For daring to study a discredited therapy, this doctor earned scorn — and a $37 million grant
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Posted by: Administration
By Karen Weintraub @kweintraub
December 27, 2016
The new heart patient asked Dr. Gervasio Lamas if he thought chelation therapy was worth a try. “Of course not!” the cardiologist replied emphatically. His Harvard training had taught him that alternative therapies were a waste of time and money, and potentially risky to boot. “I told him it was quackery.”
But Lamas went home that night unsure if he had given his patient the best medical advice. He looked up research on chelation therapy, which removes heavy metals from the body, and found very little data either supporting or contradicting the procedure.
Lamas was troubled by the idea that he had offered this man a medical opinion that wasn’t supported by science. And he decided to conduct a study himself. He had no idea what he was getting into.
Seventeen years later, his research into a therapy many of his colleagues consider bunk has earned him scorn and sideways glances at medical meetings. Some accuse him of wasting taxpayer money. But Lamas persevered — even briefly taking out a second mortgage on his house to help pay for a clinical trial.
Three years ago, he announced results of that $30 million study: Chelation was safe and potentially helpful. The conclusion shocked the mainstream medical world, including Lamas. After all, the procedure had been so discredited that doctors previously could lose their medical licenses for using it.