One thing that is important to know about autism up front: There is no cure for autism. So, products or treatments claiming to “cure” autism do not work as claimed. The same is true of many products claiming to “treat” autism or autism-related symptoms. Some may carry significant health risks.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays an important role in warning these companies against making improper claims about their products’ intended use as a treatment or cure for autism or autism-related symptoms.
FDA Cracks Down on False Claims
According to Commander Jason Humbert, M.H.S., R.N., a regulatory operations officer in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, the agency has warned and/or taken action against a number of companies that have made improper claims about their products’ intended use as a treatment or cure for autism or autism-related symptoms. Some of these so-called therapies carry significant health risks and include:
Humbert offers some quick tips to help you identify false or misleading claims.
- “Chelation Therapies.” These products claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals by binding to them and “removing” them from circulation. They come in a number of forms, including sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops and clay baths. FDA-approved chelating agents are approved for specific uses that do not include the treatment or cure of autism, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, and are available by prescription only. FDA-approved prescription chelation therapy products should only be used under professional supervision. Chelating important minerals needed by the body can lead to serious and life-threatening outcomes.
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber and has been cleared by FDA only for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers.
- Detoxifying Clay Baths. Added to bath water, these products claim to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body. They are improperly advertised as offering “dramatic improvement” for autism symptoms.
- Various products, including raw camel milk and essential oils. These products have been marketed as a treatment for autism or autism-related symptoms, but have not been proven safe and effective for these advertised uses.
The bottom line is this—if it’s an unproven or little known treatment, talk to your health care professional before buying or using these products.
- Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.
- Personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence.
- Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, so be suspicious of any therapy claimed as a “quick fix.”
- So-called “miracle cures,” which claim scientific breakthroughs or contain secret ingredients, may be a hoax.
This article appears on the FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.