The scientific community at large have denounced use of Lupron, a prostate cancer drug, for treatment of autism. But Dr.Mark Geier and his son, who pioneered the protocol, persist, raising concerns.
The father and son duo have opened as many as eight clinics across the US, and hundreds of parents of autistic children are turning to Lupron in desperation, despite warnings it is scientifically unproven.
Lupron or leuprolide acetate may be used in the treatment of: hormone-responsive cancers such as prostate cancer or breast cancer, estrogen-dependent conditions (such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids), to treat precocious puberty,
and to control ovarian stimulation in In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
Leuprolide is also under investigation for possible use in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
The use of the drug in the treatment of autism stems from the belief that thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once found in some childhood vaccines, is to be blamed for the problem.
Numerous studies have failed to support any of those theories, still fears persist.
Now if autism is caused by mercury, it makes sense to lower the mercury level as treatment. And that can be achieved by lowering the testosterone level, for mercury is known to bind itself irreversibly to testosterone.
Actually Leuprolide has been tested as a treatment for reducing sexual urges in pedophiles and other cases of paraphilia or powerful and persistent sexual interest other than in copulatory or precopulatory behavior.
When on used on children used on children or adolescents, it could cause disastrous and irreversible damage to sexual functioning, and there is no scientifically valid or reliable research to show its effectiveness in treating autism, it has been pointed out time and again.
Four of the world's top pediatric endocrinologists say 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.
Experts in childhood hormones warn that Lupron can disrupt normal development, interfering with natural puberty and potentially putting children's hearts and bones at risk. The treatment also means subjecting children to daily injections, including painful shots deep into muscle every other week.
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.
Indeed Dr. Mark Geier of Maryland has frequently been barred from testifying in vaccine-autism related cases on the grounds of not being sufficiently expert in that particular issue. He is not board certified in any specialty relevant to autism and the use of Lupron - including pediatrics, endocrinology, psychiatry and neurology his son David has merely a bachelor's degree in biology.
The Geiers retort, saying mainstream medicine condemns them because of their vocal stance that pediatricians, health officials and drug companies are covering up the link between vaccines and autism .
Geier insists, "Lupron is the miracle drug. He has been quoted as admitting that Lupron is tantamount to chemical castration, but he still believes it is ethically right to offer the treatment for hapless children.
Several parents whose children are on Lupron assert that it works, saying their children are better-behaved and show cognitive improvement.
"It was an obvious, undeniable result," said Julie Duffield of Carpentersville, Ill., 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 Autism Science Foundation 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."
Mainstream science has yet to explain autism. And hence, in the absence of definitive answers, there has been a proliferation of unproven treatments, including diets that eliminate wheat and dairy, chelation drugs that leach metals out of the body and treatment in hyperbaric oxygen chambers, reports Trine Tsouderos for Los Angeles Times.