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Friday, December 21, 2012

Stuff That Doesn't Work

Bloomberg Business Week reports:
April Hauge, a nurse practitioner in Weimar, California, spent $500 on a genetic test for her autistic son in 2009 that led to purchasing thousands of dollars in vitamins and supplements. Impressed with the results, she’s now selling advice on the approach to others.
There’s just one problem: the DNA tests and related treatments have scant backing from science and U.S. government officials. They’re untested, unproven, and may constitute “health fraud,” doctors, regulators and concerned parents said.
For alternative-medicine providers in general, the genetic tests are nothing but a “marketing tool” to sell unproven treatments, said James Laidler, a retired physician and adjunct professor at Portland State University whose 19-year-old autistic son has tried alternative therapies.
“You always hear the testimonials from the people who got better, not the people who stayed the same or got worse,” Laidler said. “They don’t want to hear somebody saying this is snake oil.”
Chelation doesn't work,either. Reuters reports on a study mentioned in a previous post:

Chelation gained traction as an alternative treatment for autism due to a theory that mercury poisoning might play a role in the developmental disorder. However, evidence hasn't supported that idea and it's been essentially discarded in the scientific community, researchers said.
The procedure also carries safety concerns, including risks of kidney damage and gastrointestinal problems.
Lead researcher Tonya Davis from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, said the study team's goal was not to tell parents which treatments they should or shouldn't seek for their children.
 Davis and her colleagues found five studies that tested the effects of chelation in kids with autism. Those studies each had between one and 41 children, from age three to 14.
Researchers had given the kids chelation therapy - sometimes along with vitamin supplements or other treatments - between one and 12 times a week for up to seven months. They used tests and questionnaires or anecdotal reports from parents to see how symptoms changed over time.
The study with only one child, a four-year-old boy, found chelation had positive effects on autism symptoms based on a parent report. The other four studies all showed mixed results, with some kids improving on some symptom measures.
However, none of the studies provided any certainty that those benefits were due to chelation itself, and not another treatment or just kids getting older, the researchers wrote in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.