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Why lupron “franchises” for autism?

Posted May 24 2009 10:34pm

You know how it is when you read a story filled with red flags. A lot of them are obvious and hit you right away. Others sit in the back of your brain until enough pieces are put together and the idea springs forward, “that’s what’s wrong!” Such was the case with the Tribune stories on the Geiers and their “Lupron Protocol”. The high costs were an obvious red flag. I mean, $12,000 in tests and $6,000 a month in prescriptions? But, one red flag that took a while to process was the existence of the “franchises”. From the Tribune story:

...the Geiers have opened eight clinics in six states, including one in Springfield and their arrangement with Eisenstein, which he described as a “franchise” of sorts.

and

Some of the Geiers’ clinics are headed by doctors; a psychiatrist runs the Springfield clinic. But that is not always the case. The clinic in Indianapolis is run by an X-ray technologist who has an autistic child.

In Washington state, the head is a health advocate and documentary filmmaker.

OK, the existance of “franchises” run by x-ray technologists and documentary filmmakers is a pretty clear red flag.

But, take a moment and recall: what is the Geiers’ rationale for prescribing lupron? The answer: the Geiers claim that autistic children have a very high incidence of precocious puberty. They are not treating autism, they say. No, they are treating the precocious puberty, with Lupron, a drug which reduces testosterone production in the body. At least, this is what they tell the insurance companies in order to get reimbursements for the parents.

Recently it hit me. Why the franchises? Precocious puberty is diagnosed and treated by pediatric endocrinologists. Heck, pediatricians can do an initial diagnosis.

Is there a shortage of pediatric endocrinologists in, say, Chicago? (I counted 12 in that list in Chicago proper).

If this were really about autistic kids almost all having precocious puberty, Dr. Geier’s talks would have one simple tag line: Get your kid to a to the nearest pediatric endocrinologist for a full work up.

Instead, his message seems to be: call me (someone who doesn’t specialize in pediatric endocrinology) or wait until I establish a franchise in your home town.

That would be one giant red flag for me if I were considering using the Geiers.

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