FDA warns consumers about claims regarding autism treatments

Posted at 9:49 PM, Apr 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-30 23:49:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers to beware of false or misleading claims for treating autism.

The issue is more prominent in Utah than in many places, 1 in 54 children in the state fall on the autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

It’s a statistic the FDA believes some businesses may take advantage of, if the public isn’t cautious. Click here for the recently released advisory.

“It’s important for folks to realize that there isn’t a medication or medical procedure which cures autism: It just doesn’t exist yet,” said Dr. Deborah Bilder, the medical director of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic at the University of Utah.

Bilder agrees with the FDA’s advisory for consumers. Too often, she said, families will turn to unsupported treatments that don’t have any real benefits.

According to the FDA, some of the most common alternative therapies advertised include:

  • Chelation Therapy
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
  • Miracle Mineral Solution
  • Detoxifying Clay Bath
  • CocoKefir probiotic products

“Why we would use a procedure like hyperbaric oxygen when it has no FDA indication, why we would recommend that when it’s costly to families and it’s an unnecessary medical procedure, makes no sense to me,” Bilder said.

But other medical professionals have found success in alternative methods.

“We know that the autistic brain is an inflamed brain,” said Dr. Sherman Johnson, medical director of Advanced Wound Care Center in Taylorsville. “We know the children with autism have inflamed intestinal tracts. The gut problems with autistic children are really significant. And hyperbaric oxygen can reduce all of that inflammation.”

For the last decade, Sherman has been using hyperbaric chambers to treat wounded patients, but the common procedure has also attracted patients with autism spectrum disorder.

“I won’t say that I treat autism spectrum patients,” Johnson said. “We do provide hyperbaric oxygen treatments for them, with the understanding that they may or may not be helped.”

But for the few clients he has seen, Sherman believes the treatments have been successful.

“The most interesting and dramatic effect is in their socialization and language development,” Sherman said. “They gain, rather quickly, new vocabulary, new receptive language skills and expressive language skills.”

Still, the FDA advises consumers to proceed with caution when seeking alternative treatment methods. They recommend the public be suspicious of any places or products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases, or ones that offer testimonials instead of scientific evidence.