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Autism Cures Promised by DNA Testers Belied by Regulators

April Hauge, a nurse practitioner in Weimar, California, spent $500 on a genetic test for her autistic son in 2009 that led to purchasing thousands of dollars in vitamins and supplements. Impressed with the results, she’s now selling advice on the approach to others.

There’s just one problem: the DNA tests and related treatments have scant backing from science and U.S. government officials. They’re untested, unproven, and may constitute “health fraud,” doctors, regulators and concerned parents said.

Janet Woodcock of the FDA

“A lot of this skims on the edge of health fraud,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, referring to the use of DNA testing to recommend alternative therapies. Source: FDA via Bloomberg

Alberto Gutierrez of the FDA

Alberto Gutierrez, director of the office of in vitro diagnostics and radiological health at the FDA, said the agency is “very concerned” about complex genetic tests being sold by laboratories, often over the Internet, whose claims are difficult to evaluate. Source: FDA via Bloomberg

ASATN  Medical Director Daniel Coury

After reviewing the nutrigenomic test reports for the two autistic children, Daniel Coury, medical director for the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, said there was no scientific evidence that the recommendations would combat autism. Source: Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network via Bloomberg

For alternative-medicine providers in general, the genetic tests are nothing but a “marketing tool” to sell unproven treatments, said James Laidler, a retired physician and adjunct professor at Portland State University whose 19-year-old autistic son has tried alternative therapies.

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