Saturday, August 27, 2005

David Kirby on chelation

Posted by Craig Westover | 5:55 PM |  

Sou’wester tip
to Adventures in Autism

David Kirby, author of "Evidence of Harm," which reports on the controversy surrounding the use of mercury-based preservative thimerosal in childhood vaccines comments on the death of a boy in Pennsylvania undergoing chelation treatment.

Noting that nearly four years ago, the Institute of Medicine recommended research into chelation therapy and autism, but that it never happened, Kirby provides his view on the boy's death (which is more informed speculation awaiting more definitive information) before returning to his main theme, which is indeed worth noting.
Which brings us back to the IOM recommendation of 2001. The committee assigned to look into thimerosal (the mercury containing vaccine preservative) noted that some autism practitioners report “clinical improvements following chelation.” And though the committee said that chelation “is not a benign treatment,” it nonetheless recommended “careful, rigorous, and scientific investigations of chelation when used in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially autism.”

That report was issued on October 1, 2001, nearly four years ago. But few paid attention to the recommendation, and no one did the hard science on chelation. This left parents and doctors flying half-blind in pursuit of chelation -- not out of “desperation,” but out of strong evidence their children had suffered from mercury exposure.

Just think, if the government had listened to the very IOM report it commissioned back in 2001, we might know a lot more about chelation and autism than we know today. If clinical trials had gotten underway then, we would know with certainty whether chelation could heal, or kill.

If hard scientific proof had been uncovered that chelation was 100-percent worthless in the treatment of autism, no parent or doctor would still be pursuing the therapy today. If evidence had surfaced in clinical trials that children could be harmed or even killed by chelation, no one would be using it today. The doctor in Pennsylvania would have halted chelation therapy long ago, and this poor grieving family would never have crossed the ocean from the UK in pursuit of its false promise.

But what if the opposite were true? What if the “rigorous science” recommended by the IOM had yielded proof that chelation can indeed help some kids -- provided that it’s done with the safest agents, at the safest doses, and through the safest routes of administration (not to mention in combination with other therapies)?

Either way, if America had done its scientific homework, as recommended by its top science professors, Abubakar might still be alive today.

If chelation is quackery that kills, let’s outlaw it today. But if it can be done safely, with demonstrated clinical benefit to some autistic patients at a minimum of risk, then it should be approved by the FDA for the treatment of autism.

Does chelation in autism kill or cure? Only hard science will answer that question. What a shame we have wasted four long years not finding out.

Kirby's outsider's insight reflects the same emotional insight expressed by the mother of an autistic child in the update to this post.

This is what is so frustrating to many -- the insistence by government health agencies that there is not enough merit in the mercury theory to warrant any further research, which defies both anecdotal observation and theoretical and laboratory science done by independent researchers that, while not conclusively proving a link between mercury and autistic symptoms, creates a growing body of supportive evidence.

Underlying the thimerosal controversy, we have two groups arguing a scientific point, Government health agencies use the might of their resources to prove the thimerosal hypothesis false while parents and independent researchers push the scientific envelop, risking their hypothesis in search of answers. Would that the government health agencies did the same.