Commentary on the Abuse of Metal Chelation Therapy in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders
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- Brent, J. J. Med. Toxicol. (2013) 9: 370. doi:10.1007/s13181-013-0345-4
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Approximately half a million patients with autism spectrum disorders are subjected to chelation therapy in the US annually. The overwhelming majority of such cases are chelated for non-accepted medical indications. These patients may seek evaluation when a urine sample is assayed after the administration of a chelating agent and the values obtained have been improperly compared to references ranges for non-chelated urines, causing falsely elevated results. Legitimate practitioners confronted with such data must decide, preferably in consultation with the patient or their guardian(s), whether to do further testing using legitimate methodology or to simply dismiss the results of the improper testing. Bayesian principles tell us that further testing is likely to yield results within normal reference ranges. However, under some circumstances, it is useful to do such testing in order to demonstrate that there is no need for chelation therapy. Unnecessary chelation therapy is expensive, can cause significant acute adverse effects, and may be associated with long-term consequences.