A new study of a little-understood treatment for heart disease may have a positive outcome for African Americans, said a participating physician.
The goal of the study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is to test whether chelation therapy and/or high-dose vitamin therapy is effective for the treatment of heart disease. Chelation (pronounced key-LAY-shun) therapy is a process where a synthetic or man-made aminoacid called EDTA is delivered intravenously. EDTA binds with molecules, such as metals or minerals, and holds them tightly so that they can be removed from the body.
Lisa Merritt, M.D., is no stranger to the devastating consequences of heart disease. Her husband died suddenly of a heart attack at age 40, leaving her to raise their young daughter alone, and her elderly father is now recuperating from a heart attack.
Merritt felt empowered to do something to help others with heart disease. When the National Institutes of Health askedformedical researchers to conduct a study to explore whether chelation therapy could help prevent future heart attacks in patients who had already suffered an attack, Merritt signed on immediately.
"We must keep looking for ways to battle heart disease," Merritt said. "It is only through conducting evidence-based research that we are going to discover what therapies work and what therapies don't work."
Many people with heart disease are already considering chelation therapy despite a lack of clear evidence that it works. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 60,000 people per year use chelation therapy as an alternative treatment.
The study is the largest of its kind. More than 100 medical institutions across the country, including the Riverside Family Medical Center in Atlanta, where Merritt is based, were selected to take part in the study.
Study researchers are now recruiting patients. They are looking for men and women age 50 and older who have had a heart attack. Those who participate will join a nationwide effort to learn whether chelation therapy works, helping the medical community find new and effective treatments for heart disease.
Merritt especially encourages African Americans to participate in the study. "Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans,including African Americans," she said. "We must work together as a community so that we don't leave any stone unturned as we search for answers to prevent and treat this dangerous disease."
She also stressed the importance of recruiting women to the study. "Women need to be well represented in this study," Merritt said. "Heart disease often presents differently in women than in men and if this therapy impacts women differently, we want to know that." Heart disease is also the leading cause of death in women.
There is no cost to participate in the study and participants will be closely monitored to ensure they receive the optimal standard of care for their heart disease, such as vitamin supplements and advice on lifestyle and diet. Participants will be randomly assigned to receive either chelation therapy or placebo (saline) solution and either high-dose vitamin therapy or placebo pills. All participants also will receive low-dose vitamins.
To learn more about the study, visit www.nccam.nih. gov/chelation or call 1-888-644-6226.