do, if more promising benefits are not discovered.
    Thank you, People’s Pharmacy,
    JB

  20. Hal
    Reply

    What about Bentonite (hydrated)? I thought this was an easier, cheaper, relatively safer way to remove heavy metals, despite being a slower process.
    Thoughts, Joe, Terry, Santa?
    A joyful day to all!
    –Hal

  21. MWT
    Reply

    My mother had 30+ EDTA chelation IVs because of a semi-blocked carotid artery during her seventies. She lived to be 91 and did not die of heart disease.

  22. RN
    Reply

    Yeah, but what about EDTA chelation for reduction of heavy metal toxicity? I realize that wasn’t the focus of this particular study, but are there other studies addressing this aspect?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE:
    As far as we can tell, EDTA chelation therapy is still considered valid for heavy metal toxicity. That is to say, patients with too much lead could undergo EDTA infusions to remove the extra lead or aluminum or mercury. There are now other types of chelation material available for this purpose as well. For example, there is now DMSA or DMPS. Both are available orally instead of intravenously.

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