Chicago Tribune

'Miracle drug' called junk science#

21 May 2009 - Trine Tsouderos

Lupron a puberty blocker brand name was used by some clinicians to treat autism and the subject of medical scandal a decade ago.

Simon Baron-Cohen, a professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge in England and director of the Autism Research Center in Cambridge, said it is irresponsible to treat autistic children with Lupron.

"The idea of using it with vulnerable children with autism, who do not have a life-threatening disease and pose no danger to anyone, without a careful trial to determine the unwanted side effects or indeed any benefits, fills me with horror," he said.

Experts in childhood hormones warn that Lupron can disrupt normal development, interfering with natural puberty and potentially putting children's heart and bones at risk.

Several parents whose children are on Lupron told the Tribune that it works, saying their children are better-behaved and show cognitive improvement. "It was an obvious, undeniable result," said Julie Duffield of Carpentersville, whose 11-year-old son has autism. "I wish you could see what he was like before."

Experts said such beliefs are common among parents who try alternative autism treatments. It's easy, they say, to attribute normal developmental leaps to whatever treatment is being tried at the time. "It has become a cottage industry of false hope, and false hope is no gift to parents," said President Alison Singer, whose daughter has autism. "A lot of these therapies have no science behind them. You are using your child as a guinea pig."