The idea seems to have originated ex culo, or, rather, from the "minds" of Mark and David Geier, a father-son team who peddle chelation and Lupron therapy to families with autistic children and more money than critical thinking skills. Lupron (known as leuprorelin or leuprolide acetate) is a potent anti-androgen. It is used as a form of "chemical castration" for men with prostate cancer, for women with uterine fibroid tumors, and in a few other rare medical situations such as precocious puberty. The Geiers assert that thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative often used in vaccines in the 20th century, causes autism, and that chelation therapy can remove it. They claim that testosterone binds with mercury in such a way as to prevent chelation; to combat this, they prescribe Lupron, which supposedly reduces testosterone levels and thereby enables chelation.
Invalid starting hypothesis
The Geiers publish in less-than-respectable journals that avoid peer review. They appear to have set up a sham "institute" in order to form an IRB (institutional review board) consisting of friends and supporters, in order to conduct research on human subjects without the usual oversight.
Lack of scientific support
The scientific community has not embraced the Geiers' cause. A Medline search of "autism and leuprolide (Lupron)" returns only six hits, two of which are from the Geiers.
Treatment of autism with Lupron is not only scientifically bankrupt, it is also irresponsible and dangerous. It is based on false premises and is unsupported by scientific evidence.
- Thimerosal and mercury are not shown to cause autism.
- Androgens are not shown to potentiate this unproven association.
- Chemical castration of children has not been shown to help with autism.
It is reasonable to posit that androgen deprivation in children, especially, but not exclusively males, may have profound biological and behavioral effects. Creating (chemical) eunuchs may be good for business, but it is bad medicine.
- Geier MR, Geier DA.The potential importance of steroids in the treatment of autistic spectrum disorders and other disorders involving mercury toxicity. Medical hypotheses. 2005; 64(5):946-54.
- Geier DA. Geier MR. A clinical trial of combined anti-androgen and anti-heavy metal therapy in autistic disorders. [Clinical Trial. Journal Article. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] Neuroendocrinology Letters. 27(6):833-8, 2006 Dec.
- autism and leuprolide (Lupron) - PubMed - NCBI