According to Marsha Phillingham of the Associated Press, a study of ten years at the cost of $30 million resulted in the arrest of doctors who were convicted of felonies and started a federal investigation into heart patient safety. The technique involved was intravenous infusions that were said to remove calcium deposits from hardened arteries around the heart.
Dr.Steven Nissen, the Cleveland Clinics cardiovascular chief said, “Chelation (infusions) has been practiced by physicians on the extreme fringes of medicine and many involved in the research offer a variety of other quack therapies.” The drug does not have government approval and is not manufactured in the United States, however, doctors order it from compounding pharmacies. Chelation is safely used for treating lead poisoning but if it is safe for heart patients is unknown.
Transfusions are uncovered by insurance and cost patients anything from $90 to $150 per treatment. Many patients had rather trust the infusions than stents or cholesterol lowering drugs. At a conference of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles, researchers said that a chelation mixture they tested in a study of 1, 708 heart attack survivors led to fewer complications and deaths.
The problem was that many patients in the study had dropped out before they had all 40 infusions. Due to the incomplete study, it wasn’t clear whether the infusions were beneficial. Another reason some doctors are stumped is that the results were not published in any medical journal or vetted by independent scientists.
At this time it’s all up in the air. Some doctors administer these infusions to their patients in the belief that it does help the patient and others probably see it as a money cow. Dr. Nissen says,”I’m really worried about harm coming to the public, the study is inconclusive and patients should not seek this treatment on the basis of this study.” On the other hand, Dr. John Harold, president elect of the American College of Cardiology said, “Patients are doing this with or without our permission, so it’s important to test.”