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Chelation based on faulty premise


4 Star

Chelation based on faulty premise

Our Review Summary

This story discusses chelation,  the use of drugs to ‘bind’ heavy metals in the body so that they can be excreted, for the potential treatment of autism spectrum disorder in children. Chelation is based on the largely discredited view that mercury in vaccines triggers autism.  Under this theory, removing heavy metals like mercury from the body will ‘cure’ autism.   This story does a good job of presenting evidence about this harmful and potentially fatal practice.  It successfully addresses the disease-mongering that could result around this emotionally charged issue.   The story was well done but could have included a few more details such as the cost of various chelation treatment. 


Why This Matters

Autism spectrum disorder is a devastating condition that affects thousands of children and their families each year and the number of cases continues to rise.  There is no known cause or cure which has led to use of uNPRoven and potentially harmful treatment in children. 


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Costs are not mentioned.  Our research indicates that 5 suppository treatments cost ~$119.  A liquid formula that is taken as a few drop 3 times a day cost ~$46 for 100 mL.  Costs are particularly important in unconventional therapies as they are largely out of pocket expenses. 

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story appropriately addresses the issue of benefits.  Benefits are anecdotal and reported by parents.   No credible, evidence-based benefits have been seen as noted in the story.  

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


This story correctly notes that chelation poses significant harms including depletion of essential minerals and death. 

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story is clear that there is very little evidence, if any, to support the use of chelators to treat autism spectrum disorder.  As noted in the story, a review of scientific studies conducted by the Institute of Medicine has failed to show a link between between a vaccine containing a mercury based preservative, thimerosal, and autism spectrum disorder.  The story also indicates that a controversial research study designed to test the potential use of chelation in children with autism spectrum disorder was canceled based upon the death of a child undergoing chelation and harmful effects on cognitive function seen with animal testing. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


This story highlights disease-mongering surrounding the unfounded and potentially dangerous use of chelators to treat or ‘cure’ autism spectrum disorder in children.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story provides information through interviews of several medical experts.   All of the experts interviewed noted the lack of evidence and potential harms; however, their opinions are shared by the majority of the scientific community. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The only approved drug, resperidone, could have been mentioned in the story.   In addition, a variety of behavioral interventions are felt to be "best practice" for managing some of the manifestations of autism.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


This story correctly indicates that chelators are available in several forms including creams, capsules, suppositories and intravenous infusions of drugs.  Chelation is thought to be used by thousands of parents on their children with autism spectrum disorder. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The use of chelation to treat autism spectrum disorder is not new. Appropriately, the story does not try to imply that this is new, or that its use in autism is new.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


This story does not rely on a press release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory


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