The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, has concluded that the deaths of two children in 2005 were caused by chelation therapy with the drug Endrate. (A 2003 death involving an adult is also being investigated.)
Chelation therapy is a treatment used to extract metals from the human body. It follows the same principle as the chemical reaction known as chelation that is used in laboratories and in some commercial processes.
In chelation therapy, an agent (like Endrate) is introduced into the body (orally or by injection) where it attaches to metals that may be present. The resulting compounds are then eliminated from the body in urine or feces.
The therapy is common in cases of lead poisoning or contamination with other heavy metals. Some doctors and devotees of “natural medicine” use chelating agents in situations which are not recognized as appropriate.
One such use is in the treatment autism. Some doctors, many parents, and numerous consumer activists believe mercury (in vaccines, for example) or other heavy metals cause autism-related symptoms. The belief (which is controversial to say the least) has led to the unapproved use of Endrate as a treatment for autism.
The CDC questions the need to have Endrate on hand in hospital pharmacies since the drug does have serious risks associated with it and because alternative therapies are available.
Endrate, manufactured by Hospira Inc., was being used to treat one of the children for autism. The other child was suffering from lead poisoning. The adult, a 53-year-old woman from Oregon was being given chelation therapy by a practitioner of natural medicine. Reports did not disclose why the therapy was being used or if Endrate was the chelating agent involved.