Wednesday, April 7, 2010

News Autism Study: Science or Nonsense?

Interesting piece from Peter Lipson, a practicing physician, on's health care blog.

Bad medical ideas often start with good intentions. Most doctors are interested in preventing and treating disease, and some diseases are particularly challenging. Some rise to this challenge, forming clever hypotheses and finding accurate ways to test them, but others aren't so successful. Sometimes, hypotheses are too implausible to be worth spending much time on. Sometimes, the method used to test a hypothesis is simply not valid.
This story begins on the website Age of Autism. AoA is one of the homes of the antivaccination movement and gives a lot of time to those who still believe that vaccinations and other "toxins" cause autism. The site is full of remarkably paranoid rants. When Chicago Tribune journalist Trine Tsouderos won an excellence in health care journalism award, AoA accused the CDC and Trib of having "bought" the award. They are boosters of every unproven and implausible "treatment" for autism, such as chelation, hyperbaric oxygen, and chemical castration through lupron injections. Recently, they provided a platform to Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the physician whose Lancet paper drawing a link between autism, vaccinations, and gut disorders, was formally withdrawn by the journal's editors.
So it came as no surprise to see one of their writers hyping a study in progress that is testing oral enzymes for the treatment of autism.

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