Tangentially related to our Science Made Easy blog purpose, but might be of interest for folks to read. - BDG
For a long time, the government has largely stayed out of the fray when dealing with the sociopathically irresponsible autism miracle cure and anti-vaccination movements. It would appear that the FDA has just decided to get a whole lot more involved in the fight against ignorance.
On Friday, the FDA announced that numerous companies peddling demonstrably false and potentially harmful cures for autism could soon be facing legal action if they don't stop foisting their bullshit on unsuspecting parents and the American public. These companies most frequently prey on parents desperately looking for a way out of the difficult and heartbreaking situation of living with non-responsive, severely autistic kids, and are also frequently deeply entrenched in the bullshit, dangerous anti-vaccine movement.
Basically, companies falsely making claims that their products cure autism are being told "stop fucking doing that, you assholes are helping to put American society at risk." I'd call them modern-day snake oil salesmen, but that's actually — and I mean this sincerely — insulting to snake oil salesmen, since unlike the shit these fuckers are peddling, snake oil has actually been shown to have beneficial effects as an anti-inflammatory and anti-pain medication due to a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Seriously. Snake oil is way, way, WAY more awesome than the shit these lunatics are pushing on terrified parents looking for an easy fix to their child's condition. Let that sink in for a minute. We'll wait.
So what are some of these supposedly miracle cures? Let's have a look at them, shall we?
— Chelation therapies claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals by binding to them and "removing" them from circulation using sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops and clay baths. However FDA-approved chelating agents approved for specific uses, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, are available, but by prescription only. FDA-approved prescription chelation therapy products should only be used under medical supervision. Removing needed minerals can lead to serious and life-threatening outcomes.
Pro-tip: if you see the phrase "cleanse the body of toxins" in a description for a miracle cure, there's about a 95% chance whatever that purports to do is complete bullshit. "Toxins" is the modern-day equivalent of "ill humours."
— Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber. It has been cleared by FDA for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers, but it has not been cleared for autism.
Oh, just wow. Hyperbaric chambers? This is a thing?! At this point I'm amazed they haven't marketed outfits and accouterments for doing a fucking rain dance to cure autism.
— Miracle Mineral Solution, or Miracle Mineral Supplement, becomes a potent chemical when mixed according to package directions. Consumers reported to the FDA they experienced nausea, severe vomiting and life-threatening low blood pressure after drinking the solution and citrus juice mixture.
OK, number one, if it has "miracle" in the actual product title, it's a complete sack of shit. No real product needs to try that hard. Second, HOLY SHIT. "Nausea," "severe vomiting," and "life-threatening low blood pressure?!" What the fuck are they putting in this shit, dirt from a desecrated Native American burial ground?! For a group that often loses their shit over supposed "poisons" in vaccines (such as mercury, which hasn't even been in most vaccines since the late 90's), anti-vaxxers are willing to put a whole lot of horrifyingly dangerous shit into their kids' bodies just to cure them of a neurological disability.
— Detoxifying Clay Baths claim to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body, falsely offering "dramatic improvement" for autism symptoms.
Again, "toxins and heavy metals." Motley Crue is really, really bad for your bloodstream, you guys. Like, SO bad. You don't even know. Shit, though, at least this one isn't causing SEVERE VOMITING AND LIFE-THREATENING LOW BLOOD PRESSURE.
— CocoKefir probiotics products are not proven safe and effective for its advertised use to "recover from autism."
There is definitely a potential purpose for probiotic products, which is why there's a tremendous amount of ongoing research into their potential applications (dealing with gastroenteritis, IBS, and other GI tract issues is one particularly promising avenue). However, currently existing products don't yet have any scientifically-verifiable health benefits, and they sure as fuck do not cure autism. Nothing "cures" autism, it's (almost certainly, at least according to the preponderance of scientific evidence) a goddamn genetic condition. Also, it's worth noting that
vacant-headed bag of whale excrement co-host of The View Jenny McCarthy has previously claimed that her son was cured of autism using probiotics, and no one with a fully-functional brain wants to agree with Jenny McCarthy on anything at this point.
On the whole, it's just really good to see the FDA finally, belatedly doing something to combat the real and very dangerous threat of the deeply-interconnected anti-vaccine and autism miracle cure movements. For far too long, it has seemed like the FDA was content to sit back and hope the obvious idiocy of these movements would doom themselves, assured that facts would win out on the end. Unfortunately, they forgot what might be Mark Twain's greatest aphorism: "the history of our race...[is] sewn thick with evidences that a truth is not hard to kill, and that a lie well told is immortal."
We can't win the fight against ignorance simply by ignoring it, and I'm glad to see that the FDA seems to understand that.
Image via gorillaimages/Shutterstock.