Bloomberg: Autism Cures Promised by DNA Testers Belied by Regulators
Posted Dec 22 2012 12:12pm
Bloomberg has an article out on how genetic testing is being misused by alternative medical practitioners to justify their “treatments”. The article includes names which might be familiar to those who have followed the online discussions of autism and alt-med: Amy Yasko whose RNA therapy has been widely criticized for implausibility ; James Laidler , a doctor who once worked with the DAN movement; and parent-writer Kim Wombles .
April Hauge, a nurse practitioner in Weimar, California, spent $500 on a genetic test for her autistic son in 2009 that led to purchasing thousands of dollars in vitamins and supplements. Impressed with the results, she’s now selling advice on the approach to others.
There’s just one problem: the DNA tests and related treatments have scant backing from science and U.S. government officials. They’re untested, unproven, and may constitute “health fraud,” doctors, regulators and concerned parents said.
Yes, practitioners order genetic testing ($495 in one example) and then sell therapies supposedly based on these results which can cost the consumer thousands of dollars over the course of “treatment”. The tests are marketing, not science. There is no real link between the tests, the condition and the treatment.
Discussion of “Dr. Amy’s” RNA therapies go back at least six years. The idea that ingesting small doses of RNA could treat anything fails the biological plausibility test. Per the Photon in the Darkness blog:
This would be earth-shaking news…if it were true. The sad fact is that the cells in our body have a “thing” about stray RNA. There are enzymes – RNAse’s – that chew up RNA in order to prevent unauthorized “communication” from RNA viruses. These enzymes are in every cell and every body fluid.
There is enough RNAse in a fingerprint to degrade milligrams (1000 micrograms) of RNA in a few minutes. And it’s even worse if you try to ingest the RNA. There are high concentrations of RNAse in both saliva and pancreatic digestive enzymes, so it is highly unlikely that any RNA would survive to be absorbed.
Government agencies are aware of the claims made and the lack of a logical link between the tests and the “treatments”.
“A lot of this skims on the edge of health fraud,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, referring to the use of DNA testing to recommend alternative therapies.
But for now, those offering the tests are allowed to “skim” health fraud laws. Laws which may change:
Following public hearings in July 2010, the agency developed guidance for regulating complex genetic and other tests sold by laboratories. The rules have been under review by the Obama administration since late 2011, he said. Until they are finalized, the agency is “somewhat hamstrung” in cracking down on companies that sell the tests, Gutierrez said.