Be Wary of “Board Certification” in Clinical Metal Toxicology

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
August 27, 2012

Chelation therapists in the United States have set up certifying boards so they can call themselves “board certified.” The American Board of Chelation Therapy (ABCT) was founded in 1982 by Charles Farr, M.D., who practiced chelation therapy in Oklahoma. The American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology (ABCMT) was founded in 2003 and now has its headquarters in Chester, Ohio. Neither is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which sets the certification standards for in the United States.

Online documents give contradictory information about the origin and legal status of the two organizations:

  • The ABCMT Web site states that ABCMT was originally named ABCT [1].
  • The GuideStar database, which provides information on charitable (501(c)(3) corporations, lists ABCT but not ABCMT. However, the 2004 through 2009 tax returns, which are downloadable, were filed in ABCMT’s name [2].
  • The Illinois corporate database states that the American Board of Chelation therapy qualified for nonprofit status in 1986 but its registration status was revoked in 2004 [5].
  • The Illinois database lists ABCMT as a not-for-profit organization that was incorporated in 2003 and involuntarily dissolved in December 2007 [4].
Certification Requirements

ABCMT’s current (2/09) online membership directory lists 76 “diplomates” and 39 “diplomate candidates.” [5] The group’s Web site describes the certification process this way:

The doctor must be a D.O. or M.D. and licensed to practice in his (his/her) state. He (He/She) must take a comprehensive course on the diagnosis and treatment of Metal Toxicity and related diseases. He then takes a test administered by ABCMT and upon passing becomes a Diplomate Candidate in Clinical Metal Toxicology.

He must continue his training, get two letters of recommendation, do at least 2000 intravenous treatments for metal toxicity, serve a preceptorship with a physician certified by ABCMT in Clinical Metal Toxicology, write a publishable paper with references, submit six completed charts for comprehensive review and take an oral examination administered by ABCMT certified physicians. Upon passing the orals his status changes to Diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology and he is designated a Clinical Metal Toxicologist [6].

Recognition Unlikely

Kimball Atwood, M.D., has neatly explained how how maverick practitioners create their own credentials:

Practitioners of pseudomedicine band together to create pseudomedical pseudoprofessional organizations, complete with pseudo-legitimate names, pseudo-legitimate conferences, pseudo-legitimate appearing websites, pseudo-“board certifications,” protocols for pseudo-therapies, patient brochures hyping pseudo-therapies, pseudo-consent forms for pseudo-therapies, pseudo-Institutional Review Boards to approve pseudo-research, pseudo-journals to publish reports of pseudo-research, very real contributions from pseudoscientific corporations to help pay for very real advertising, very real lobbying, very real legal representation, and more [7].

In line with this, the ABCMT promises to:

  • “Provide you with comradery, referrals, web presence, knowledge source, discounted services, marketing tools and a proactive political presence; and
  • “Establish a proactive political presence to obtain recognition and approval of your certification as a Clinical Metal Toxicologist with medical boards, insurance providers and government authorities.” [6]

I do not believe they will gain any such recognition because the underlying premises of chelation therapy and their diagnoses of “toxicity” are unsound. Most (if not all) “clinical metal toxicologists” claim that “heavy metal toxicity” is an underlying cause of heart disease, autism, and many other diseases, including cancer. Their favorite test for diagnosing alleged toxicity is a “provoked” urine test for which urine is collected after a chelating agent is administered [7]. Chelation and other methods are then used to “detoxify” the body, which proponents say will enable it to heal whatever disease they claim to treat. Provoked testing as used by chelationists is a fraud [8], and chelation therapy has no rational use against the diseases that “clinical metal toxicologists” claim to treat [9].

Shady Leaders

Six of ABCMT’s 13 current officers, directors, and advisers have faced legal and/or regulatory trouble.

Theodore Rozema, M.D., an ABCMT director who practices in North Carolina, was dismissed from the U.S. Air Force in 1963 following a court marshal proceeding in which he was found guilty of indecent assault of two female officers [10]. In 1978, the North Carolina Medical Board placed him on three years’ probation in response to a 1976 felony extortion conviction in Massachusetts [11]. 1984, the North Carolina board charged him with using chelation therapy to treat patients with atherosclerotic heart disease, which the board considered to be improper conduct. This charge, however, was not pursued [12]. In 1986, after he admitted to the State Board of South Carolina that he had presigned prescription blanks, that board suspended his licensed for six weeks and then placed him on indefinite probation [13]. In 1990, after a federal court dismissed Rozema’s appeal of the South Carolina board order, the North Carolina board placed him on probation, which he served until 1997.

The ABCMT’s secretary John Parks Trowbridge, M.D., who practices in Texas, was charged in 1990 with false advertising in connection with “nonsurgical face lifts”, chelation therapy, and cytotoxic testing [14]. After further consideration, however, the Texas Board of Medicine dismissed these charges [14]. In 1998, without admitting fault, Trowbridge signed an agreed order under which the Texas board reprimanded him for using patient testimonials in advertising [15]. Trowbridge has also had tax trouble. In 2003, a tax court ruled that he had improperly failed to pay more than $420,000 in income taxes for 1996 and 1997 by setting up sham trusts and then simply refusing to pay [16]. He was assessed $116,000 in penalties and another $25,000 for frivolously appealing these determinations [17]. He appealed again, but in 2004, the court denied his appeal and sanctioned him $6,000 more for pursuing his frivolous arguments [18].

Robban Sica, M.D., an ABCMT director who practices in Connecticut, has had legal trouble related to “detoxification.” In 2003, the Connecticut Department of Health charged her with improperly using chelation therapy to treat cardiovascular disease, failing to obtain adequate consent for such treatment, and failing to properly manage patients whom she said were suffering from heavy metal toxicity. In February 2005, she signed a consent order under which she agreed to (a) serve a year of probation, (b) stop using DMPS as a chelating agent, (c) stop using a provoked test to diagnose heavy metal toxicity, (d) use a patient consent form which states that chelation therapy has not been scientifically substantiated, and (e) have her practice monitored by an independent consultant [19]. In March 2010, Sica was charged with violating the 2005 order by prescribing DMPS for 11 patients [20]. In 2112, the board fined her $700 per patient, suspended her license for 30 days, and ordered close monitoring of her practice for two years [21].

Robert Rowen, M.D., who is listed as an ABCMT advisor, now practices in California. While practicing in Alaska, Rowen set up “asset protection” trusts in an attempt to avoid federal income tax and did not file returns for 1992 through 1997. In 1997, Rowen pled guilty to a federal felony charge of “corrupt endeavor to impede” an agent of the Internal Revenue service and was sentenced to 10 months of probation and ordered to pay $10,003.91 in restitution and a $2,000 fine. He filed for bankruptcy, but in 2003, the court ruled that this did not discharge his tax debt [22]. In April 2007, after appeals had been denied, the court issued an abstract of judgment for $1,124,800.90.

Terry Chappell, M.D., was secretary of the Great Lakes College of Clinical Medicine Institutional Review Board, which was terminated after the FDA repeatedly warned it about violating research guidelines [23].

Rashid A. Buttar, DO, the ABCMT’s chairman, was sued by the U.S. Justice Department in 1997 for failing to repay a $113,783.59 military scholarship obligation. In 1999, the case was settled with a consent agreement under which he agreed to pay $115,500 [24]. Buttar also defaulted on a $2 million Small Business Administration loan he obtained in 2008 to build new offices. In 2011, a federal judge ordered Buttar to repay the U.S. Government $2,120,135.27 plus $323.02 daily interest from July 23, 2010 onward [25]. In 2009, the North Carolina Medical Board filed two sets of charges against Buttar. One accused him of charging four cancer patients exorbitant fees for worthless tests and treatments [26]. The other accused him of mistreating four patients whom he falsely diagnosed with mercury toxicity [27]. During a hearing held in April 2008 related to an earlier version of the first complaint, Buttar indicated that nearly all the patients he sees are diagnosed with heavy metal toxicity and receive chelation therapy, and an ABCMT board advisor who testified in his defense, John L. Wilson, Jr., M.D., stated that he had administered well over 200,000 intravenous infusions. [28]. Wilson is also a board member of Moms Against Mercury, a group that is trying to get the use of dental amalgam banned. In February 2010, Buttar signed a consent order under which he agreed to (a) be reprimanded, (b) obey all laws and all rules and regulations involving medical practice, and (c) to provide an informed consent form that includes language specified in an attachment to the order [29]. The agreement was a compromise in which Buttar acknowledged that his treatment of an out-of state child whom he had never examined had been illegal and the Board agreed that the settlement would resolve all other pending complaints against him, which included concerns about the other seven patients mentioned in the Notices of Charges.

  1. ABCMT home page, accessed Feb 10, 2009.
  2. ABCMT Form 990 tax returns: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
  3. Corporation file detail report: ABCT. Illinois Secretary of State Web site, Feb 12, 2009
  4. Corporation file detail report: ABCMT. Illinois Secretary of State Web site, Feb 12, 2009
  5. Find a physician. ABCMT Web site, accessed Feb 10, 2009.
  6. Atwood, KA. The pseudomedical pseudofessional organization, Science-Based Medicine blog, Oct 17, 2008.
  7. ABCMT standard of care for increased total body burden of toxic metals, July 1, 2004.
  8. Baratz RS. Dubious mercury testing. Quackwatch, Feb 19, 2005.
  9. Green S. Chelation therapy: Unproven claims and unsound theories. Quackwatch, July 24, 2007.
  10. Petition for review. U.S. Air Force Board of Review. United States v. Captain Theodore C. Rozema, Feb 8, 1963.
  11. Notice of charges and allegations. In re: Theodore Carl Rozema, M.D. Before the Board of Medical Examiners of the State of North Carolina, Oct 26, 1978.
  12. Notice of charges and allegations. In re: Theodore Carl Rozema, M.D. Before the Board of Medical Examiners of the State of North Carolina, Oct 25, 1984
  13. Consent order. In re: Theodore Carl Rozema, M.D. Before the Board of Medical Examiners of the State of North Carolina, Jan 29, 1990.
  14. Order. In the matter of the complaint against John Parks Trowbridge, M.D., before the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, Oct 27, 1990.
  15. Agreed order. In the matter of the license of John Parks Trowbridge, M.D., before the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, Aug 22, 1998.
  16. T.C. Memo 2003-164. John Parks Trowbridge and Sabrina Martin v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. U.S. Tax Court, Docket Nos. 473-01, 474-01, Filed June 4, 2003.
  17. T.C. Memo 2003-165. John Parks Trowbridge et al v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. U.S. Tax Court, Docket Nos. 473-01, 474-01, Filed June 4, 2003.
  18. John P. Trowbridge vs Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Appeal from the US Tax Court Docket No. 750-01, filed June 8, 2004.
  19. Consent order: In re: Robban Sica, M.D. Connecticut Department of Public Health, Petition No. 2002-0306-001-043, Feb 15, 2005.
  20. Statement of charges. In re: Robban Sica, M.D. Petition No. 2007-0227-001-030, March 19, 2010.
  21. Memorandum of decision. Connecticut Medical Examining Board, Petition No. 2007-0227-001-030, June 19, 2012.
  22. Memorandum decision. In re: Case No A01-00664-DMD. Robert Jay Rowen v. United States of America, Adv No. 01-3061, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Alaska, May 5, 2003.
  23. Masiello SA. Warning letter to L. Terry Chappell, M.D., March 9, 2000.
  24. Consent judgment. United States of America vs. Rashid A. Buttar. U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Civil Action No. 3:97-510-510. Filed April 19, 1999.
  25. Order. United States of America v. SA’Buttar Health & Medical, PC; LKN Commercial Properties, LLC; V-SAB Medical Labs, Inc.; and Rashid Buttar. Case No. 3:10-cv-584. U.S. District Court for the Western Division of North Carolina. Filed July 13, 2011.
  26. Notice of charges and allegations; notice of hearing. In re Rashid Ali Buttar, D.O. Before the North Carolina Medical Board, filed September 9, 2009.
  27. Notice of charges and allegations; notice of hearing. In re Rashid Ali Buttar, D.O. Before the North Carolina Medical Board, filed September 9, 2009.
  28. Transcript of hearing held April 23-24, 2008. Dr. Buttar Truth Web site, accessed Feb 10, 2009.
  29. Consent order In re Rashid Ali Buttar, D.O. Before the North Carolina Medical Board, filed March 26, 2010.

This article was revised on August 27, 2012.