Controversial trial on autism “therapy” stopped

September 18, 2008

Chelation, a therapy used to deal with acute heavy metal poisoning, has long had a reputation as a dangerous quack treatment for autism. Now, as the Associated Press reports, a clinical trial that was going to test chelation against a placebo in autistic children has been dropped because the National Institute for Mental Health was concerned about side effects.

Surgeon blogger Orac, a longtime critic of chelation and other medical quackery, writes:

Overall, it was an excellent decision to kill this misbegotten and ill-conceived study. Just because a lot of quacks have convinced parents of autistic children that chelation therapy does anything more than line their pocketbooks is not in and of itself adequate justification to do a clinical trial. Certainly it’s no reason to bypass the usual series of studies necessary to justify and lead up to a clinical trial, including basic science, cell culture models, and animal models, required to provide scientific justification before testing a therapy in humans. And, once again, no matter what the results of the study, the true believers wouldn’t believe it anyway. In fact, they’d declare it a conspiracy, just as the antivaccinationists at Age of Autism will no doubt soon be calling it.

Orac has written more about the background to the trial and why it was unethical here (pay attention to the comments, which add even more depth to the scientific evidence against chelation).


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