After analyzing data from 14 high-quality studies involving 618 patients with autism disorders, Dr. Katrina Williams of the Children's Hospital at Westmeade, Australia, and colleagues found no evidence that doses of intravenous secretin improve the social, behavioral or communication problems associated with autism.
Secretin "should not currently be recommended or administered as a treatment for autism," the reviewers conclude. There were no serious side effects reported in any of the studies, but "more adverse events are likely to be reported if secretin is made widely available," Williams says.
The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.
In 1998, a series of small studies by Karoly Horvath and others at the University of Maryland School of Medicine hinted that secretin might be useful in treating autism. In the studies, children with symptoms of autism and gastrointestinal disorders were given pig secretin as part of an endoscopic procedure to examine their digestive functioning. Horvath and colleagues reported, to their surprise, that some autism symptoms seemed to improve in children who received the hormone.
"Since then, the use of secretin has become widespread and it is currently being dispensed in many different forms and in countries where it is not licensed," Williams says.
Although several controlled studies have since found little evidence that the hormone can improve the key symptoms of the disorder, some peop
Contact: Katrina Williams
Center for the Advancement of Health