A Maryland medical group has started treating autistic children in South Florida with shots of a drug used for chemical castration, a therapy widely panned by mainstream experts.
The group gives children the cancer drug Lupron to stop their bodies from making testosterone, saying the drug helps expel toxic mercury and quells aggressive or sexually explicit behavior by kids with excessive levels of the male hormone.
A Boca Raton mother who just put her 18-year-old son on the drug said it seems to help.
But numerous physicians, researchers and therapists insist there's no proof mercury causes autism, that Lupron removes mercury or that autistic kids have excessive testosterone. What's more, the drug carries a risk of bone damage, stunted growth and heart trouble, and can render children impotent.
These experts contend that Lupron, costing about $5,000 a month but seldom covered by insurance, is one of many treatments that cash in on the desperation of parents trying to cope with an incurable condition for which medicine has few good answers outside of painstaking behavioral therapy.
"Not only is there no scientific backing whatsoever for Lupron treatments, there are several major concerns for the children's health," said neurologist BethAnn McLaughlin, an adviser to the Dan Marino Foundation autism group in Weston and the mother of two developmentally disabled children.