The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) national health fraud coordinator, Gary Coody, R.Ph. says that the agency has warned various firms that they face potential legal action should they continue to issue false or misleading claims concerning products and therapies that assert autism treatments or cures. Some so-called autism therapies carry significant health risks, according to the FDA and include: Chelation therapies, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, miracle mineral solution, detoxifying clay baths, and CocoKefir probiotics products.
Chelation therapy products claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals by binding the substances and removing them from circulation. These products are offered in sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops, and clay baths. Chelating agents are approved by the FDA for very specific uses, including to treat lead poisoning and iron overload and are only available by prescription. Unapproved products and uses and procedures not conducted under medical supervision, may deplete needed minerals, and may lead to serious and life-threatening outcomes.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves the patient breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber, which is cleared by FDA, but for specific medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness, which is a condition seen in divers. This therapy has never been cleared for autism. Miracle Mineral Solution—Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS—becomes a strong chemical used as bleach when mixed in accordance with package directions. In fact, the FDA has received reports of consumers alleging nausea, severe vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure after drinking the MMS and citrus juice mixture.
Detoxifying Clay Baths are added to bath water and packaging contains claims that the products draw out chemical toxins, pollutants, and heavy metals from the body. Packaging also offers bogus, “dramatic improvement” for autism symptoms. CocoKefir probiotics products claims to include being a “major key” to autism recovery. The products are neither proven safe nor effective for this touted use.
Coody suggests consumers be suspicious of any product that claims to treat numerous diseases and notes that personal testimonials should never be a substitute for scientific evidence. Coody also notes that very few diseases or conditions may be treated rapidly, so consumers should be very suspicious of any therapy that is offered with a “quick fix” claim. The same goes for so-called “miracle cures,” especially those associated with claims of scientific breakthroughs and secret ingredients, as these are likely hoaxes. In general, the agency suggests that, if a product is not proven or involves a little known treatment, speak to a health care professional first.
The U.S. Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) report that one in 68 children are identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which occurs in every racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic group. ASDs are about five times more prevalent in boys (one in 54) than in girls (one in 252).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe children diagnosed with autism as having challenges social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication. These children may also exhibit repetitive behaviors and may also express narrow, obsessive interests, which may range in severity from mild to disabling. The FDA has approved specific medications to help with the management of ASD systems. “Autism varies widely in severity and symptoms,” says Amy Taylor, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatrician at the FDA. “Existing autism therapies and interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about improvement,” she adds.