There will always be snake oil salesmen, hucksters looking to separate you from your money in exchange for the drug to cure whatever ails you. Sometimes such folks offer a harmless though ineffective remedy for a mild problem. Sadly, however, on other occasions real doctors offer false hope that can be dangerous and heartbreaking. The Chicago Tribune is reporting this morning about a some doctors who are proposing treatment of autism with a drug called Lupron. There is an untested, unproved theory floating around that autism may be linked to testosterone. Lupron is a drug that has been used to chemically castrate sex offenders. "Children with autism have too much of the hormone, according to the theory, and . . . Lupron can fix that," says the Tribune story. The problem is that this theory is pure quackery. The Tribune noted, "Four of the world's top pediatric endocrinologists told the Tribune that the Lupron protocol is baseless, supported only by junk science. More than two dozen prominent endocrinologists dismissed the treatment earlier this year in a paper published online by the journal Pediatrics."
In the Chicago area patients can apparently get the "treatment" though a family doctor named Mayer Eisenstein, M.D. According to the Tribune story, Dr. Eisenstein has had no experience treating autistic children. He is a physician who runs Homefirst Health Services, which advocates home birth. He has been sued numerous times for alleged medical malpractice. He has been known in the past to practice without any medical malpractice insurance of any kind. One has to wonder what kind of physician practices without malpractice insurance.
Hope is a terrible thing to prey upon. There is no cure for autism. For parents of autistic children the desire to help, to find a cure is undoubtedly strong. For physicians to exploit the vulnerability of hopeful parents and their autistic children is profoundly troubling. The lesson, of course, for parents and patients: Do your homework. Remember the old adage that if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Use the resources available on the internet to research treatments for autism or any other ailment, condition or disease. Though it can be painfully hard, lead with your head and not your heart. Be skeptical, smart and thorough.
Click here to view the American Academy of Pediatrics autism web page.