AMA newsletter:Many autism therapies seen as unproven, risky.

7 Dec

The lead article in today’s AMA (American Medical Association) Newsletter refers to the recent articles in the LA Times,

Many autism therapies seen as unproven, risky.

In a series exploring autism and its treatments, the Los Angeles Times (12/7, Tsouderos, Callahan) reports that “after reviewing thousands of pages of court documents and scientific studies and interviewing top researchers in the field, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found that many of these treatments amount to uncontrolled experiments on vulnerable children.” According to results of the investigation, “the therapies often go beyond harmless New Age folly,” with many being “unproven and risky, based on flawed, preliminary or misconstrued scientific research.” Moreover, “lab tests used to justify therapies are often misleading and misinterpreted,” and “the few clinical trials conducted to evaluate the treatments objectively” have yielded “disappointing results.”

The Los Angeles Times (12/7, Tsouderos, Callahan) reports that “up to three-quarters of families with children who have autism try at least some alternative therapies.” While some physicians and people in the autism “recovery movement…say their treatment protocols rest on a foundation of solid science,” the Tribune discovered “otherwise after speaking with dozens of scientists and physicians and reviewing thousands of pages of research and court testimony.”

Chelation seen as emblematic of alternative therapies for autism. The Los Angeles Times (12/7, Tsouderos, Callahan) reports, “No treatment is more emblematic of the world of alternative therapies for autism than chelation.” But, according to “pediatric toxicology experts…all chelation” medications “carry risks — even when used to treat severely lead-poisoned children.” Barbara Strupp, PhD, of Cornell University, said that when “rats with no lead exposure were treated with succimer, a common chelator given to children with autism, the animals showed lasting impairments of cognitive function and emotional regulation.” In fact, after Strupp “learned that the National Institutes of Health planned to conduct a clinical trial of chelation in children with autism, she alerted the researchers to her findings,” and the “study was later canceled.”

Alternative therapies seen as getting undeserved credit. The Los Angeles Times (12/7, Tsouderos, Callahan) reports that stories of “children who could suddenly speak” are, “for many parents…more persuasive than what experts say.” Nevertheless, “in evaluating a therapy, the challenge is determining how much, if any, of the progress can be credited to the treatment,” because, “over time, children with autism do develop, said” pediatric neurologist and autism expert Max Wiznitzer, MD.” In fact, “between 10% and 20% of children with autism who were diagnosed early may make so much progress that they are indistinguishable from peers,” and whether or not they are “undergoing alternative therapies,” said Susan Levy, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, progress which parents may attribute to alternative therapies.

4 Responses to “AMA newsletter:Many autism therapies seen as unproven, risky.”

  1. Mike Stanton December 7, 2009 at 22:40 #

    It is just a shame that we had to read it first in the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times. Wouldn’t it be better if they were reporting on what the AMA had to say about these so-called treatments rather than the other way round?

    It seems that first it was blogs like this one, then it was the press that was alive to the problems posed by these quacktitioners and finally the medical profession is making a stand. Better late than never I suppose.

  2. Sullivan December 8, 2009 at 03:33 #

    Mike,

    I agree. Why did we have to wait for the AMA, or the Americal College of Medical Toxicology to take these positions?

    I appreciate the comment about this blog. I know that comment is meant for Kev, who was blogging this before I even knew about it.

  3. Ed December 11, 2009 at 18:41 #

    When will the AMA learn. All of these alternative therapies result from the lack of anything to offer. Come up with real therapy and all of these alternatives will evaporate.

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