A "Dietary Antioxidant" for kids, or an environmental chelator?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 4:59 PM Bookmark and Share
I had made a few posts related to autism a while back, and today came across this article (via Orac's post over at Respectful Insolence).  It's a nice example of bullshit truth in advertising by Kentucky company CTI Science, Inc. ran by Boyd Haley.

I first wondered if the product would be equally marketable were it more appropriately named "Chelator, with Titanium and Iron Rust" or maybe "N1, N3-bis(2-mercaptoethyl)isophthalamide", instead of "OSR#1", and in the end I decided the answer was probably no.  Why?  So far it looks like a large portion of the intended consumers are parents and caretakers of autistic children...

More important than the name, I wondered about the truthfulness of the claims on the product website, particularly the scant evidence that the stuff is really safe for children, and of course the story behind this blurb on their FAQ page (as of 19 January 2010):
There is an internet rumor that OSR#1® is an Industrial Chelator. Is this true?

No. OSR#1® as produced by CTI Science is not now and has never been marketed or tested as an environmental or industrial chelator. Nor has OSR#1® been tested in humans as a chelator by CTI Science, and no claims of chelation treatment use are made by CTI Science.

Now, here it's worth noting that CTI Science website also states that OSR#1 was developed in conjunction with...
the University of Kentucky in Lexington which licenses the underlying patent rights to the Company.
(By the way, is it just me, or wouldn't you really like to know what that patent number is?)

According to the articles above, it seems that statement is indeed highly questionable, and the source of that mean ol' "internet rumor" appears to be (gasp!) a University of Kentucky patent -- presumably the very same one mentioned by the CTI Science website?

Reading into this great report and in particular this post (both from 2008), we find...
Prof. Boyd Haley’s new chelator N,N’-bis (2-mercaptoethyl)isophthalamide, or “CT-01” — represented to the FDA as a “new dietary ingredient,” and now marketed as an antioxidant for consumption by autistic children under the trade name “Oxidative Stress Relief” (OSR) — is substantially similar if not identical in its chemical structure to one member of a family of industrial chelators developed by his colleagues at the University of Kentucky, and for which U.S. and international patents were awarded in 2003.

U.S. Patent No. 6,586,600, Multidentate Sulfur-Containing Ligands (issued July 2, 2003) (.pdf) names as its inventors chemists David A. Atwood, Brock S. Howerton and Matthew Matlock of Lexington, Kentucky. David Atwood is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, and Mr. Howerton and Mr. Matlock are graduate students. The rights to the patent are assigned to the University of Kentucky Research Foundation.
More details on the patent issue were posted later here, but it's pretty clear from patent #6586600 mentioned above (presumable the patent licensed to CTI Science, Inc.) that these compounds were intended to be used as environmental chelators.

Looking back at the claim from the website, we see the beauty of good advertising: so far, it looks like CTI Science hasn't technically lied to their consumers here.  You see, while these chemicals were initially patented as environmental chelators, it's technically true that (bold added for emphasis)...
OSR#1® as produced by CTI Science is not now and has never been marketed or tested as an environmental or industrial chelator.

So what do you think? Are they being maybe just a little bit misleading as they try and dodge the association of their product with it's intended role as an environmental chelation agent?


Posted by: David Eaton | 2/11/2010 2:34 PM

Interesting. I was a graduate student in that department when Haley was chair. I found him to be a helpful, affable guy. He was quite convinced that mercury in dental amalgam was the medical scandal of the century. I'm a materials chemist, not a biochemist so I just nodded and ate the donuts at the seminars and went on.

I know the inventors on that patent, and their work, and there is no way they were not, in fact, trying to design Hg chelators for environmental remediation. That's a lot of what they did in general. So saying that it is NOT an industrial/environmental chelator depends on what the definition of 'is' is, I guess.

My impression of Haley is that he is sincere and as scientific as possible, and (guessing) I would think he chafes at having to use 'lawyerese' to stay in business. But is it misleading? It speaks the truth, but irrelevant truth to the question that should be being asked. Does the compound chelate, and is it likely to chelate (say, Hg from dental amalgam) in the body? Yes. And that's the point. But the law will not let him say so and sell it. He is convinced it helps, I am sure. Can he prove it? I cannot tell. I think it crosses a line that I would not. But Haley knows a lot more about biochemistry than me, too.

Posted by: Paul | 2/14/2010 1:52 PM

Thanks for the comment, David.

"Does the compound chelate, and is it likely to chelate (say, Hg from dental amalgam) in the body? Yes. And that's the point.... He is convinced it helps, I am sure."

I think that is only part of "the point" -- not all of it. Simply put, one has to ask both "Does it work?" and "Does it have any unwanted side effects?" In the context of using it to treat autism, I think answers to both of those questions are still unknown.

It does seem very likely that it can chelate Hg in the body, but one also has to ask what else it chelates? What are the side effects? Even if it does a good job of chelating Hg in the body, it's still bad medicine if either (1) Hg is not the cause of the condition you're trying to treat, or (2) it causes other medical problems.

I think he could prove it if he was more precise about what uses the product could (and could not) be used for, then went through the usual steps for testing the efficacy and safety of new drugs. Unfortunately, I don't get the impression that CTI Science, Inc. is interested in pursuing this level of product testing.

Posted by: Paul | 3/05/2010 11:51 AM

Chelation therapy goes to court: Doctors sued over 'Dangerous' autism treatment.

Posted by: Met Tathione | 6/01/2010 11:29 AM

Glutathione is the body’s primary defense against mercury, toxic metals, and many toxic chemicals, so a low level of glutathione results in a higher body burden of toxins.

Normalizing glutathione, restoring gut flora, and removing toxic metals often results in reduction of the symptoms of autism.

Posted by: Russ | 6/01/2010 1:59 PM

Apparently someone is selling the stuff for kids with autism?

İf a material is used by people for other than the intended use it is the problem of the user - not the maker.

Posted by: Anonymous | 9/14/2011 7:41 PM

You don't know shit about the subject. There are several peer reviewed publications on this compound. Maybe try something other than google for your information next time. It was originally intended as an antioxidant but fell under the name as a supplement for children with autism because chelation therapy can be a drastic form of autism treatment. Just because it works in the environment doesn't mean it is not safe for humans.

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