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FDA: Beware of False or Misleading Claims for Treating Autism

April 26, 2014
Brain & Behavior

April is National Autism Awareness Month, a fitting time to think about the growing need for concern and awareness about autism. One thing that is important to know up front: There is no cure for autism. So, products or treatments claiming to “cure” autism do not work as claimed. The same is true of many products claiming to “treat” autism. Some may carry significant health risks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays an important role in warning these companies against making false or misleading claims.

About Autism

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1in 68 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and are almost five times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe autistic children as having difficulties with social interaction, displaying problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, exhibiting repetitive behaviors and having narrow, obsessive interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling. “Autism varies widely in severity and symptoms,” says Amy Taylor, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatrician at FDA. “Existing autism therapies and interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about improvement,” she adds. In addition, FDA has approved medications that can help some people manage related symptoms of ASD. For example, the FDA has approved the use of antipsychotics such as risperidone and aripripazole to treat children 5 or 6 years of age and older who have severe tantrums or aggression and self-injurious behavior. Before using any behavioral intervention or drug therapy (prescription or over-the-counter), check with your health care professional. The Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), a not-for-profit organization of parents and professionals committed to improving the education, treatment, and care of people with autism, says that since autism was first identified, there has been a long history of failed treatments and fads. back to top

FDA Cracks Down on False Claims

According to Gary Coody, R.Ph., FDA’s national health fraud coordinator, the agency has warned a number of companies that they are facing possible legal action if they continue to make false or misleading claims about products and therapies claiming to treat or cure autism. 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, 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 medical 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 for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers. It has not been cleared for autism, among other conditions.
  • Miracle Mineral Solution. Also known as Miracle Mineral Supplement and MMS, this product becomes a potent chemical that‘s used as bleach when mixed according to package directions. FDA has received reports of consumers who say they experienced nausea, severe vomiting and life-threatening low blood pressure after drinking the MMS and citrus juice mixture.
  • Detoxifying Clay Baths. Added to bath water, these products claim to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body, falsely offering “dramatic improvement” for autism symptoms.
  • CocoKefir probiotics products. Product claims include being a “major key” to recovery from autism, but they are not proven safe and effective for this advertised use.

Coody 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 and secret ingredients, may be a hoax.

The bottom line is this—if it’s an unproven or little known treatment, talk to your health care professional before buying or using these products.


FDA: Beware of False or Misleading Claims for Treating Autism

9 Responses to FDA: Beware of False or Misleading Claims for Treating Autism

  1. u14011281 May 4, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    The false treatment claims of autism should be further researched as some if done differently could actually lead to results. Autism is not an incurable disease, but as not much research has been done in this field as it has in other fields a cure could still be out there. I believe autism is overlooked, and further research should be done to make advances.

  2. u14049849 April 29, 2014 at 6:15 am #

    Autism disease is not the child fault and no person has the right to judge such a person or to false cure a incurable disease false hope is given and it hurts the person with the disease as well as love ones. We should not only look at this disease in April since it is the month of Autism we should care for these people threw out the year and support them and their families who are we to judge if not even God judges people.

  3. u14058155 April 29, 2014 at 5:21 am #

    When talking about autism, I can sincerely that it is a cause close to my heart. In 2012 my family and I went on vacation with another family who has an autistic child. Spending time with that little girl inspired me to devote my life to helping others. She and I shared a special and unique bond and this helped me to understand her in a way that most of society didn’t.

    Her parents openly told us that they have tried several treatments, consulted numerous doctors and paid a lot of money to help their child, unfortunately without any success. My parents told them about a specialist pediatrition they heard about. Determined not to give up, the girl’s parents took her to the doctor and got surprising feedback. He told them that their daughter is as capable as any other child and that she is highly intelligent and that her only problem is her parents. He said that the best thing that they could do for their daughter was to treat her as if she was a normal child. Conflicted at first they followed the doctors advice and never looked back. By treating their child in a different way and not excusing all of her behaviour, they experienced a changed child.

    Maybe this isn’t the miracle cure everybody is looking for, but it sure helped a little girl and her family.

  4. Tshiamo Mthembu 14031010 April 28, 2014 at 4:08 am #

    As the the month of April comes to an end so does National Autism Awareness Month. So when all the awareness posters go down and left over pamphlets are thrown into the bin, people with autism still live on but its not easy.

    I wouldn’t blame a person or parent who would resort to using misleading products with the hopes to “cure” themselves or their children. Living with someone with autism let alone taking care of them is not easy but this doesn’t mean people should pry on their vulnerability by selling them treatment that’s suppose to cure autism. This can leave victims of these false claims devastated as they also invest large amounts of money in the hope to find a cure.

    The only way to reduce such incidents is through awareness and not just a month dedicated to it but actual campaigns that aim to educate people on these false claims of having a cure for autism. People should be aware that no matter how desperate they get to find a cure for their loved ones or themselves they should do the relevant research before throwing their money away.

  5. u14056811 April 28, 2014 at 2:43 am #

    Autism is a lifelong condition which is caused by a disordered brain growth, development and structure, it is now referred to as ASD . People with autism are affected at different degrees which include the non-development and understanding of language and communication, social development,imagination and creative play and sensory disturbance.

    Autism should be taken seriously and people should be well informed about it as they have little knowledge about the disorder. It is also important that families with children that have the disorder to be well informed, supported and guided on how to live and deal with the person affected as the disorder isn’t curable, and i believe the National Autism Awareness is the best way to give people such information and support.

    The Awareness will also help people to identify all these products and treatments that claim to cure the disorder. In reality there hasn’t been much effort made to educate our people about the disorder and because of that there will never be a clear understanding about the disease.

  6. u14092222 April 27, 2014 at 5:49 am #

    There is not a great deal known about autism other than that it presents itself in early childhood and because there is such little known about this disease, the knowledge on what type of treatment should be administered is limited. Parents who have a child with autism would do absolutely anything to make their child better.

    As much as their devotion to their child is touching, it is also extremely dangerous. There are so many ways to “treat” autism that it is hard to differentiate what is false and what is true.

    This is why parents need to consult experts on any new treatment and read about it as much as they possibly can. The side effects should be paid close attention to as they would not want the child to become worse than he or she already is.

    Reading the fine print beforehand does not catch the parents off-guard and prepare them for anything that may happen.

  7. u14008034 April 27, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    Autism is a mental condition which is present from early childhood and is characterized by having a great difficulty in communicating and the forming of relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. Autism occurs in both male and females but even though it happens to occur more commonly in males it is still a very serious mental condition. With not having a cure, people who have autism have to live there lives facing many challenges and this can be a reason why parents and family members resort to any type of medical treatment and claims that could possibly help the person they love. Yes these claims about the curing of autism can look very tempting but always remember to consult your doctor because with maybe taking the wrong so called product to cure or treat autism, it can very easily have a negative side effect which could maybe cause even more harm to the autistic person.
    Companies that are producing these products to help cure Autism should undergo more clinical experiments and research to make sure that there are no serious side effects that can occur, don’t you think?

  8. u14025028 April 27, 2014 at 2:02 am #

    There is very little knowledge when it comes to autism and other various diseases. Unfortunately we live in a world where we rely on the internet for answers. Several people jump to conclusions due to the internet and believe wholeheartedly what they are reading. If a parent’s child is diagnosed with autism or ADD or other such diseases they immediately consult the internet in search for answers and treatment. As stated above there are several companies releasing false claims about certain medications, and the parents/ guardians believe these claims because they want to help in the best/easiest way possible.
    People need to read the fine print before purchasing any type of medication. It is a good idea to read up on these diseases but before making any decisions one must consult a professional.
    Everyone needs to be exposed to the truth about autism, medications and “cures”. This month is the perfect time to do so.

    Knowing the facts from fiction can prevent total devastation.

  9. u14068682 April 26, 2014 at 5:46 am #

    April is National Autism Awareness Month! This is such a great cause as not many people know what autism really is. My cousin and brother both have autism/ autistic characteristics and so I know first hand that some people don’t know how to handle or treat children with autism. But you can’t expect people to know how to treat someone with a disorder they know nothing about and therefore this National Autism Awareness Month is a fantastic way to educate people about autism so that autistic children get treated fairly.

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