Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Experts Reject Some Therapies

New York Times

Experts Reject Some Therapies

Published: June 25, 2005

Practitioners are using nutritional supplements, sauna baths and
powerful "detoxification" drugs to treat autism in the belief that it
is caused by thimerosal, a vaccine preservative that contains mercury.
But health experts say such therapies are not effective and can be

Dr. Susan Swedo of the National Institutes of Mental Health said the
use of drugs to remove metals from the body, called chelation, could
cause liver and kidney damage and other problems.

It "isn't responsible to prescribe" chelation for autism, Dr. Swedo said.

Chelation is approved by federal drug regulators only after blood
tests confirm acute heavy-metal poisoning. Yet some doctors say they
skip the tests for autistic children.

"We try not to waste people's money on tests," said Dr. John Kucera, a
physician in private practice in Colorado Springs. "Some are of the
opinion that everyone deserves a chance at chelation therapy whether
they show the signs or not."

One of the first to advocate treating autism with chelation and other
therapies was Dr. Stephen Edelson of Atlanta.

Dr. Edelson said in an interview that he stopped practicing medicine
last year after the state medical board censured him for abusing
prescription drugs and parents filed lawsuits contending that their
children had regressed under his care.

Dr. Edelson said he placed children in 160-degree saunas as part of
their treatment. Some children fought to get out of the sauna and
kicked out its window, an assistant said in a sworn statement.

The doctor said he also used chelation and prescribed 60 to 70
supplements a day, causing some children to vomit. Children had so
much blood taken for tests - often 20 vials in a sitting - that one
child passed out, a parent claimed in a lawsuit.

But many parents are desperate. Dr. Jim Laidler, an anesthesiologist
in Portland, Ore., said that after he learned that his two sons had
autism, "if someone had e-mailed me that powdered rhino horn worked, I
would have gone off on safari."

Dr. Laidler said he and his wife decided to try a restricted diet,
nutritional supplements and chelation.

But he said that his wife secretly stopped the treatments and waited
to see if he noticed a difference. He did not. The children's behavior
worsened and improved independent of the therapies.

Dr. Laidler now thinks that most such therapies are harmful.

"These parents are addicted to hope," he said. "They need it to
survive, and there are people who are willing to sell it to them."