Chelation Therapy for Arthritis: Get the Facts

During chelation therapy, a solution of ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) is injected into the blood. This chemical binds with heavy metals and minerals such as lead, mercury, copper, iron, calcium, arsenic, and aluminum, and pulls them out of the body.

But, buyer beware: Chelation products in the form of dietary supplements, nasal sprays, drops, suppositories, and heavy metal testing kits are sold over the counter in health foods stores and through internet marketing. Manufacturers claim these products have the same effects as prescription chelation therapy and can be used to treat a wide variety of serious medical disorders. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begs to differ, however, and in 2010 warned eight manufacturers that legal action would be taken if their products continued to carry unproven claims.

What the Research Says About Chelation Therapy

Although it has been used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including coronary artery disease, lupus, and arthritis, chelation therapy has only been proven effective as a treatment for lead poisoning. There are anecdotal reports that chelation therapy eases the pain of these inflammatory conditions, but there is little scientific evidence that the procedure is generally effective. As a result, it is considered an alternative treatment that is not fully accepted by the conventional medical community.

One medical report, published in a 2011 issue of the international journal Biometals, stated that a 63-year-old Italian woman with rheumatoid arthritis who received weekly EDTA injections for heavy metal poisoning over the course of one year was not only cleared of metal intoxication but also had improved arthritis symptoms. Other research has linked metal and mineral deposits in the body to symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis but no large-scale studies have been performed to prove the safety and effectiveness of chelation treatments on humans with arthritis.

What Happens During Chelation Therapy?

In a doctor's office, chelation therapy is performed as an outpatient procedure. It is approved by the FDA only as a treatment for lead poisoning, though doctors may use it off-label for other conditions. That means that doctors can legally use a drug for other than it's approved purpose. There may be particular risks involved when drugs are used off-label, however, so if you are considering chelation therapy for arthritis, speak with your regular doctor to make sure it is safe for you and will not interfere with your usual medical treatments.




Bamonti, F, et al; "Metal Chelation Therapy in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Case Report. Successful Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis by Metal Chelation Therapy."  Biometals. 2011 Dec;24(6):1093-8. Web June 2012

Food and Drug Administration: FDA Warns Marketers of Uapproved 'Chelation' Drugs. Oct 2010 Web June 2012

Preidt, R. "Off-Label Drug Use Appears Common." Medline Plus Web June 2012