NIEHS Logo Succimer, a medication known to treat lead poisoning fails to effectively remove mercury, or at least the following tidbit suggests so. According to a recent study, succimer does not eliminate mercury from the body of a patient with lead poisoning. It has been observed that some individuals have adopted this drug as a substitute therapy for autism.

It was pointed out that succimer may decline blood concentrations of mercury after a week. But on completion of five months the rate of mercury accumulation in children probably slowed down. Presumably mercury exposure in the United States is from methylmercury discovered in foods like some fish. Also a preservative used in vaccines known as thimerosal seems to be consisting ethylmercury, a type of mercury. Samples and data from an earlier clinical trial were scrutinized by the authors. It concluded that succimer lowers blood lead in 2-year-old children with moderate to high blood lead concentrations.

“Succimer is effective for treating children with lead poisoning, but it does not work very well for mercury. Although it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to reduce mercury, succimer is reportedly being used for conditions like autism, in the belief that these conditions are caused, in part, by mercury poisoning. Our new data offers little support for this practice,” commented Walter Rogan, M.D., head of the Pediatric Epidemiology Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH, and lead author of the study.

767 children were made to undergo a blood test for measuring mercury concentration. Blood samples were gathered before treatment, one week after beginning treatment with succimer or placebo, and then again after three month-long courses of treatment. Scientists observed that mercury concentrations were same in all the kids before treatment. However, concentrations seemingly elevated in both groups, more slowly in those provided with succimer.

It was claimed that succimer resulted in 42 percent variation in blood lead and 18 percent difference in blood mercury. Succimer is beneficial in gradually increasing blood mercury concentrations, yet small alterations may barely produce any clinical benefit. Previously it was pointed out that succimer presumably leads to side effects such as rashes and an unexplained increase in injuries among children. Further investigations can be undertaken for ascertaining appropriate prevention and treatment options for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

The study is published online in the Journal of Pediatrics.