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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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FDA Warns Against Bogus Autism Treatments

Consumers should beware of false, misleading claims, says agency, which has issued warnings to makers

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Companies that make false or misleading claims that their products and therapies can treat or even cure autism face possible legal action if they continue, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned them.

As part of National Autism Awareness Month in April, the FDA wanted to inform consumers about bogus autism therapies.

Autism disorders affect about one in 68 children, according to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children with autism have difficulty with social interactions and communication, among other symptoms.

There is no cure for autism, so any products that claim to do so are scams, and the same is true of many products marketed as autism treatments. Some of these products pose serious health risks, according to the agency.

Products include chelation therapies, which claim to rid the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals. They're sold in many different forms, including sprays, capsules, liquid drops, suppositories and clay baths. But these treatments can remove important minerals needed by the body, resulting in significant and life-threatening problems, the FDA said in a Friday news release.

There are FDA-approved chelating agents for specific uses, such as treating lead poisoning and iron overload, the release noted. These products are available by prescription only and should be used under medical supervision.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also marketed as an autism treatment, but is not FDA-approved for that use. The therapy -- which involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber -- is approved for treating divers with decompression sickness and some other uses.

Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) is another fake autism treatment. Consumers have reported nausea, severe vomiting and dangerously low blood pressure after drinking MMS and citrus juice mixtures, the FDA said.

Some companies sell detoxifying clay products that are added to bath water and are falsely claimed to draw out chemical toxins, heavy metals and other pollutants from the body, leading to "dramatic improvement" in autism symptoms.

The FDA also warned against CocoKefir probiotics products, which claim to be a "major key" to recovery from autism. There is no proof that they are safe or effective for autism patients.

If you're considering an unproven or little-known treatment for autism, discuss it with your doctor before you buy or use such products, the FDA said.

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