Friday, March 05, 2010

Autism and Alternative Therapies: The Dangers of Prescribing Without Evidence: Lawsuit in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune is running a story about two doctors who are being sued for prescribing a dangerous autism treatment: chelation.  The father claims that they based their prescription off of bad practices, and endangered his autistic son's life by forcing him to go through chelation treatments.  Both doctors have not responded to comment, as is expected for any pending litigation. 

Chelation, for those who are not familiar with the process, is a chemical treatment designed to force the body to excrete toxic metals through urine.  If not performed correctly, it can cause kidney failure, and death.  It is also a popular "treatment" for children with autism, as it's believed that heavy metals, like mercury, cause the condition.  This is based on research by Dr. Wakefield, who's research has been shown to be fraudulent.

At the heart of the lawsuit is the laboratory these doctors sent tests in for the boy, which use a questionable method to test for heavy metals in autistic children.  They give the children a chelation drug to force heavy metals out of the body through urine, and then compare the metal content with the metal content of a control without having taken the chelation drug.  This, of course, will show elevated trace amounts of heavy metals in the urine of the autistic child, which then justify a chelation regiment that is lucrative for the doctors and potentially deadly to the child.

The good news is the doctor's being made to answer for their conclusions.  There are so many snake-oil salesmen out there for autistic children, it's hard to know what is and is not a true treatment.  It's about time those who make drastic and life threatening decisions without taking into account the safety of the child be made to answer for those same decisions.  It is, after all, negligent, and should be criminal, to falsely propose "cures" without having the clinical evidence to back it up.  Of course, there is a lot of money in snake-oil, so I don't know if it will ever go away.  One can only hope.

As for the father conducting the lawsuit, you have my support, and my prayers are with you.

As for the doctors that performed this fraud:  Shame on you both.


Kathy said...

Finally a voice of reason. I have a son with severe autism. I have never done any biologic treatment with him. Considering this child spent two years in eating therapy in order to get him to eat anything I am not going to put him on a restrictive diet. Have you looked into floortime? I feel that this is the therapy that has had the best results for my son. I have a degree in special education, which I earned in the late 8's. The special education field has always had people offering a slew of questionalbe therapies There was a time when you could suppposedly cure ADHD by eliminating red dye from a childs diet or have childen with dyslexia crawl to improve reading ability. The theory was that if a child had never crawled then they would be dyslexic and you had to have them crawl in order to cure them.

Jeremy Robb said...

Thanks for your post Kathy!

Yes, it's almost criminal to see what therapies are thrown out there, specifically in the world of Special Education, with very little research. I've spent weeks trying to find evidence to show to several people that Autism is not caused by monosodium glutamate, weeks that could have been better spent doing other things.

But when people are frightened and don't understand a medical disorder, they reach for whatever they can get their hands on.