FDA Warns Against Unproven Autism Therapies

Treatments claiming to treat autism spectrum disorders such as chelation therapies, detoxifying clay baths, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, raw camel milk and essential oils are ineffective and may pose significant health risks, according to an updated FDA warning that reiterated the absence of cures for ASD. The FDA only recommends antipsychotics Abilify, or aripripazole, and Risperdal, or risperidone, with the specific purpose of treating autism-related irritability in children.  These drugs are usually given as a last resort and may have serious side effects for which they should be carefully monitored.

“Autism varies widely in severity and symptoms,” said Amy Taylor, a pediatrician at the FDA. “Existing autism therapies and interventions are designed to address specific symptoms and can bring about improvement.”

The following paragraphs are taken from an updated position statement by the FDA that was published in April 12, 2017. The US FDA news release can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm394757.htm. The page has an application that allows the same to be translated in Spanish.

According to Commander Jason Humbert, M.H.S., R.N., a regulatory operations officer in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, the agency has warned and/or taken action against a number of companies that have made improper claims about their products’ intended use as a treatment or cure for autism or autism-related symptoms. Some of these so-called therapies carry significant health risks and include:

  • “Chelation Therapies.” These products claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals by binding to them and “removing” them from circulation. They come in a number of forms, including sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops and clay baths. FDA-approved chelating agents are approved for specific uses that do not include the treatment or cure of autism, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, and are available by prescription only. FDA-approved prescription chelation therapy products should only be used under professional supervision. Chelating important minerals needed by the body can lead to serious and life-threatening outcomes.
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber and has been cleared by FDA only for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers.
  • Detoxifying Clay Baths. Added to bath water, these products claim to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body. They are improperly advertised as offering “dramatic improvement” for autism symptoms.
  • Various products, including raw camel milk and essential oils. These products have been marketed as a treatment for autism or autism-related symptoms, but have not been proven safe and effective for these advertised uses.

Humbert offers some quick tips to help you identify false or misleading claims.

  • Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.
  • Personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence.
  • Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, so be suspicious of any therapy claimed as a “quick fix.”
  • So-called “miracle cures,” which claim scientific breakthroughs or contain secret ingredients, may be a hoax.

 

 

 

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