Lupron therapy for autism has been controversial ever since it was first proposed by Mark and David Geier. Controversial–as in the rational for Lupron for autism was based on some of the worst junk science I have ever seen. Neurodiveristy.com has followed Lupron since the beginning (here is but one example of the excellent reporting from neurodiversity.com).
The Lupron story recently was covered by the Chicago Tribune. Page 1 of the Trib, by the way. The story was the number 1 emailed story from the Trib’s website when I checked at one point. Even with letting the Geiers give input for “balance” it was still a very scary story.
One thing that caught my eye was the very high cost of Lupron therapy. At least, the very high cost when Lupron is prescribed by the Geiers and used to “treat” autism (or, as the rationale goes, autistic kids with precocious puberty).
First, the cost for testing is very high. From the Tribune:
To treat an autistic child, the Geiers order $12,000 in lab tests, more than 50 in all. Some measure hormone levels. If at least one testosterone-related level falls outside the lab’s reference range, the Geiers consider beginning injections of Lupron. The daily dose is 10 times the amount American doctors use to treat precocious puberty.
Second, the cost of the drugs was even higher. Again from the Tribune article (quoting Mark Geier himself):
The cost of the Lupron therapy is $5,000 to $6,000 a month, which health plans cover, Mark Geier said. However, two families told the Tribune that they had trouble getting insurance to pay for the treatment.
These numbers seemed so high that I decided to ask someone who would know. Someone who treats children with precocious puberty.
How much does it cost to test for precocious puberty? $12,000 as when the Geiers are testing? Not even close. According to my source, precocious puberty can be diagnosed for less that $1,000 in tests.
It appears that the Geiers call for a lot of tests that are not involved with precocious puberty.
So, how about that $5,000 to $6,000 a month that Dr. Mark Geier says his patients (or their insurance) pay for the therapy? How does that compare to an actual treatment for precocious puberty? At doses typically used for precocious puberty, $1,500….a year.
Yes, $6,000 a month if you are with the Geiers vs. $1,500 a year for a real precocious puberty therapy.
Something seems really wrong here. It doesn’t appear as though the Geiers are dispensing the Lupron themselves. Parents seem to be getting Lupron from pharmacies. If so, the increase is not due to any markup by the Geiers.
Recall from the quote above from the Tribune:
The daily dose is 10 times the amount American doctors use to treat precocious puberty.
This might account for the cost going from $1,500 a year to $15,000 a year. How can the Geier protocol cost $60-72,000 a year?