One popular Twitter autism topic that deserves a more widespread smackdown is the Lupron Protocol, in which Mark & David Geier "treat" autistic children while incidentally charging thousands of dollars more per month than that chemical castration drug actually costs. Financial exploitation aside, experimenting with such a powerful hormone therapy on children who already have developmental issues makes me feel physically ill. Many parents swear that it has helped their children, but I worry -- as I now do with most non-evidence-based autism treatments -- that those parents are being victimized by yet another chapter of the Society for Scamming Credulous Autism Families.
My favorite anti-Lupron Protocol stance so far (i.e., the one you should forward to all of your friends) is not a blog post but a recent article in the Chicago Tribune. In it, Cambridge Autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen comes out swinging about just how harebrained and morally questionable the Lupron Protocol is. I've included some standout quotes, and emphasized what I consider to be the most important one:
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."
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."