Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Alternative Biomedical Treatments for Autism: How Good Is the Evidence?

photo of vitamin E pills

Scientific American, October 7th, 2010--"Parents who research treatments for autism are confronted with a bewildering array of options, almost all of which have never been tested for safety and effectiveness. Organizations like The Cochrane Collaboration, which reviews the quality of evidence for medical treatments, are putting more effort into evaluating popular alternative treatments.

So far, the most comprehensive review of alternative autism treatments comes from two pediatricians: Susan Hyman of the University of Rochester School of Medicine Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong and Susan Levy, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Their 2008 analysis gave each treatment a letter grade for the quality of the research conducted up to that point; the mark, however, is not a ranking of the treatment's safety or effectiveness.

The two pediatricians based the grades on the amount of testing done on the treatments, which in most cases was skimpy at best. Research that got an "A" grade included randomized control trials, the gold standard for medical research, and meta-analyses, which compare research from different labs. A "B" went to treatments that had been studied in "well-designed controlled and uncontrolled trials," according to Hyman. The "C" grades, the lowest category (there were no "D"s or "F"s), were based on case reports, theories and anecdotes, which are not considered acceptable for mainstream medical research.

Research on just one treatment, secretin, was good enough to earn an A. In short, there is a lot more work that needs to be done toward testing popular alternative treatments and getting more potential treatments into development at research institutions and pharmaceutical companies."

To view the full article including a list of supplements, follow the link in this post's title.

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