How could you ignore a headline like that? It certainly grabbed our attention when we saw it in a recent newsletter from the American College for Advancement in Medicine – the intro to a brief commentary by cardiologist Roy Heilbron, MD, on new research lending further support to the TACT study of a couple years back.
“TACT” stands for Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy – a long term, NIH-funded study of whether chelation can help improve heart health and reduce incidents such as myocardial infarction (heart attack). The results – presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in late 2012 and subsequently published in JAMA – were astounding:
What’s more, says Dr. Heilbron,
When we started, people were saying chelation was dangerous. If the study has proved anything, it’s that chelation is safe. There were no side effects or negative outcomes. That it can be done safely was the first thing we showed.
Of course, many in the conventional medical establishment have sought to dismiss these results. But as Harlan Krumholz remarked in his powerful commentary in Forbes magazine on the orthodoxy’s reaction to the initial TACT results,
The irony is that if a drug manufacturer had gotten this result, they would have celebrated. We have billion dollar drugs like niacin and fenofibrate and ezetimibe that have less evidence than chelation therapy has now. None of those drugs has contemporary outcomes studies showing benefit – and 2 of them (niacin and fenofibrate) have 2 recent negative trials.
So why are scientists not accepting the verdict of this study? Why the reluctance to incorporate this therapy into our armamentarium?
The answer is more than just a reluctance to accept results that we do not like (though medicine is not beyond that behavior – see the slowness with which medicine adopts new information into practice)….In this situation we need to examine our assumptions – and the consequences of being wrong.
And we also need more science, which brings us to the new research, which builds upon the original finding that patients with diabetes – about 1/3 of the total TACT participants – seemed to benefit significantly more than those without the condition. Published in Circulation, this study found that diabetic patients
demonstrated a 41 percent overall reduction in the risk of any cardiovascular event; a 40 percent reduction in the risk of death from heart disease nonfatal stroke, or nonfatal heart attack; a 52 percent reduction in recurrent heart attacks; and a 43 percent reduction in death from any cause.
Indeed, the evidence continues to stack up: Chelation therapy is safe and it works. We hope to see further research on its efficacy for other conditions.
Image by KOMUnews, via Flickr