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Castration Drug Used as Autism Therapy


5 Star

Castration Drug Used as Autism Therapy

Our Review Summary

A new and uNPRoven approach to autism pops up in a local community.  A reporter and his newspaper have several choices:

  1. Accept the claims of the promoters at face value
  2. Ignore the issue entirely.
  3. Dig in, scrutinize the claims, and attempt a public service by evaluating the evidence for local readers.

Thankfully, this reporter and this paper chose #3. 


Why This Matters

The story quotes the mother of two developmentally disabled children saying:  "These people are preying on the fears of parents. We cannot be using these children who are so vulnerable as guinea pigs in a medical experiment."

And it quotes a developmental pediatrician saying "

practitioners promoting untested alternative treatments often appeal to parents by portraying themselves as persecuted rebels."It’s always just ‘The medical establishment is against us.’ "

In such cases, people need to evaluate evidence.  This story helps readers do that.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story says that Lupron costs about $5,000 a month but is seldom covered by insurance. Good job to address both points.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story, as noted, cites the Maryland researcher’s claims from small published studies, but also states: "

numerous physicians, researchers and therapists insist there’s no proof mercury causes autism, that Lupron removes mercury or that autistic kids have excessive testosterone."

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The story did a good job dedicating quite a bit of discussion to potential harms from this approach – both known and unknown.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story explained that the Maryland physician promoting the theory "published a 2006 study contending that 11 autistic children taking Lupron did better on tests of awareness, sociability and behavior. He has since issued other studies finding that mercury leads to excess testosterone and that autistic children have excessive levels of the hormone."  But then it immediately notes: "Other doctors said (the) studies were small, were not scientifically sound and were published in journals that do not follow the standard practice of having experts review the methods."

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering in this story.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


Several independent expert sources were quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


Good job on this as well.  The story states that "untested autism treatments have flourished."  And it ends with:

  • "(An advisor to a foundation’s autism group) said parents should stick with slow and difficult but proven therapies. Teens struggling with sex can benefit from counseling, rewards for positive behavior, jobs or activities to keep them focused and, if needed, drugs to treat anxiety or sleep issues, she said"What we know works is a rough course," she said. "Yes, we can do better. But what we don’t want is for families to lose faith in science and go off with people who … are violating the first rule of being a doctor, which is ‘first do no harm.’"

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


It’s clear from the story that Lupron is already used to treat endometrial cancer and prostate cancer.  The story might have addressed more directly its current off-label use.  

It’s also clear that this is about a Maryland medical group taking its idea on the road to South Florida.  Ideally, the story might have addressed whether it’s being tried elsewhere.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


No inordinate claims of novelty.  In fact, the story establishes that the one Maryland researcher has been testing this for at least five years.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


This story did not rely on a news release.  Strong enterprise reporting.

Total Score: 10 of 10 Satisfactory


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