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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Geier Case

The Baltimore Sun reports:

A doctor nationally known for treating autism with a drug sometimes used to chemically castrate sex offenders has been suspended from practicing medicine in his home state of Maryland after state officials determined that he is putting children at risk.

Dr. Mark Geier allegedly misrepresented his credentials, misdiagnosed children and urged parents to approve risky treatments without fully informing them of the potential dangers, according to the Maryland Board of Physicians.

The board's order states that Geier "endangers autistic children and exploits their parents by administering to the children a treatment protocol that has a known substantial risk of serious harm and which is neither consistent with evidence-based medicine nor generally accepted in the relevant scientific community."

Geier told the Chicago Tribune in 2009 that he had treated hundreds of children with a testosterone suppressant called Lupron, which he called a "miracle drug." But a Tribune investigation exposed the treatment as a potentially dangerous therapy based on junk science and promoted by a physician not board-certified in any specialty relevant to autism or the use of hormone-disrupting drugs.

According to the Maryland Board of Physicians, Geier has licenses in 10 states. In Maryland, he's the president of Genetic Center of America, which has offices in Rockville and Owings Mills. In Maryland, the offices are called Genetic Consultants of Maryland, which he told the board offers genetic counseling to high-risk obstetric patients, evaluation of adults at risk for cancer and "genetic workups" of children with neuro-developmental disorders.

He also practices under the name ASD Centers LLC, and in 2006, the board said, he founded the Institute of Chronic Illness with his son, which offers the disputed autism treatment.

Geier is prominent in the world of alternative treatments for autism. His ASD Centers advertise "new hope for autism," and he has offices around the country.

The Maryland board found that in six of nine cases it reviewed, Geier incorrectly diagnosed children with autism with "precocious puberty" — the extraordinarily early onset of puberty — and prescribed Lupron, which is sometimes covered by insurance to treat that rare condition.

The same paper follows up:

A day after Dr. Mark Geier's medical license was suspended in Maryland over allegations of putting children with autism at risk, state officials were seeking to remove his son from a state commission that advises the governor on the disorder.

The officials were also struggling to explain why David Geier, who has an undergraduate degree in biology and does not have a medical license, was identified by the Commission on Autism as its "diagnostician." The commission's website had listed him as a doctor until Wednesday, which officials said was a clerical error. The commission's listing also includes the Geiers' company, ASD Centers LLC, whose website lists a corporate center in Silver Spring but is not registered in Maryland.

"Under the circumstances, we do not believe it's appropriate for David Geier to serve on the autism commission," said David Paulson, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which submitted 19 names to the governor, including David Geier's, for approval to the panel. "Unfortunately, he declined to resign his commission. ... As a result, we are considering the appropriate next steps."

Paulson said the state was aware of "the controversial nature of David Geier's views" when he was recommended for the position on the commission, which was formed by the legislature in 2009. But officials were looking for a "diverse" panel.

He also said that there was no legal definition of diagnostician.

The Geiers' views, spelled out in papers and by the state Board of Physicians that suspended the senior Geier, have been discredited by the Institute of Medicine and mainstream medical science in general. They connect autism to the mercury in vaccines. Among the treatments the Geiers say they've developed is one that uses Lupron — a drug that a host of autism experts have called dangerous for children.

See a 2010 post on Lupron.