The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated its warning on false and improper claims concerning supposed treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), reiterating that there is no current cure for the condition.

The FDA has warned and/or taken action against a number of companies that have made improper claims about the intended use of their products in relation to treating autism or symptoms of autism. The FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs identified some categories of these supposed therapies which carry significant health risks. These include:

  • Chelation Therapies: Some chelating therapies are approved for treating lead poisoning and iron overload—not for the treatment or cure of autism. They are only available via prescription. The FDA states chelating important minerals needed by the body can lead to serious and life-threatening conditions.
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: This involves breathing 100% O2 in a chamber while being exposed to increased atmospheric pressure. It is only FDA-approved for 13 conditions including carbon monoxide poisoning, thermal burns and decompression sickness.
  • Detoxifying Clay Baths: According to the FDA, these bath products, “are improperly advertised as offering ‘dramatic improvement’ for autism symptoms.’
  • Various Products (eg, raw camel milk, essential oils): They have been marketed for the treatment of autism or autism-related symptoms but their safety and efficacy have not been proven for these uses.

Jason Humbert, MHS, RN, of the Office of Regulatory Affairs, indicated that products which claim to treat a wide range of diseases, claim to be a ‘quick fix’ or so-called ‘miracle cures’ should be considered with caution. FDA-approved treatments do exist to aid autism symptom management. Risperidone (in patients aged 5–16 years) and aripiprazole (in patients aged 6–17 years), both antipsychotics, have been approved by the FDA to treat irritability associated with autistic disorder.

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Since autism was first identified, there has been a long history of failed treatments and fads and the FDA update states that before using any behavioral intervention or drug therapy that claims to be a treatment or cure for autism spectrum disorder, individuals should check with their physician. 

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