Thursday, May 21, 2009

Castration Drug For Autism?

I am ALL for anything that will improve the quality of life of our autistic children, and I know that sometimes this means using drastic medication, but this makes me SO mad! How can someone get away with marketing this treatment when proper trials and such haven't been done? It would be different if he were giving it to adults (who can make that decision) but to children???

The article is VERY long, so I've posted only excerpts. You can read the whole thing here:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-autism-lupron-may21,0,242705.story

'Miracle drug' called junk science: Powerful castration drug pushed for autistic children, but medical experts denounce unproven claims, By Trine Tsouderos | Tribune reporter May 21, 2009

Desperate to help their autistic children, hundreds of parents nationwide are turning to an unproven and potentially damaging treatment: multiple high doses of a drug sometimes used to chemically castrate sex offenders.

The therapy is based on a theory, unsupported by mainstream medicine, that autism is caused by a harmful link between mercury and testosterone. Children with autism have too much of the hormone, according to the theory, and a drug called Lupron can fix that.

"Lupron is the miracle drug," Dr. Mark Geier of Maryland said after meeting with an autistic patient in suburban Chicago.

Geier and his son developed the "Lupron protocol" for autism and are marketing it across the country, opening clinics in states from Washington to New Jersey. In the Chicago area, the treatment is available through Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, a family practitioner in Rolling Meadows.

But experts say the idea that Lupron can work miracles for children with autism is not grounded in scientific evidence.

Four of the world's top pediatric endocrinologists told the Tribune that the Lupron protocol is baseless, supported only by junk science. More than two dozen prominent endocrinologists dismissed the treatment earlier this year in a paper published online by the journal Pediatrics.

Simon Baron-Cohen, a professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge in England and director of the Autism Research Center in Cambridge, said it is irresponsible to treat autistic children with Lupron.

"The idea of using it with vulnerable children with autism, who do not have a life-threatening disease and pose no danger to anyone, without a careful trial to determine the unwanted side effects or indeed any benefits, fills me with horror," he said.

Experts in childhood hormones warn that Lupron can disrupt normal development, interfering with natural puberty and potentially putting children's heart and bones at risk. The treatment also means subjecting children to daily injections, including painful shots deep into muscle every other week.

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The Geiers say they have probably treated 300 autistic children and a handful of adults with Lupron, and an additional 200 people are being tested.

In February, when the Geiers visited his office, Eisenstein was effusively enthusiastic about Lupron. "It is awesome, just awesome," he told doctors in his practice after the Geiers spoke about their therapy.

But three days after his May interview with the Tribune, Eisenstein called to say he was having second thoughts about the autism clinic, citing issues with insurance companies and less-than-spectacular results.

"It's highly unlikely that we're going to be part of the autism program much longer," Eisenstein said. "I'm not pleased enough with it. It's not where I want to put my energy."

Several parents whose children are on Lupron told the Tribune that it works, saying their children are better-behaved and show cognitive improvement. "It was an obvious, undeniable result," said Julie Duffield of Carpentersville, whose 11-year-old son has autism. "I wish you could see what he was like before."

Experts said such beliefs are common among parents who try alternative autism treatments. It's easy, they say, to attribute normal developmental leaps to whatever treatment is being tried at the time.

"It has become a cottage industry of false hope, and false hope is no gift to parents," said Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer, whose daughter has autism. "A lot of these therapies have no science behind them. You are using your child as a guinea pig."

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Lupron to treat precocious puberty, an extremely rare disorder that involves finding signs of puberty in very young girls and boys.

Lupron is also used to treat prostate cancer in men, to treat endometriosis in women, and to chemically castrate sex offenders.

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By lowering testosterone, the Geiers said, the drug eliminates unwanted testosterone-related behaviors, such as aggression and masturbation. They recommend starting kids on Lupron as young as possible and say some may need the drug through the age of puberty and into adulthood.

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Specialists in autism, hormones and pharmacology who are familiar with the Geiers' protocol said it cannot work as they suggest.

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Looking at the tests, Kaplowitz said he asks himself: "Is Dr. Geier just misinformed and he hasn't studied endocrinology, or is he trying to mislead?"

Mark Geier responded that these are "opinions by people who don't know what they are talking about," saying the pediatric endocrinologists interviewed by the Tribune don't treat autistic children and have not tried the Lupron treatment. David Geier said prominent scientists support their work and gave as an example Baron-Cohen, the autism expert who told the Tribune that the Geiers' Lupron treatment filled him with horror.

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Neither Eisenstein nor the Geiers dispute that what they are doing amounts to chemical castration.

Speaking about one teen he put on the drug, Mark Geier said: "I wasn't worried about whether he would have children when he is 25 years old. If you want to call it a nasty name, call it chemical castration. If you want to call it something nice, say you are lowering testosterone."

Eisenstein said the choices to treat severely autistic children are few --psychiatric drugs that will turn them into "a zombie," or Lupron.

"Will they be chemically castrated?" he said. "Yeah, it's a possibility."

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The effects of children taking Lupron in high doses indefinitely are unknown, but endocrinologists said the drug would deprive takers of puberty's beneficial effects.

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ttsouderos@tribune.com Tribune reporters Steve Mills, Patricia Callahan and Tim Jones contributed to this report.

2 comments:

AbigailSchindler said...

I know what you mean. If you're interested, there are more details on Mark Geier, dangerous alternative therapies, and the history of the so-called "autism-thimerosol" link in Paul Offit's book Autism's False Prophets. It's an interesting and fast read

SavedAspie said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I just now looked it up on Amazon. While I have a take on the vaccine thing that is sure to contradict his opinion, it looks like a valuable read. If I can't get it from ILL, I shall definitely buy it.

Here's the link for those who are interested:
Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure