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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hyperbaric Hype

At The Wall Street Journal, Joseph Walker writes that growing number of people who have tried hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT for autism and various injuries and disorders. In 2013,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that it "has not been clinically proven to cure or be effective in the treatment of cancer, autism, or diabetes” despite treatment centers’ claims.
“Desperation created by the absence of approved treatments has unfortunately made autism families vulnerable to misleading claims about the effects of treatments and assumptions of safety,” Rob Ring, chief scientific officer of advocacy group Autism Speaks, said in an email.
A federal lawsuit alleges a 19-year-old man with autism died of asphyxiation in 2011, when the oxygen valve disconnected from an inflatable chamber his family purchased for their home. The man’s parents, Amy and Robert Sparks, allege in the lawsuit, filed in North Carolina federal court, that OxyHealth LLC of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., marketed the chamber as safe for unsupervised use despite knowing the valves could disconnect. OxyHealth marketed the chambers at autism conferences, where Mrs. Sparks first learned of them, her attorney says.
OxyHealth, in court papers, has denied the allegations of negligence. Hans Holborn, an OxyHealth spokesman, said the company attends autism conferences to inform doctors about the availability of its oxygen chambers. “We do participate at these conferences, but it’s solely to raise awareness in the physician community,” Mr. Holborn said.
In 2011, Jepson, Granpeesheh and colleagues found that it does not work:
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been used to treat individuals with autism. However, few studies of its effectiveness have been completed. The current study examined the effects of 40 HBOT sessions at 24% oxygen at 1.3 ATA on 11 topographies of directly observed behavior. Five replications of multiple baselines were completed across a total of 16 participants with autism spectrum disorders. No consistent effects were observed across any group or within any individual participant, demonstrating that HBOT was not an effective treatment for the participants in this study. This study represents the first relatively large-scale controlled study evaluating the effects of HBOT at the level of the individual participant, on a wide array of behaviors.