Vincent DeMarco's chelation therapy promotion on WIC and Rogers radio
March 4, 2000
Christine McPhee, the host of the WIC radio network's The Touch of Health was at the Kulhay Wellness Centre, just a few steps from one of WIC radio's own corporate centres. The two hours was nothing more than a self-promotion on behalf of the centre. It was an info-mercial masquerading as news, or public service.
Here is just a short verbatim transcript of what was broadcast around the world on at least two RealPlayer site, TALK640 in Toronto and NEWSTALK570 in Kitchener, and on AM radio in major markets around Canada.
During the broadcast, Christine McPhee (CM) made some statements that are not true about chelation therapy and other things. In a general way, they are typical of today's radio personality, they are not scientists, they are not really journalists. They are pitchmen or pitchwomen. She's in the same category as the likes of Larry King, but not the same class. Both are equally offensive in their dismissal of basic science in favour of mysticism, black magic, and of course herbal and chiropractic care in a wholistic setting. All are offensive to those who expect more from the journalism standards set by Canadian or American broadcasters.
Here is just a short exerpt of her interview with Vincent DeMarco, the head of the Gold Standard Chelation Clinic, as he appeared on the show. He appeared to share top billing with Katrina Kulhay. The grammar and exact wording is as best we can make out from a clear copy of the radio show. There may be some minor errors in transcription, but as far as we can tell it is accurate:
CM: We are going to find out something about what's in the blood when somebody does chelation. It's been now legislated here in Ontario.
THAT IS NOT TRUE! There is no legislation that enables chelation therapy, or approves chelation therapy, and there is no insurance company that pays for it. If any actual, or potential patient is advised that there is legislation that approves it, they are not telling the truth.
CM: We're going to find out all about that from Dr. Vincent DeMarco and I'm quite excited to be here.....
(Addressing Vincent DeMarco) - I know your sister very well. (referring to Carolyn DeMarco)
VD: I trained at the University of Toronto and specialized in psychiatry to begin with. I had been very interested in the medical aspects of psychiatry, medical illness and psychiatric illness.
CM: The mind body connection again
VD: Yes, and so this led me into a study of medical illnesses that present as psychiatric illnesses. And then there was a logical progression from there into
looking at nutritional medicine and other forms of treatment to prevent medical illnesses that lead on to depression.
CM: So, now do you do both?
VD: Yes, I still have a psychiatric practice, although I am still trying to do more nutritional therapy, orthomolecular psychiatry. But now we've branched out
into other preventative treatments such as the chelation therapy.
The term orthomolecular psychiatry has deep roots in Canada. One of the pioneers was Saskatchewan doctor Abram Hoffer. You name a disease and these folks can treat it. Cancer, retardation, schizophrenia, ADHD, whatever bothers you or you kids.
When I was in medical school in Detroit back in the late 60s, I was fortunate, or unfortunate to meet a much older general practitioner named Dr. Turkel. He used to come to our fraternity parties with poster presentations and monographs on how he could turn a Downs Syndrome child into a boy or girl genius. The Canadian Pediatric Society doesn't think much of orthomolecular psychiatry, and neither does the rest of the world.
If I was a trained psychiatrist, I think that I'd stay away from any association with that cult, even if it does have Canadian roots. But then again, Christine McPhee is definitely no stranger to the topic of orthomolecular psychiatry, is she?. )
CM: Let's get into the chelation therapy. Now for a time, as we know the pioneer which is Paul Cutler started this up here years ago here and then no longer
were we allowed to do chelation. Maybe you can give a little overview of that, what happened and now with it being legislated here in Ontario and across
Canada, the different Provinces that do have chelation legislation, and maybe you can go over that.
VD: Well, it has only become approved for use in Ontario for cardiovascular disease or other purposes. It's always been legal in Canada and always been
approved heavy metal poisoning. So it is an approved procedure. I think for political reasons it was outlawed from being used for any other reason, even
though a doctor may use any treatment he or she chooses as long as he does it safely and carefully. Now, five Provinces now have it approved. British
Columbia led the way for many years. And Nova Scotia, and Alberta and Saskatchewan. And I believe Newfoundland has chelation approved as well.
(Again there is no specific legislation that approves of chelation therapy for cardiovascular disease in Ontario. This is really stretching the truth.)
CM: What is chelation?
VD: Chelation is an attempt to remove excess heavy metals from the body. And in the case of cardiovascular disease, to remove calcium from deposits in plaque, or in the valves of the heart. By removing the calcium you can help the blood vessels regain their elasticity, and therefore you can remove symptoms of angina, claudication, which is pain in the legs when you walk. You can help with stroke victims. Anything which blood vessels are damaged or blocked by plaque.
(There have been no well designed studies that can demonstrate this. There are no double blind studies that have been done in Canada that have ever been completed to show that they relieve symptoms or contribute to longevity or improve the quality of life. The testimonials on the video tape that DeMarco shows in his office and at alternoid health shows are just that, testimonials. Medical doctors are not allowed to use testimonials to promote treatments.)
CM: Now chelation has sort of a roto-rooter effect through the body, and I hear that they are actually doing studies right now in Hodgkins disease.
VD: Well there is an idea that it does at roto-rooter effect, but actually it isn't like a plumber coming in with a snake. It's more removing molecules, molecule by molecule, for example getting the calcium out on a molecular basis, not with a wire brush through the blood vessels.
CM: Hee Hee Hee.
VD: They are using, there were recent reports that they are using chelation or similar attitudes or similar techniques for removing copper in patients having solid tumours improves their chance of survival dramatically. Conventional medicine is trying to develop a new drug that lowers copper when chelation can do it much more easily, and much more safely. (Well now, what in the world is he referring to? What drug, what is more safe. CM failed to challenge him on this)
THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT - ONLY YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO NOTICE
CM: (time for a plug) I'm really wanting to find out more about this, this is very interesting. I hope you're finding this very interesting. The Kulhay Wellness Centre, 38 different varieties of doctors, therapists, hands-on treatment segments are going on, and the Gold Standard Chelation therapy. Take a look on the web site www.kulhaywellness.com. Give us a call at 416-961-1900, or visit us at Yonge and St. Clair, right at the corner, suite 607, enjoying all the wonderful hands on treatments as well as the tea ceremony. I'm Christine McPhee with the Touch of Health, 38 wonderful guests. We'll be right back.
THIS IS THE END OF THE ADVERTISEMENT - ONLY YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO NOTICE
<---Break for the REAL commercials on WIC radio network---->
CM: Integrative medicine regards any disease potentially reversible. How? Through the miraculous power of our bodies it is able to heal itself. Yes we do need assistance, and perhaps we can find a lot of it here at the Kulhay Wellness Centre and clinic, and the Gold Standard Chelation Clinic. We're here at Yonge and St. Clair, yes there is room for you. We've got metered parking along the side. And you know what, we've got some wonderful, try on, hands on services and therapies, there's ongoing lectures.
We've got Dr. Vincent DeMarco talking about chelation. So he's already done his lecture, but we're going to find more about that. Today we're going to have also learn about reflexology techniques could be used at home. I want to know how to do it at home, and as well as how to enjoy couple massages.
We're going to talk more about hands on therapy shortly, but let's get back to Dr. DeMarco.
CM: Tell me a bit about the mechanics, how chelation therapy works, and again about the value behind it.
VD: Well, chelation therapy is an intravenous therapy, each session takes about three hours. We infuse a solution of mega vitamins along with an amino acid that acts as a chelating agent.
CM: Now can I just intervene. What type of assessment would you go before someone has all this? You know before all this takes place, the megadosing and chelation and all this coming into my body for 3 hours, there must be some heavy testing.
VD: There is very significant testing. Because we are part of an alternative or complementary medicine, we just don't look for problems with the disease that is presented, but we look to the whole body for any kind of illnesses, or preclinical illness.
So, our assessement actually is the most exclusive and comprehensive in Canada." (On what basis does he make this wild claim? If this were the U.K., the Advertising Standards Association would be down on him like a swarm of killer bees. We are not talking about the "Hair Club for Men", or the laser eyeworks here folks. We are talking about a claim by a licensed medical doctor that the clinic that he works in is THE MOST EXCLUSIVE AND COMPREHENSIVE IN CANADA. That's like saying that saying that this clinic or this hospital does the best hernia, or lobotomy procedures. In this particular case, I'd think I'd pass on all three.)
"It takes two days to do the testing, and then all the data is collected over three weeks. The most important thing for chelation is that the kidneys must be working since the chelating agents and the metals are pass out of the body through the kidneys. So after this assessment is done, and provided that the person is medically qualified, and medically able to stand the treatment, then we institute a series of chelation treatments."
(Well I certainly do hope that someone in that clinic knows how to read an EKG. It was really swell of the good doctor to say that he "might" do a cardiogram. Who in the world is paying for all of these hundred or so tests, and bone densities and ultrasounds?
CM: Is there a lot of lab studies that take place?
VD: There are at least a hundred different that are undertaken, and also including imaging studies, to study the heart through ultrasound and the blood vessels. We might do cardiograms, and other tests that might be indicated such as bone densities.
And what do the doctors who have to patch these people up several weeks and thousands of dollars later say to OHIP if they are rostered? "Well sorry, but I don't know why you are docking me $5,000 because some yahoo is taking control over my patient's wallet."
Will they send the clinic a bill or a thank you, but no thank you card? How many doctors agree with this procedure. It sure as hell doesn't sit well with the FTC in the U.S. who sanctioned one of DeMarco's affiliates with major actions last year because of misleading advertising, the ACAM.)
CM: Very interesting. A lot goes into it before somebody can actually "go here, plug me in".
VD: We like to inform our clients, so we give them back an entire chart so they can see their results are themselves.
KK: (Katrina Kulhay chimes in)-- "If I could just interject Christine, one of the most important things that I find with the Gold Standard Chelation Clinic is why should someone go under heart disease, pardon me, heart surgery, when they could go for a more preventive approach that has perhaps better effects?
So before you are sliced diced and julienned as I say, (McPhee chortles in the background), I think it's really important that someone looks preventively.
Why not check out chelation therapy before they have their heart surgery, their angioplasty, or angiogram. This is important to check out first.".
(What the hell is she talking about here? There are no studies that indicate that chelation does anything for cardiovascular disease. In fact it actually frees-up free radicals when the EDTA is combined with mega vitamins as DeMarco claims. That is not a very good idea, don't you think? I find it offensive that someone who is not allowed to enter the human body beyond an orifice is giving medical advice about an unproven and possibly harmful therapy administered by a psychiatrist, don't you? Recent studies indicate that even people who take large doses of vitamin-C have a much higher incidence of hardening of major arteries leading to the brain. That convincing evidence has obviously not reached the sixth floor of that office on Yonge and St. Clair.)
CM: For more information on chelation therapy, I'd like to be able to thank you Dr. DeMarco for joining me. The number 416-961-1900. And yes they've got some wonderful comfortable chairs. Let me tell you that it's so important.
My dad is on his way, and went there early this morning to Niagara Falls, Ontario. So if my dad's driving back, he just went to get chelated. So, that's what he finds really, one that's the seats are too hard and his drive, so I'm really glad that there is someone close by.(What does that mean? Is there some hint here that her dad might just be able to find more comfortable chairs closer to home, and avoid all that stress driving to Niagara Falls on the QEW?)
Evidence against chelation
- Chelation therapy for coronary heart disease: An overview of all clinical investigations.
Am Heart J 2000 Jul;140(1):139-41
BACKGROUND: Chelation therapy is popular in the United States.
The question of whether it does more good than harm remains
controversial. AIM: The aim of this systematic review was to
summarize all the clinical evidence for or against the
effectiveness and efficacy of chelation therapy for coronary
heart disease. METHODS: A thorough search strategy was
implemented to retrieve all clinical investigations regardless
of whether they were controlled or uncontrolled. RESULTS: The
most striking finding is the almost total lack of convincing
evidence for efficacy. Numerous case reports and case series
were found. The majority of these publications seem to indicate
that chelation therapy is effective. Only 2 controlled clinical
trials were located. They provide no evidence that chelation
therapy is efficacious beyond a powerful placebo effect.
CONCLUSION: Given the potential of chelation therapy to cause
severe adverse effects, this treatment should now be considered
- American College of Cardiology Position Statement
There is insufficient scientific evidence to justify the application of chelation therapy for
atherosclerosis on a clinical basis. At the present time, therefore, chelation therapy for
atherosclerosis should be applied only under an investigation protocol.
- Saul Green - Quackwatch Chelation therapy is a series of intravenous infusions containing a
sythetic amino acid (EDTA) and various other substances. It is
approved and effective for hypercalcemia and poisoning by heavy
metals such as lead. However, proponents falsely claim it is also
effective against atherosclerosis and is a valid alternative to established
medical interventions such as coronary bypass surgery. They also
claim it neutralizes free radicals and eliminates dangerous metals from
the body. These claims are false.
The problem of free radicals damage is worsened when chelation
therapists add Vitamin C to the EDTA infusion mixture. Based on numerous reviews of the world's medical literature, the
FDA, National Institutes of Health,National Research Council,
California Medical Society, American Medical Association, Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association,
American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family
Practice, American Society for Clinical Pharmacology Therapeutics,
American College of Cardiology, and American Osteopathic
Association have concluded that chelation doesn't work.
It is also not risk free -- cases of fatal renal damage and other
complications have been reported. Prolonged chelation will deplete
serum mineral content. In the absence of demonstrated efficacy,
assuming such risks is not justified.
One must also consider the significant risks inherent in choosing to
forego needed medical treatment in order to pursue an alternative with
no therapeutic value.
- American Heart Association position on chelation
The American Heart Association has reviewed the available literature on the use of chelation
(E.D.T.A., ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) in treating arteriosclerotic heart disease. They found
no scientific evidence to demonstrate any benefit from this form of therapy.
- Getting to the Heart of the Matter - A closer look at chelation therapy - The Mayo Clinic - The Mayo Clinic had previously had a full article on line, but for some reason they've pulled it. We've asked them why. "While the risks from
chelation therapy are low, there is still no scientific
proof of any benefits to cardiac health. And, while
chelation is less expensive than other options, it's not
cheap. Costs run in the thousands of dollars and
typically are not covered by insurance, including
Medicare," according to Dr. Gertz.
- Medical quackery alive and well - The Mayo Clinic had previously had a full article on line, but for some reason they've pulled it. We've asked them why.
Medical quackery can threaten both your health and
pocketbook. Snake oil salesmen used to tout cures
from the back of a horse-drawn wagon; now they use
the Internet and sophisticated marketing ploys. But it's
still the same: Use people's fears to "make a killing"
— sometimes literally — selling worthless medical
treatments. Learn how you can avoid falling prey.
Quackery thrives on vulnerability. In some areas of life,
we are all vulnerable. You may be so anxious that
hope overwhelms reason. Or you may be simply
unsuspecting and be enticed by catchy advertising
and convincing personal testimonials.
- Review: Chelation therapy is ineffective for peripheral arterial occlusive disease - ACP Journal Club, March/April 1998.
Intravenous chelation therapy offers no benefit to patients with
peripheral arterial occlusive disease. 3 trials found no
intergroup differences for patients who received EDTA
compared with those who received placebo, and a subgroup
analysis from 1 of the trials reported a trend toward greater
improvements for patients who received placebo than for
those who received EDTA.
- Canadian MDs remain sceptical as chelation therapy goes mainstream in Saskatchewan
Murray Oliver - CMAJ 1997;157:750-3
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan recently agreed to allow physicians to
administer chelation therapy. Supporters, relying on anecdotal evidence, say it works wonders in
overcoming heart disease, but many physicians remain profoundly sceptical. In Saskatchewan, the
college decision has proved popular with patients but has drawn an angry reaction from doctors.
- Freedom of Choice in Health Care - Fraser Institute Forum Cynthia Ramsay
How can provincial medical licensing bodies refuse to acknowledge the benefits of alternative treatments such as chelation
therapy on the grounds that they have not been subjected to double-blind tests (or that such tests performed to date have
resulted in indeterminate conclusions) while "accepted" practices such as angioplasties and bypass surgery have not undergone
such examinations? [Practitioners of chelation therapy are not advocating it as a replacement to surgery but as an option before
resorting to surgery, or after surgery has failed. They have asked the colleges to conduct studies but have been refused. As
well, with E.D.T.A. being a generic substance, it is not profitable for pharmaceutical companies to conduct extensive testing
of chelation therapy.
As it stands, there have been more than 3,000 research and clinical papers published on chelation therapy in North America
alone and, over the last 20 years, over 1 million people have received chelation therapy worldwide. In the United States, the
American College of Advancement in Medicine trains and certifies doctors who wish to practise chelation therapy and it
provides guidelines for the safe use of chelation treatment.] Table 1 should indicate why some patients are choosing chelation
therapy, even though it is condemned by almost all of the medical licensing bodies in Canada, it is not covered by any
provincial health insurance plan, and there is not a lot of rigorously scientific evidence that it actually works (or whether the
beneficial results that have been reported are produced by a placebo effect).
(Ed. This 1995 foray by the ultra-conservative Fraser Institute shows that there are people who believe that the earth is still flat. I don't know how the FI would rethink this position today after the FTC bashed ACAM's claims.)
- Controversial therapy lures problem doctors to Florida
Dr. Cristino Enriquez's medical career had hit the skids.
He'd served seven months of an 18-month prison sentence
for Medicare fraud, and state officials were threatening to
revoke his license.
Enriquez begged forgiveness in a 1991 letter to Florida's
Board of Medicine. He promised to devote his life to
ministering to the poor -- and never again to open a private
The state let the doctor keep his license.
Today, Enriquez practices anti-aging medicine at offices in
Plantation and Miami, where he mixes chelation therapy with
Christian biblical teachings and prayer.
The Sun-Sentinel documented that 42, or about 28
percent, of 146 Florida doctors who offer chelation therapy
in their offices have been sanctioned by the state's medical
or osteopathic licensing boards, most in the past decade.
Offenses range from shoddy medical care to reckless
dispensation of narcotics, state records show.
Even chelation boosters acknowledge that chelation
cannot hope to brush up its reputation without tighter
standards to eliminate fringe doctors whose activities give
the industry a bad name, and to rid it of those who make
exaggerated claims for success.
Another feud has erupted because chiropractors are
opening chelation centers and hiring physicians to supervise
the treatments. Some centers are charging as little as $35 a
session, about a third of what most chelation doctors
"Chiropractors are using an M.D. who's a front for them,"
said Ahner, who has administered chelation treatments for
the past 18 years.
"Some hire an M.D. who has nothing to do, pay him
whatever, and he signs off," said Ahner, himself a former
chiropractor who is now a medical doctor.
Ahner said he also worries that too many doctors not
properly trained are landing in the field.
- California Medical Board Tackles Chelation Therapy Abuse
The Health Quality Enforcement Section of the California Attorney General's (AG) Office contends that it prosecutes three or four cases a year involving the use of EDTA chelation therapy (CT) to treat patients for a variety of ailments other than those for which the procedure is approved (ie, "off-label use"). The AG's office states that they always win such cases, but that these cases are expensive to prosecute and require the same battle of expert opinion over and over again. The AG noted that CT is not harmful to patients at the doses usually used, but emphasized that paying for useless therapy is economically harmful, and may cause indirect harm if patients fail to seek effective therapy in lieu of CT. The AG's office asked the Medical Board of California MBC to consider asking for statutory restrictions that would make the off-label use of CT illegal without an FDA Investigative New Drug license. On Feb 4, the MBC debated the merits of creating such a law. Physicians John Renner and Wallace Sampson provided evidence that CT is used to treat more than 84 conditions for which there is no scientific evidence of effectiveness. The California Medical Association submitted a Medical Practice Opinion stating that it is appropriate to limit CT to heavy metal poisoning, hyper-calcemia, digitalis toxicity, and corneal calcium deposits, or as part of a controlled clinical trial under FDA standards.
Representatives of the American College for Advancement in Medicine, a national organization established primarily to support the off-label use of CT, argued that the procedure was useful, particularly in the treatment of circulatory problems. Julian Whitaker, MD, a highly vocal advocate of CT, claims that the
dispute is economic. He says that by diverting 100 patients a year from coronary by-pass surgery he prevents Orange County hospitals from taking in $9 million. He charges $3,000 for 30 treatments. Dozens of patients gave impassioned personal testimonials claiming remarkable improvements or cures due to CT. After a heated debate, the MBC failed to pass a ban on off-label use except for treatment of heart disease of CT by a 9 to 9 vote. A total ban on the off-label use of CT failed by a vote of 6 to 12. A substantial majority agreed to the concept of regulating CT but failing to reach any agreement on specifics, postponed consideration of regulatory language until its next meeting. Observers said that the tense atmosphere did not lend itself to rational decision-making.
- CHELATION DOCTOR TO PAY $2.15 MILLION IN DAMAGES
Houston, Texas physician Mohammed Kakvan was found grossly negligent in the 1992 death of Frank Vecchio, 61, owner of Del Vecchio Foods distribution company. Kakvan treated Vecchio's heart disease with ineffective chelation therapy. Chelation therapy for vascular disease has been condemned by the National Institutes of Health and every scientific medical organization that has reviewed it. [Physician Financial News, February, 1996, p.3]
- ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE REVOKES HUGGINS' LICENSE
A 71-page report by Administrative Law Judge Nancy Connick provides substantive
information on the bogus theories and practices of maverick dentist Hal Huggins, and reveal the harm visited on 8 patients representative of Huggins' treatment protocol. The report reads like a primer on dental quackery. Huggins based his theories on strong personal belief, not on scientific evidence. MS patients formed a substantial portion of his patients. The report say that by 1980, he had treated over 400 MS patients. He blatantly lied, telling some patients he had cured himself of MS when he had never had the disease. Huggins charged each patient $6,000 for his program, plus the cost of the actual dentistry. He treated about 250 patients per year. Huggins also lied when he claimed to have thousands of publications in his library which supported his ideas. He also lied about having done studies himself on the effects of dental amalgam upon health. The report includes critical analyses of studies upon which he relies that purport to show that dental amalgams are unsafe. Huggins also made false representations that root canal therapy was dangerous, which is based upon the dubious writings of George Meinig, DDS, who relied upon the flawed work of Weston Price, DDS, done in the 1920s. Other specious practices included bogus diagnostic procedures and both worthless and hazardous treatment procedures.
Huggins did inappropriate procedures such as administering EDTA chelation therapy to remove mercury from the body. EDTA binds lead, not mercury, making it useless. His addition of vitamin C to the intravenous solution increased the hazard of the infusion to the kidneys. The reports of what happened to 8 patients are stories of human tragedies.
Huggins often videoed patients during periods when they were optimistic, using them as testimonials to prove the value of his methods. Reading the details of patient abuse helps put the harm done by quackery into focus. Connock concluded that "Given his steadfast and longstanding commitment to his theories in the face of substantial reasoned evidence to the contrary, it is evident that nothing will stop (him) from practicing the treatments he has developed short of
revocation of his license to practice dentistry" which she did on Feb 29. State law allows a one-month period for exceptions to be filed before the Board of Dental Examiners can act on the judge's decision. That period ended on March 29. The board will take up the case at its May 1 meeting. No exceptions had been filed at the time we inquired March 28.