By Dr. Mercola
Criminal charges have been dropped against a doctor accused of causing the death of a 5-year-old autistic boy.
Dr. Roy Kerry was using chelation therapy on Abubakar Tariq Nadama in 2005. Chelation is an approved treatment for acute heavy metal poisoning; some believe it is a promising treatment for autism, but the FDA and CDC do not agree.
The CDC claimed that the boy was given a synthetic amino acid called Disodium EDTA instead of Calcium Disodium EDTA. Kerry‘s attorney, Al Lindsay, denied that the use of the drug was an incorrect choice, that it was administered improperly, and that it caused the boy’s death. Lindsay said the boy died of a lack of oxygen to the brain, which was caused by a heart problem not associated with the drug.
Kerry still faces a civil lawsuit by the boy‘s parents.
Chelation therapy – as well as some other alternative treatments – is not entirely without risk. However, you see far more lawsuits and headlines in major media when something goes wrong as a result of an alternative therapy than when a more conventional treatment takes a life, which, by the way, happens hundreds, if not thousands of times a day.
Many conventional physicians who are critical of chelation routinely use drugs like Risperdal1 and Clonidine when treating autism, despite the fact that the safety and effectiveness of these drugs in children have never been established, and death is a known side-effect of such drugs.
However, deaths and serious adverse effects from “standard drug treatments” do not attract similar media attention or outrage.
It’s ironic in a way, when you consider the fact that a mere 15 percent of all conventional medical treatments have been proven safe and effective in practice. The other 85 percent is pure guesswork and trial and error, and yet this is what the masses cling to as the gospel of safety.
What Is EDTA?
EDTA (Edetate Disodium) and Calcium EDTA (Edetate Calcium Disodium) are both synthetic amino acids that latch onto heavy metals (such as lead, iron, copper, calcium, and others) in your bloodstream, and are used for treating acute and chronic heavy metal poisoning.
However, there’s little agreement on whether just one or both can or should be used as a chelation agent.
Was It a Drug Mix-Up?
According to Dr. Mary Jean Brown,2 chief of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Disodium EDTA should never be used for chelation, stating that the boy died as a result of the wrong drug being used.
According to her review, Tariq died from too much calcium being removed from his blood, which caused his heart to stop beating. The correct chelation agent -- Calcium Disodium EDTA -- would not have pulled the calcium from his bloodstream, she said in a 2006 interview.
However, the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM),3 of which Dr. Kerry is a member, clearly identifies and recommends the use of Disodium EDTA as a chelation agent, and Dr. Kerry has denied that he got the drugs mixed up.
Is Chelation Therapy a Viable Option for Treating Autism in the First Place?
I have used chelation therapy for the last 14 years in my practice. It’s not a large part of what my clinic does, but I have seen chelation therapy help turn many people's lives around.
I was also part of the Great Lakes Chelation Panel on mercury toxicity, and have co-authored a paper in clinical mercury detoxification, and have worked with hundreds of patients with mercury detoxification issues, so I do have some experience in this area.
However, the type of chelation agent I and Dr. Klinghardt used and recommended is different from those mentioned above.
But first, let’s look at the rationale behind using chelation therapy as a treatment for autism in the first place.
Many of the features of autism bear striking similarities to features of mercury poisoning , especially the immune dysfunctions, visual disturbances, and motor/coordination defects seen in a growing number of autistic children.
Treating autistic children with agents to remove mercury and/or other heavy metals has brought about significant improvement in many of them. Sometimes dramatic improvement.
I previously published the Autism Panel’s Report and treatment protocol, using DMSA for mercury detoxification. And although it’s a great protocol, I don’t agree with the use of DMSA and recommend using DMPS instead, for the following reasons.
What Is DMSA and Why Don't I Recommend It?
DMSA is an FDA approved drug. It is a mixed disulfide in which each of the sulfur atoms is in disulfide linkage with a cysteine molecule, forming water-soluble chelates that increase the urinary excretion of lead.
There are a number of physicians who use DMSA to remove the mercury from children with autism. The dose used for mercury detoxification is much lower than that for lead, and some children seem to have benefited from this approach.
However, some natural medicine clinicians have some serious concerns about the use of DMSA as there have been cases of:
- Increased self-stimming
- Compromised central nervous system function in some children
Natural medical physicians throughout the U.S. have also reported MS symptoms in adults.
Other adverse reactions to DMSA include:
- Rashes and infections
- Nausea and dizziness
- Diarrhea and decreased urination
- Sensorimotor neuropathy
DMPS as the Chelating Agent of Choice
The medical literature actually favors DMPS over DMSA as the drug of choice for mercury removal, although neither should be considered a magic bullet. Chelation is just one of many strategies that can be implemented to help children with autism.
If you use either of these chemicals without first properly preparing the child, it can lead to great harm.
The main issue with these agents is that of toxicity. It should be understood that this is not related to the direct toxicity of either of these drugs, but to the drug's ability to leach the heavy metals out of your body. It is actually the heavy metals that cause the side effects. If you don’t properly prepare your body to address these heavy metals, then you will likely experience complications.
Unfortunately, DMPS was, and still is, frequently used improperly. Primarily by well-intentioned physicians who use it when the person still has amalgam fillings in their mouth. Because DMPS is so effective at removing mercury, it will actually pull the mercury right out of the fillings, causing major problems in some patients.
That said, it has been my and Dr. Klinghardt's combined thirty year experience that DMPS, when used properly, is far safer than DMSA.
For more in-depth information on my mercury detox protocol, please review the Related Articles included in this article.
The Most Effective Treatments for Autism Based on Parents’ Feedback
The Autism Research Institute4 has a very interesting webpage listing the rated effectiveness of a wide variety of drug treatments, biomedical/non-drug treatments and special dietary plans, based on data collected from more than 23,700 parents of children with autism.
Based on this parental feedback, it’s easy to see the patterns of what works and what doesn’t.
Biomedical treatments and special diets clearly blow pharmaceutical drugs right out of the water when it comes to seeing an improvement!
For example, in the drug category, 41 percent of parents said their autistic child got WORSE on Aderall, 45 percent got worse on Ritalin, and 47 percent got worse on Amphetamines.
Antibiotics, which are another common drug route for children with autism, came in at 57 percent seeing no effect and only 12 percent getting better from the treatment.
Under biomedical treatments, on the other hand, 41 percent saw improvement from vitamin A. 50 percent got better on cod liver oil, 56 percent improved on digestive enzymes, and yes, 76 percent saw improvement from detox chelation therapy.
And, interestingly enough, regardless of which specialty diet the children were on, about half of them improved across the board.
To read more about my latest recommendations on autism, please see “Don't Believe the Hype -- There's Much More to Autism Than Genetics,” which goes over the Top 5 environmental triggers, and how to prevent and treat autism without resorting to potentially dangerous drugs.
Since I am not actively involved in treating autism patients anymore, I asked Dr. Rashid Buttar, who is regarded as one of the foremost and innovative complementary physicians pushing the field in this area, to provide his view on this important topic, which can be seen below.
Dr. Buttar’s Invited Expert Commentary
The article is excellent, with all the information that I concur with.
As you know, DMSA is not a good chelator and DMPS is far superior for pulling mercury, for many of the reasons you mentioned as well as the reasons I testified to congress.
Specifically, DMSA stands for Di Mercapto Succinic Acid. Succinic Acid happens to be the largest substrate in the Citric acid cycle (Kreb's cycle). The only difference between Succinic Acid and DMSA is 2 hydroxyl groups instead of 2 sulfhydryl groups. Otherwise the two compounds are identical.
Therefore, in your body, DMSA is seen as a substitute for succinic acid and via competitive inhibition, actually appears to slow down or inhibit the Kreb's cycle. By being picked up in the Kreb's cycle, DMSA violates the first rule of any chelator, i.e., a chelator by definition should be inert, meaning: whatever goes in should come out, but it's bound to a metal when it comes out.
DMSA violates that since it is uptaken and used partially in the Kreb's cycle.
Furthermore, succinic acid normally leads to FADH2+ production, which is directly coupled to the electron transport chain and leads to ATP production. The competitive inhibition of this succinic acid by DMSA (when picked up in the place of succinic acid) causes an inhibition of FADH2+, further inhibiting the electron transport chain and eventually, creating an inhibition of ATP production.
Served as Expert Witness
I was also asked to be an expert witness in Dr. Kerry's case a number of times but had to decline because of the method that Dr. Kerry used to administer the chelator.
Regarding the EDTA, Disodium EDTA is usually administered with either calcium (pre-mixed) or magnesium (usually added as an ingredient) when given as the usual and customary treatment commonly and generically referred to as chelation therapy. When given to children, it's usually given as Calcium disodium EDTA because of the shift in cascades of parathyroid hormone and calcitonin and the resulting transient decrease of serum calcium.
This is a concern in children only because of the lack of calcification of the epiphyseal plates in the bones of the developing child and the need for calcium. However, causing an acute reaction is not really a concern. However, what the greater concern is the method used in administering the IV, which was administered as a 2 minute IV push, violating every principal of the Nernst equation.
Rapid IV Infusions NOT Advised
Since I have been the Chairman of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology (ABCMT.org), and even previously when I was the Vice Chair, the ABCMT has actively educated physicians AGAINST the rapid infusion of any chelator because there is no justification in eliciting such a rapid biochemical and physiologically taxing reaction in the body, especially in that of a child.
The proponents of such treatments can only give the advantage of saving of time which seems like a foolish reason to do something that can be inherently dangerous. In fact, demonstrations of this two-minute rapid infusion has consistently found the patient to have syncopal episodes and I personally know of three physicians that experienced this themselves -- getting the rapid infusion -- all of whom woke up in an emergency room.
After having done over 200,000 IV infusions over the last 11 years in my office with no single episode of any adverse effect like this, I can tell you there is no justification of doing IV rapid infusions, and the reason for that child's death was more likely to be a direct result of rapid infusion than any other single cause.
Rashid A. Buttar, DO, is the Medical Director for The Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research in Charlotte, NC. He serves as the Chairman of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology (www.ABCMT.org) and President of the North Carolina Integrative Medical Society (www.NCIMS.com). For full bio, go to www.DrButtar.com