BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Medical Policy Manual

Chelation Therapy


Chelation therapy, a treatment for metal toxicity, chemically converts heavy metals into an inert form that can be excreted in the urine. Chelating agents are administered either intravenously or orally and are intended to remove metal ions such as aluminum, arsenic, calcium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, and zinc from the body. While chelation therapy has been used effectively in individuals with heavy metal toxicities, chelation therapy has been proposed for other therapeutic indications, including atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism.

Specific chelating agents are used for particular heavy metal toxicities. For example, deferoxamine is used for individuals with iron toxicity, and calcium-ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (-EDTA)) is used for individuals with lead poisoning. Another class of chelating agents, called metal protein attenuating compounds (MPACs), is under investigation for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, which is associated with the disequilibrium of cerebral metals; however, no MPACs have received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.




The National Institute of Mental Health proposed to study the effects of chelation on autism in 2006 but halted the study after an institutional review board concluded that there was no clear evidence of benefit in the chelation trial and that the therapy presented more than a minimal risk.

The use of chelation therapy in the treatment of atherosclerosis has been controversial and considered investigational by cardiology related professional organizations. Two small randomized trials have also reported no benefit of chelation therapy as a treatment of peripheral arterial disease. Other published studies consist primarily of case reports and case series. No articles were identified that focused on the use of chelation therapy for multiple sclerosis, arthritis, hypoglycemia, or diabetes.


American Academy of Family Physicians. (2018). Chelation Therapy. Retrieved February 16, 2021 from

American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines, and the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. (2014). Focused update of the guideline for the diagnosis and management of patients with stable ischemic heart disease. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from

Ballas, S.K., Zeidan, A.M., Duong, V.H., DeVeaux, M., & Heeney, M.M. (2018). The effect of iron chelation therapy on overall survival in sickle cell disease and B-thalassemia: A systematic review. American Journal of Hematology, 93 (7), 943-952. (Level 2 evidence)

BlueCross BlueShield Association. Evidence Positioning System. (3:2020). Chelation therapy for off-label uses (8.01.02). Retrieved April 3, 2020 from articles and/or guidelines reviewed)

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. NCD for chelation therapy for treatment of atherosclerosis (20.21). Retrieved September 18, 2015 from

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. NCD for Ethylenediamine-Tetra-Acetic (EDTA) chelation therapy for treatment of atherosclerosis (20.22). Retrieved August 16, 2016 from

Escolar, E., Lamas, G., Mark, D., Boineau, R., Goertz, C., Rosenberg, Y., et al. (2014). The effect of an EDTA-based chelation regimen on patients with diabetes mellitus and prior myocardial infarction in the trial to assess chelation therapy (TACT). Circulation, 7 (1), 15-24. (Level 1 evidence)

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2012, June). Autism spectrum disorder in adults: diagnosis and management. Retrieved August 16, 2016 from

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2013, August; last updated August 2016). Autism spectrum disorder in adults in under 19s: support and management. Retrieved May 19, 2017 from

Thalassaemia International Federation. (2018, January). Guidelines for the management of non transfusion dependent thalassaemia [NTDT] 2nd edition. Retrieved May 1, 2019 from




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